When Saul was on the Road to Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus, the church in Damascus knew he was on the way and what he wanted to do. In this context, with no knowledge of any conversion experience, God speaks to Ananias and tells him to go find Saul. Basically saying, “Hey Ananias, you know that dude who oversaw Stephen’s execution and is on his way to your town to do the same to you? I want you to find him and minister to him, because I’ve chosen him, and he’s going to suffer a lot.”
Ananias goes and ministers to Saul, effectively welcoming him into the church. I see three things in his response that consistently reappear throughout the book of Acts:
- Loving Jesus more than safety.
- Fearing God more than enemies.
- Believing all of Jesus’ promises (including the promise that death in his name is a beautiful thing).
Two-thousand years after this occurred, it’s easy for me to dismiss the faith, courage, and love of Ananias and Barnabas, yet they were risking their lives and their place in their local communities in pursuing Saul for the Gospel’s sake. The initial response of the disciples in Jerusalem was completely natural, but God does not call us to react to things naturally. Our call is to react in the power of the Holy Spirit through the resurrection life we have in Christ! Ananias and Barnabas recognize this cannot happen alone, and if God really has called Saul, then he will need people to come alongside him.
Obeying God is worth whatever costs might come along with it. Not only is this seen here, but countless times throughout the books of Acts in the lives of Dorcas, Priscilla and Aquila, and many others. God has not called us to safety, he’s called us to love him and to love others often at great risk to ourselves, and to live in the “fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”