Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Servant Who Changes Everything

Note from Jesus

Dear Child of God,

A large part of the history of faith is written by people who are not considered the greatest servants of faith. However, the Father and I know these precious servants and their great faith.

When you think of the most significant of My apostles, you most likely think of Peter, My apostle to the Jews, and Paul, My apostle to the Gentiles. This choice is true at one level. However, at another level and from the point of view of heaven, without Andrew’s loving faithfulness to his brother, who would have led hard-headed Peter to Me (John 1:40-42)? As for Paul, who in Jewish circles was known as Saul, there was the great and daring Ananias in Damascus. This faithful servant risked everything to go to the house of Judas on Straight Boulevard to lead the “fuming, raging, hateful man who wanted to kill every last one of the Lord’s disciples” in his response to My call to become My disciple.

Behind every great moment and every great movement of My grace are people like Andrew and Ananias. My birth was prefaced by the servant heart of My mother, Mary, who was willing to accept all the ostracism and rejection of being pregnant before marriage with the following words:

Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant. As you have said, let it be done to me.

(Luke 1:38)

And remember, the first ones to experience My resurrection were some women who came to serve Me even though they were convinced I was dead, so they weren’t motivated by thinking that I could do anything for them in return (Luke 24:1-7).

Imagine the courage of My servant, Ananias. Think of the faith he mustered to go to that house to share My good news with the man who had come to Damascus to imprison and persecute him. However, his obedience to My call led to Saul’s conversion. Yes, many were not nearly as courageous as Ananias and refused to fellowship Saul, who would later become known as the great apostle Paul. But, Ananias was My servant who led Saul along his way to the conversion of “My instrument to bring My name far and wide — to outsiders, to kings, and to the people of Israel as well.”

Verses to Live

As you see the evidence of early persecution in this story, I want you to think about your brothers and sisters in difficult places. These precious disciples are facing ostracism, persecution, and martyrdom for their faith. Yes, many of them pray for deliverance from such hard times. However, still more pray that their persecutors will be like the persecutor Saul, who became the apostle later known as Paul. Support them with your prayers and your financial support. Even more, be bold in faith and serve those who do not know Me so that they too can become part of My family of grace!

Back to Saul — this fuming, raging, hateful man who wanted to kill every last one of the Lord’s disciples: he went to the high priest in Jerusalem for authorization to purge all the synagogues in Damascus of followers of the way of Jesus. His plan was to arrest and chain any of Jesus’ followers — women as well as men — and transport them back to Jerusalem. He traveled north toward Damascus with a group of companions.

Imagine this: Suddenly a light flashes from the sky around Saul, and he falls to the ground at the sound of a voice.

Saul:

Lord, Who are You?

The Lord:

I am Jesus. I am the One you are attacking. Get up. Enter the city. You will learn there what you are to do.

His other traveling companions just stand there, paralyzed, speechless because they, too, heard the voice; but there is nobody in sight. Saul rises to his feet, his eyes wide open, but he can’t see a thing. So his companions lead their blind friend by the hand and take him into Damascus. He waits for three days — completely blind — and does not eat a bite or drink a drop of anything.

Meanwhile, in Damascus a disciple named Ananias had a vision in which the Lord Jesus spoke to him.

The Lord:

Ananias.

Ananias:

Here I am, Lord.

The Lord:

Get up and go to Straight Boulevard. Go to the house of Judas, and inquire about a man from Tarsus, Saul by name. He is praying to Me at this very instant. He has had a vision — a vision of a man by your name who will come, lay hands on him, and heal his eyesight.

Ananias:

Lord, I know whom You’re talking about. I’ve heard rumors about this fellow. He’s an evil man and has caused great harm for Your special people in Jerusalem. I’ve heard that he has been authorized by the religious authorities to come here and chain everyone who associates with Your name.

The Lord:

Yes, but you must go! I have chosen him to be My instrument to bring My name far and wide — to outsiders, to kings, and to the people of Israel as well. I have much to show him, including how much he must suffer for My name.

So Ananias went and entered the house where Saul was staying. He laid his hands on Saul and called to him.

Ananias:

Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, Who appeared to you on your way here, sent me so you can regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

At that instant, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see. So he got up, received … baptism identifying him as a disciple, ate some food (remember, he had not eaten for three days), and regained his strength. He spent a lot of time with the disciples in Damascus over the next several days. Then he went into the very synagogues he had intended to purge, proclaiming,

Saul:

Jesus is God’s Son!

Obviously this amazed everybody, and the buzz spread.

The People:

Isn’t he the man who caused so much trouble in Jerusalem for everyone identified with Jesus? Didn’t he come here to arrest followers of Jesus and bring them in chains to the religious authorities? Now he’s switched sides and is preaching Jesus?

As time passed, Saul’s confidence grew stronger and stronger, so much so that he debated with the Jews of Damascus and made an irrefutable case that Jesus is, in fact, God’s Anointed, the Liberating King.

They didn’t like being confounded like this; so after several days, the Jews plotted to assassinate Saul. But he learned of the plot. He knew they were keeping the city gates under constant surveillance, so they could follow and kill him when he left. To save Saul, the disciples came up with a plan of their own. During the night, they put Saul in a basket and lowered him by ropes from an opening in the wall of the city rather than passing through the gates. Their plan worked, and he returned to Jerusalem.

He tried to join the disciples there, but they didn’t think he was sincere.

(Acts 9:1-26)

Response in Prayer

O gracious Father, I confess that my faith is often shallow, and I don’t put myself in places and situations where my faith would be tested. I run from rejection and tend to pray prayers about my own welfare and not the needs of my persecuted brothers and sisters. Even more, Lord Jesus, I have forgotten to pray for my enemies. So today, renew my sense of connection to my family of faith under persecution. Give us all power through the Holy Spirit to be people of character and compassion so that Your grace can move through us and transform those who are hostile to faith in You. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.

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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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From: “A Year with Jesus”
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Category: Passion for Praise

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