Welcome to Monday’s Podcast. My name is Tom Finnemore. I’m part of the team at STC and this week I’ll pick up the baton from Liam Brennan and lead us through our week’s podcasts.
Our reading today is Acts 9: 10-19. Today we’ll focus on verses 10-12
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.
I was attending a conference recently with some of the STC staff team where I discovered that a friend of mine was also attending. We’d exchanged the occasional text over the years and I’d kept up to date with him on social media but to actually be able to sit down and talk face to face was such a joy. It was such a precious moment to catch up.
I was struck by how much my friend had really changed. In fact – in some really remarkable ways. He now carries a very, very strong prophetic gift, which really is the grace of God because when we were at Theological College – if you had told me it would be him – I wouldn’t have believed it. At my Theological College (“Vicar factory”) there was a bit of a habit of unhelpful conversations about ‘who is the person most likely to become a Bishop’ or ‘person who ends up running a mega church’ or ‘give it up and work in Debenhams’. Although done in jest – in truth people were inadvertently boxed – labelled – judged – their futures spoken over often – predicted. Truth is, we didn’t have a clue. We had no right to speak over others what God could or couldn’t do with their lives.
So my conversation with my friend and reading today’s passage leaves me with two thoughts, which I’d love to offer today:
Firstly, God can literally change a life. I find it so easy to give up hope for some people. I can agree with my inner cynic – I can let my experience dictate – ‘this person will never change…’ or it can appear that someone is on a trajectory – their future mapped out before them.
The story of Saul’s conversion is mind blowing. He’s the last person one would expect. Hell bent on destroying the church. As Liam shared on Friday, a life dedicated to the destruction of the church – suddenly Jesus steps in and reveals Himself in the most beautifully powerful way.
The challenge to me is this morning is this: who have I written off? Members of my family who don’t know Jesus? This passage challenges me profoundly – have I given up on God’s transforming grace breaking into someone’s life? Have I stopped praying? Has disbelief and discouragement set up camp in my heart? If I’m honest, it probably has, and the story of Saul’s conversion is a huge challenge to me to get that right with the Lord.
The second thought is this. Ananias – what a total unsung new-testament hero. Jesus tells him to go and greet Saul. Out of obedience he does just that. God sends this man to restore Saul’s sight. To pray for the filling of the Spirit – to be the first brother to welcome him into the church he was hell bent on destroying. What a powerful moment and what a call of God. It’s a few verses but what Ananias does is monumental. It’s small, seemingly understated but has an eternal kingdom impact. He could have said no to Jesus. He could have been really frosty with Saul. He could have kept him at a difference from the church. No. He fully embraced him. Each of us can have a huge kingdom impact if we just embrace the seemingly mundane. Think of a man called Mordecai Ham. Who? He’s the man who led Billy Graham to Christ. Just doing what the Lord called him to do. A simple thing but a phenomenal global kingdom impact. Don’t despise the seemingly small things of drawing alongside someone. Inviting people into your home. Praying for people. Encouraging them. Befriending people.
So, as we head into this week. Let’s be reminded of God’s incredible grace to transform even the hardest and most lost of hearts. And let be encouraged that as we serve God – sometimes when it seems weird or random – that we’re part of a bigger kingdom tapestry. Let’s keep encouraging, investing and loving people.
Father thank you for this day. Help us to keep believing that you can change lives and use us to encourage and build up.
READING: Acts 9:10-19a
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’
‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered.
The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.’
‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’
But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptised, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.