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ANANIAS THE RELUCTANT SERVANT
Intro: Great things are happening in the fledgling little church in Jerusalem. Thousands are being saved and God is blessing them with miracles and His power. That is the bright side! On the dark side, a man named Saul was wreaking havoc in the church, Acts 8:1-3. He was traveling from place to place persecuting the early Christians. He was having them arrested and even participated in their deaths, Acts 7:58; 8:1.
In the midst of this, the Lord, in His grace, saved Saul as he traveled to Damascus to arrest more believers. His conversion was nothing short of miraculous, with the Lord Jesus Himself speaking directly to Saul and calling him to be saved. Acts 9:8-9 tell us that after Saul saw the brightness of the Lord, that he was left blind. Saul was led into Damascus and he was left in that condition for three days. Apparently, Saul spent those three days in prayer and fasting, Acts 9:9.
Of course, God did not save Saul to leave him blinded in Damascus! God saved him for a great purpose. Therefore, the Lord spoke to a man named Ananias, who lived in Damascus, and God told him to go to Saul that he might receive his sight. It is this man, Ananias that I want to consider for a time this evening.
He is one of those special people who steps out of the wings onto the stage of the Bible and then just as quickly as they appear, they disappear again. Ananias is one of those unsung heroes of the faith. Not widely known among men, but greatly used by the Lord. As I consider his experiences in these verses, I am confronted with a man who can teach me much about myself and my service to the Lord. I would like for us to take a few minutes this evening and consider this man Ananias. We'll call him Ananias The Reluctant Servant because that is just what he was. He was a servant of the Lord, but he was reluctant to all that the Lord wanted from him. In that, he has much to teach us this evening. Notice three characteristics concerning Ananias The Reluctant Servant that are revealed in this passage.
I. V. 10 ANANIAS THE SEPARATED SERVANT
A. How He Was Living - The Bible tells us that he was a "Disciple". This word means "a pupil, or a learner." This word tells us some great things about this man. First, he was a saved man. To be a Disciple leads us to believe that he was a converted man. There was only one disciple that was lost and his name was Judas. Not only was Ananias a saved man, but he was also a growing man. As I said, the word Disciple means "a learner." This is a man who is growing in the Lord and in His word. He is living the right kind of life.
(Ill. This is the kind of person the Lord chooses to use! He uses saved vessels that a cleansed by His Word. He uses those who are growing in Him. If you want the Lord to use your life, then be sure you are saved, separate yourself from evil and grow in the Lord. He will use you for His glory!)
B. How He Was Listening - As soon as the word of the Lord came to this servant, he was able to respond, "Behold, I am here, Lord." This tells us that Ananias was a man who was listening for the voice of God. He was God's man and he was listening for God's voice to show him the steps he was to take in life.
(Ill. What a lesson for all believers! May we always be able to say, "Behold, I am here, Lord!" Too often, we are unable to hear His voice when He speaks because we are off somewhere doing our own thing when He calls us. The only right place for any servant of God to be is "here". That is, to be present and accounted for when He calls for you! Many have gone AWOL this evening! Make sure it never happens to you! Friend, it pays to be in a listening relationship with the Lord - Ill. Abraham - Gen. 22!)
C. How He Was Leaning - He responds by calling Jesus "Lord". This tells me something about this man Ananias. He is a man who is surrendered in his walk with the Lord. Here is a man who has turned the reins of his life over to the Lord.
(Ill. This is a key area that needs to be addressed in the lives of many believers. You see, there are many who want to claim Jesus as their Savior. That is, they want a get out of jail free card! Yet, they still want to run their lives as they see fit. It doesn't work that way! The Bible teaches us that Jesus is Lord of all, Acts 10:36. If that is true in your life then the Lord can use you for His glory. If it isn't, then you will sit on the sidelines while He uses others, 1 Cor. 9:27.)
(Ill. Ananias is the kind of servant the Lord is looking for. He is separated, surrendered and sold out to God. He sets the standard for the rest of us this evening. We will see that this is the kind of man God can use. From what we have seen so far, can you honestly say, "The Lord can use my life for His glory!")
