Title: 5 Steps to becoming a person God uses.
Text: Acts 9.10-18; 22.12-16
Introduction: Alister Begg tells the story of a lawyer with the last name Odd. Struggled with his name. Oddball, odd boy, oddyit, odd man. It was such a struggle, that when he died, he had specific instructions that his name was not to be put on his tombstone, but rather just the phrase: Here rests an honest lawyer. When people would walk through the cemetery, they would stop and look at his tombstone and say: That’s odd.
Some people just can’t escape their past.
History: Saul of Tarsus had been doing his best to stamp out the church. A zealous Pharisee, educated by what standards we would say today was a completed Master’s degree, was studying Law under the famed Gamaliel. As a young man, he was persecuting believers. His most famous, or should I say infamous endeavor against the church is at the stoning of Stephen.
In this message today we’ll look at a part of this incredible story, but not so much the story of Saul, as the story of a man who was used by God in Saul’s life. This month my sermon series has been the focus of Missions. The title of this series is Missions: A foundation. Three columns: Prayer; Obedience; Willingness; Acts 9.10-18; 22.12-15
Transition: concerning willingness and an open heart, I’ve found 5 steps in the life of Ananias that he went through in being used of God in the life of Paul. Therefore, I’ve entitled my message 5 Steps in Becoming a Person God Uses.
Step 1: The 1st step we see in this passage is the calling of Ananias. rd v 10;
1. God Calls:
a. He calls him by name: Ananias
i. “here I am” is lit.: Behold me, Lord. ἰδοὺ ἐγώ, κύριε; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph to his dad, Moses to God, Samuel to the Lord.
app.: the kind of man God uses is a man who is open to the Call of God. I wonder if too often we’re quick to say, “God use me,” but never really open to the idea of being used. We want God to use us, but rather on our terms and on our turf. We get to pick the people and we get to pick the places. Note the Characteristic of a man used by God: Willing. Behold me, Lord; Willing to go, willing to serve, willing to sacrifice.
Oh, to hear God’s people come to church on Sunday morning with this on their lips: Here I am.
ii. V. 10 says: A “certain” disciple; so, he was a follower of Jesus; At this point we have to go to Acts 22.12 to find out more about this man.
iii. Devout according to the Law; before Acts 15;
iv. Favor amongst the Jews, in spite of being a believer – the Jewish community respected his devotion to God.
app.: Finding the favor of God and man isn’t a quick ascent. It appears that when one does justly, he loves mercy and walks humbly with His God – that man will find favor with God and his fellow man. Might I venture to say also that this doesn’t occur in a day or at one event? This takes years of faithfulness. It is earned. As well, you might note that even a man’s enemies will respect him, too. That is to say, they may hate him for his beliefs in God, but they will respect his integrity.
b. The kind of man God uses: the one who is open and willing, and 2nd, the man who practices what he preaches; oh, yes, God can use anyone for anything. Think of Pharaoh. But it appears, time and again, that the vessel God chooses and uses is the clean, available vessel.
Transition: So, Step 1, we see the call of God upon the life of Ananias. Step 2, we see God’s Command to Go. Look back to 9.11
2. God Commands: the 1st command is…
a. Go – lit.: having risen, Go; a “passive, imperative” which means he doesn’t go alone and he doesn’t go on his own strength – He goes in God. App.: we, too, go in the power of the LORD
i. To the street called Straight
ii. To the house of Judas; the 2nd command is…
c. Look for (ζητέω): seek; Rd v 11b; Luke 19.10: the purpose statement of Jesus – For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. You ever think about that?
i. Jesus said his purpose was to seek and save the lost.
ii. We are the body of Christ.
iii. We fulfill his purpose when we seek and save the lost.
1. I’m proud of what we’re doing as a church.
a. UUPG –
c. That’s what we’re doing as a body…
2. How is it going for you as an individual?
a. My Hope for America
Transition: Let me offer you this encouragement – we want to help you in anyway we can to fulfill your calling from God. But there’s more here than just the call and command. Once he calls and commands, he often confirms, like he does here with Ananias. Step 3, God Confirms;
3. God Confirms:
exp.: rd v 12;
a. Saul of Tarsus
i. he is praying
ii. he has seen a vision, too;
App.: God works in the lives of others, confirming in us His call and His Command to go;
1. of Ananias – he calls him by name; 2nd, he gets specific…
2. laying hands on him
3. recieving his sight; Now, we’ve got to go back to Acts 22 for a little more insight to what happened. Listen to Paul: rd 22.12-16 12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him.
exp.: Greek is lit.: Brother Saul, look up. And at that hour I looked up and saw him. That’s too cool! The word ‘came’ there tells us that Ananias did as he was commanded. Next, we see that Ananias is given a special message for him.14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.
