Today’s story is about how Ananias bravely helped Saul. You can read it here.
For this story, I plan to be somewhat in Bible character again, saying, “I can’t believe you made it here safe! Are you okay? There’s this man named Saul going around putting Christians in jail! In chains! And sometimes even worse things. I heard he’s headed to our town, and I’m scared. I’ve been looking for my friend Ananias to see if he has any ideas what we should do.” Then I’ll find a letter from Ananias saying that God told him to go see Saul. Then Saul will burst in asking if we are Christians, and telling us how God has changed him.
Since this will be the last day of VBS, I’m wishing-hoping-thinking-praying that by this time my co-leader there at Musana – whoever it is – will be able to act out the part of Saul. Please pray, dear friends! I hope we can figure out a way to have this banter back and forth between all – all with the help of a translator.
I wrote earlier this week about Saul/Paul’s conversion. How it reminds me that no one is beyond the reach of God’s love. But I’m trying to wrap my head around how Ananias must have felt upon receiving a vision from God telling him to walk straight into the arms of the most dangerous man in the country. He didn’t know if the result would be imprisonment or even death.
But I have a confession. In a way, I feel like in some ways dying for Christ is easy. It’s living for Christ that can be terrifying. Seriously. If something were to happen where I was captured and a gun put to my head saying, “Deny Christ and live,” I wouldn’t have that much difficulty saying no. I mean, it’s still a scary prospect and I hope that doesn’t happen, but it’s over fairly quickly and then you’re in heaven – which is gonna be awesome, ya know?
Compare that with the way that I am called to live out my life in pursuit of Christ and share my faith with others. Now that’s terrifying. I live and work in an environment full of open-minded people, except when it comes to Christianity. I don’t go running down the halls at work singing “Jesus Loves Me”, but I also don’t hide it when something comes up. Most of my closer coworkers know that I’m a Sunday school teacher.
But to be honest, I have been nervous to say up front that the reason I am going to Uganda is for missions work. If people have asked, I’ve told them. But it’s always with hesitation and fear.
What will they think of me if they know I’m a Christian? I’m afraid because there’s an awful stereotype of Christians as Bible-thumping, gay-hating, holier-than-thou, or just-plain-irritating jerks. And I don’t want to be put in that box. And what will they think of me going on a missions trip? Will they think that I’m like those best-intentions-but-poor-actions missionaries who have have been disrespectful of or damaging to culture with the way they tried to share Christ?
I guess I feel like there’s a don’t ask don’t tell policy when it comes to Christianity in my workplace. I haven’t hidden the fact that I’m a Christian, but I’m also not intentional about sharing God’s love with others.
But during Lent this year our pastor gave a great sermon about a donkey. The donkey that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
If you think about it, it’s a ridiculous story. Jesus tells his disciples to walk up and take someone’s donkey!!! That’s, like, stealing, isn’t it? Um, yeah! It’s weird! But, Jesus says that if anyone asks why they are taking it – and someone did – to just say that the Lord needs it and that person will be okay with them taking it – which they were.
The Bible doesn’t tell us why the owner was okay with the disciples taking his donkey. But imagine this. Imagine that the owner of that donkey was sitting in his house praying, “God, I don’t know what to do right now. I need your help. I’d give anything for your guidance. I’d even give up my donkey.” And right then these guys walk up and start untying the donkey.
The point that our pastor made was so true. If God asks you to go do something over there, it’s because he’s already been working and preparing things over there. God does not work in isolation.
It’s something I’ve had to remind myself of in preparing for this whole trip and in facing my fears of teaching these five lessons in a different culture – and partially to people speaking a different language. That God is sending me over there and has already prepared things over there for what he’s going to do through us.
How much moreso at home? If I know deep in my spirit that God’s asking me to talk to that person about Jesus, it’s because God’s already been at work in that person’s life preparing them to hear. If God asks me to invite that person to church, it’s because he’s already been at work in that person’s heart.
God asks us to do things that are scary. Really scary. In the case of Ananias and Saul, God told Ananias to go to Saul because Saul was finally ready to hear about the love of Jesus.
So what is God asking you to do? Who is God asking you to be? It may be terrifying, but remember that God does not work in isolation, and that “through his mighty power at work WITHIN US, [God will] accomplish INFINITELY MORE than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)