I. Ananias The Separated Servant
II. V. 11-16 ANANIAS THE SKEPTICAL SERVANT
A. V. 11-12 The Servant's Command - The Lord has a special mission for this man Ananias. He wants to use his to reach out to the newly converted Saul. In fact, God had already shown Saul that a man named Ananias will be coming by to restore his site. To Ananias, this command probably didn't make much sense! After all, Saul hated Christians. He had been arresting them and putting them to death. Now God wants this man to go to Saul, all alone, and He wants him to put his hands of this murderer! What a strange command!
(Ill. Often the commands of the Lord do not make sense. It did not make sense for Noah to build a boat in the middle of dry land. It didn't make sense for Moses to strike a rock to get water in the desert. It didn't make sense for God to command His people to march into a heavily defended Canaan and take the land. It didn't make sense to march around Jericho 7 times for 7 days in order to defeat the city. But that is what the Lord commanded in each instance!
As I said, God's commands do not always make sense, but they are always right! We should, therefore, resolve that regardless of whether we understand it or not, we will just do what God says. After all, the Bible does say that "obedience is better than sacrifice...", 1 Sam. 15:22.)
B. V. 13-14 The Servant's Concern - When Ananias hears the command from the Lord, he balks at it! He reminds the Lord of all the evil things he has heard about this man Saul. Notice how he tries to reason with God to find a way to wiggle out of this things he simply does not want to do. I wonder if he thought God didn't already know all about the things Saul had been doing? I am sure the Ananias was afraid of what might happen to him if he went to meet with Saul. I think another part of him may have been prejudiced against this man named Saul. After all the damage Saul had done to the church, why should a believer reach out to him? Because God said so!
(Ill. Aren't we guilty of the same thing from time to time? We want to serve the Lord, but when He asks us to do something we think is difficult or unpleasant, we will try to give reasons why we can't do that. God may want us to forgive someone who has injured us. He may want us to reach out to someone of a different race. He might be calling someone to witness to a neighbor with whom there has been disagreement over the years. There are thousands of other situations that come to mind, but there are times when the Lord will ask us to do things that we simply do not want to do! My adivce to you and to myself is that we just go ahead and do what the Lord wants us to do. I can assure you that you will wish you had if you don't!)
C. V. 15-16 The Servant's Consolation - Thank God that He is so patient with His children! He listens to the complaints of Ananias and then God addresses them by telling His servant that He has special plans for Saul. God tells Ananias that Saul is going to fulfill a very special place in the kingdom work of God! In other words, by fulfilling this request from the Lord, Ananias is going to be participating with God in His work in a big way.
(Ill. When the Lord calls us to do some thing that is hard, unpleasant, or difficult, He doesn't always let us know how it will turn out up front. However, down the road, we will see how the Lord used that event to help someone, or even how that event helped us. I think that we, like Ananias, forget that God knows a lot more than we ever will! He plans our path. Our soul duty is to follow it!)
(Ill. Aretta Loving, Wycliffe missionary, was washing her breakfast dishes when she saw Jimmy, the five-year-old neighbor, headed straight toward the back porch. She had just finished painting the back-porch handrails, and she was proud of her work.
"Come around to the front door, Jimmy," she shouted. "There's wet paint on the porch rails."
"I'll be careful," Jimmy replied, not turning from his path.
"No, Jimmy! Don't come up the steps," Aretta shouted, knowing of Jimmy's tendency to mess things up.
"I'll be careful," he said again, by now dangerously close to the steps.
"Jimmy, stop!" Aretta shouted. "I don't want carefulness. I want obedience!" As the words burst from her mouth, she suddenly remembered Samuel's response to King Saul: To obey is better than sacrifice.
How would Jimmy respond, Aretta wondered. To her relief, he shouted back, "All right, Loving, I'll go around to the front door." He was the only one who called her by her last name like that, and it had endeared him to her from the beginning. As he turned around the house, Aretta thought to herself, "How often am I like Saul or like Jimmy, wanting to go my own way? I rationalize, 'I'll be careful, Lord' as I proceed with my own plans."