App.: And isn’t that really all our testimony is? Our experience in Christ? But look, Ananias doesn’t just tell him what has happened to him and why, but he offers Saul the opportunity to surrender his life to Christ. Here is the challenge; rd v 16;
16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
Transition: Go back to ch. 9; God Calls Ananias, he then commands him to go and search for Saul of Tarsus at the house of one named Judas. But Ananias pauses. And here we see another side of the Father – Step 4: His compassion in our weakness.
4. God’s Compassion in a Crisis of Belief –
exp.: Crisis of belief is a term I’ve taken from Henry Blackaby – author of Experiencing God. If you’ve not heard, Henry Blackaby went missing last Friday. It turns out that he had a heart attack which left him confused and disoriented. He was finally located and is in the hospital last I saw. Please pray for him and his family; Rd v 13;
a. Ananias seems confused or at least concerned: But I have heard (sometimes, What we are most aware of doesn’t match what God is calling us to do); He was probably not one of the fugitives, but has heard from those who have fled Jerusalem that Saul:
i. He has done much evil (funny how people do evil in the name of God);
1. the bombing this weekend in Nairobi, Kenya. 59 dead; 175 injured
2. Suicide bomber bombs church in Pakistan 52 dead; 100+ wounded
ii. He’s here to do more! Rd v 13-14; he’s under the authority to do evil in your name
But, look at God’s compassion at Ananias’ confusion, concern: rd v 15;
b. The command is reiterated: Go – but this time, God is patient and let’s Ananias in on His plan.
1. ὅτι – in order that; because
2. γὰρ – cause or reason; I will show him…
I find this interesting that his suffering is the venue by which he will present the gospel. You and I know that it was through his suffering as a prisoner that we have so much of the NT.
app.: Suffering: Too often we run from suffering. We protect our kids from suffering and really, suffering is what drives us. Maybe your suffering will be a platform to present the Love and Grace of God. I don’t know. This stage of Acts is the stage where so many believers were scattered from Jerusalem throughout the known world. And once these believers were relocated, the gospel was preached. Listen, I don’t want to suffer and I don’t want you to suffer. But, I wonder if that might be the very way God’s message is communicated?
Question: why is it that we worry so much about that which we have no control over? Is not God in charge? Then let him be in charge. God does for Ananias what Paul tells Timothy God has done in his life: 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2nd app.: so often, when people are suffering, God is at work in their lives. When they come to you or you’re sent to them, don’t bow to the PC god! Tell them how they can get their lives together! I’m so glad that Ananias didn’t think to himself that Saul was Jewish and Ananias was Christian and therefore, in order not to offend him, he’d just go help him get back to Jerusalem. He didn’t just buy him a bus ticket back to Jerusalem. He didn’t just rent him a room for the night or send him to the food pantry in town.
Transition: So, what does Ananias do… and this is step 5: he complies with God’s command.
5. Ananias’ Compliance
exp.: rd v 17a; I’ve labeled this:
a. Making Tracks: Gk lit.: went out from and went into (moving forward); this matches God’s 1st command: getup and go!
i. You can’t stay where you are and go with God, too! Max Lucado?
ii. This might mean making changes to your life right where you are.
iii. This might mean moving – literally.
b. Ministry –
i. Laying on of hands: v. 12; rd 22.12-16; “look up”; and “looking up, I saw him.” rd 9.17b;
ii. Think about Saul’s predicament. He was blinded by a bright light; rd 22.6; a light brighter than the bright sun at noon! A voice has spoken to him. This is an arrogant man who is broken. He has to be led to Damascus by those who are with him. He is praying and seeking God’s direction. This moment has been so overwhelming for him. He’s broken and ready for God to do his work. Enter Ananias!
c. Message – He tells him about Jesus – he challenges him to call upon his name. rd 22.14-16; this is why we go; yes, we go to serve; yes, we go to minister; But what good does it do to feed those in need, to meet the person at the point of their need, if we don’t tell them about eternity? I believe God uses our ministry for this purpose – to share a message from God.
Observations & Implications:
1. God is at work in someone’s life. It might be yours or someone near you.
2. Some people are trying to escape their pasts with no real future. God’s been preparing them for an encounter with you. Are you ready? Are you willing?
a. Do you have an ear open to hear the call of God?
b. Do you have a will that is obedient to the command of God?
c. Do you have a life that is a living sacrifice in service for his pleasure?
I can’t answer those questions for you – only you can. Will you be honest and answer these questions before the Father?