First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, July 18, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“A Disciple Named Ananias!”
Acts chapter 9 is usually described as the account of Saul’s conversion. It’s a turning point for Saul of Tarsus, who became the Apostle Paul, the greatest missionary, evangelist, and church planter in the history of Christianity and the author of much of the New Testament. There is, however, another character that is often overlooked in Acts chapter 9, a disciple named Ananias. In the shadow of Paul’s encounter with Jesus of Nazareth on the road to Damascus, there is another person that is worthy of our attention today and that is what I would like to do this morning.
Who was Ananias?Ananias! Who was Ananias and what role did he play in Acts 9? There are three Ananias’s in the New Testament. The first is found in Acts 5. It was he who conspired with his wife, Sapphira, to sell a piece of property and lie to the apostles, and to the Holy Spirit, about laying the entire price at the apostles’ feet while withholding a portion of that price for themselves. There is also another Ananias that was the High Priest when Paul appeared before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem in Acts chapters 23 and 24.
The third Ananias is the disciple of Christ we get to meet here in Acts chapter 9. Luke introduces Ananias this way in Acts 9:10-11, “Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul.”
Needless to say, Ananias was a little nervous about the situation. In fact, he was very edgy about it. He was being sent to an enemy. Ananias was supposed to go to visit a man who had done so much harm to the Lord’s people; a man obsessed with destroying the church. It was going to take some moral strength and courage to do the task he was assigned to do.
As we examine Ananias’ life this morning, I think we are encouraged to consider two things. Two ways the life of this disciple can be an encouragement to all of us.
First: The Different Calling of Ananias
When God calls us to follow Him, He calls us for a specific task, a certain mission. As we continue to follow the Lord, we get to know our part in expanding the kingdom of God. We get to know our mission. That mission doesn’t have to be giant. It doesn’t have to be across the ocean; it could be across the street. In people’s eyes, your mission might seem small and insignificant, but in God’s eyes, it’s as important and essential as any big ministry.
Ananias had a different calling. We are not all called to be Paul. We aren’t all going to be the one out front, the one leading the crowd, the one who is recognized for their impact. But all of us are called to be Ananias. As we live and move as Christ’s followers in the world, we are meant to push back the darkness and bring the light of Christ one interaction at a time. We are meant to be looking – and looking with expectation – for where the sovereign hand of God is positioning us.
Most of us know and love the hymn, “There is a Balm in Gilead.” It’s a beautiful 19th century African American Spiritual. The third stanza states, “If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus, who died to save us all.” Not everyone can be Paul, but everyone can be Ananias.
Second: Service is at the Heart of our Calling
Ananias was ready to serve. Service is at the heart of our calling. Listen one more time to Acts 9:10, “Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”
His answer when the Lord called was, “Here I am, Lord.” Ananias’ response was so open hearted. This is the typical response of followers of Christ when opportunity knocks. We recall the same attitude in 1 Samuel 3:10 “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,” said young Samuel. We remember the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” We remember Father Abraham. The author of Hebrews says these great words in Hebrews 11:8, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Ananias was ready to serve in any way. How ready are we when life presents its opportunities to serve the Lord?
This doesn’t mean that we will not be wrestling with our calling. In fact, it’s normal to do so. All of God’s people wrestled with their callings. Some of them didn’t see themselves qualified or capable of the task; others didn’t feel worthy; and others simply didn’t have time. Often times, we try to find an excuse when God calls. Ananias was no exception. In Acts 9:13-14, we read, “But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” This was a valid and realistic concern, but not a refusal to obey. In our walk with God, we come to this point of surrender just because God said so.
Friends, may we never underestimate our role and our contributions to God’s Kingdom. I cannot imagine Paul’s introduction to the Church of Christ and the body of believers in Damascus without Ananias’ help. As simple as it was, it was crucial. Ananias had no idea what he was helping to unleash upon the world in this new convert who would now be known as Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus! In Acts 9:19-20 Luke tells us, “For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
You may never know the effect you have had on others by your courage, faith, example, and work. We may never know how much impact we may have on others as we follow where Christ leads. Therefore, brothers and sisters, get your feet wet; get busy. Let’s seize every opportunity to serve God and others. Be like Ananias. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
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