But He doesn't want carefulness. He wants obedience.)
I. Ananias The Separated Servant
II. Ananias The Skeptical Servant
III. V. 17-18 ANANIAS THE SUBMISSIVE SERVANT
A. V. 17a His Response - The Bible simply says that "he went his way..." He got busy doing the thing the Lord called him to do. He was obedient and got to the task immediately!
(Ill. This is a blessing because it reminds us of how we ought to respond to God. Even when we do not know how things will work out. Even when it may seem that God is leading us in a path that is challenging, difficult and painful, we must learn to respond in humble obedience to His call and His command. That is the response of faith, Heb. 11:1. That is the response of love, John 14:15. That is the response of blessing - John 14:21.)
B. V. 17a His Reaction - Ananias went to the house where Saul was, he entered in and he touched him. Then he did something that must have touched the heart of Saul like nothing he had ever heard in his life. Because the first word he ever heard a fellow believer say to him was the word "Brother." Surely Saul was unsure as to what the future held for him. When the Jews found out that he had received Jesus, they would hate him. Surely, the church would hate him for all the things he had done to them. Saul probably felt as though he fit in no where. Yet, this old disciple touches him so tenderly and embraces him as a brother in Christ. What an encouragement this must have been to Saul!
(Ill. Ananias teaches us the kind of reaction we should have to the commands that Lord gives in our lives. Ananias could have been bitter. He could have refused to go. Or, if he did go, he could have went grudgingly, and half-heartedly. But he didn't! He went in the spirit of God and made a difference in the life of Saul. Friends, that is what being a disciple of Jesus is all about! It is about Him using us to make a difference in the lives of those around us! I wonder if we would be able to do what Ananias did?)
C. V. 18 His Reward - Because Ananias obeyed the Lord, Saul was healed from his blindness, he was filled with the Holy Ghost and He was used by God as no man since Jesus Himself has been! Perhaps Ananias never knew in his lifetime the full extent of what his obedience meant, but I know that Jesus Christ knew. And when rewards are handed out at the Judgment Seat of Christ, Ananias will be recompensed many times over for simply doing what the Lord told him to do!
(Ill. You never know what your simple acts of obedience will accomplish for the kingdom of God. Perhaps you have heard of John Bunyon. He wrote a little book called The Pilgrim's Progress. It is a book of some note and has helped and blessed millions of believers over the last 400 years. Bunyon was saved because he overheard two women obediently talking about their faith in Jesus. I heard of a preacher who years ago was riding in the mountains above Old Fort. He said that the Lord told him to stop his car, get out and preach. He didn't see anyone around, but he did what he had been told to do and he preached salvation to the trees and forest creatures. Some weeks later he was stopped by a man on the street. This man was a moonshiner and a rough man. He told the preacher that on that afternoon he had seen the preachers car coming down the road and that he had hidden in a ditch to avoid being witnessed to. As he lay in that ditch, the Holy Ghost used that sermon by that preacher to bring that man to Jesus. You never know! When Noah obeyed, the world was saved. When Moses obeyed, the Israelites went free. When Joshua obeyed, the promised land was conquered. When David obeyed, Goliath died. When Gideon obeyed, the enemy was defeated. When Jesus obeyed, sin died and salvation became possible for all. You never know what you obedience to the will of God will be used by God to accomplish for His glory!)
Conc: As we close these thought concerning this little known Bible character, I wonder if you and I can honestly say that we are servants that God can use? Are we quick to obey His slightest command? Or do we like to try and change His mind concerning His plans for us? This was the tactic tried by Moses in Exodus 3-4. He threw excuse after excuse, some five in all, out to the Lord. All he succeeded in doing was that he made God angry, and he still had to do what he had been told to do.
While Moses was a great man, that is one area in which we do not want to be anything like him. Maybe God is telling you to do something you aren't too wild about. My advice to you is just do it! It will get done and you might as well be the one who gets the blessing from doing it! If there are needs, this altar is open to receive you and them!