Trusting God in Extraordinary Times

Acts 9:1-19      |     Sermon Resources      |      22 March 2020


I am posting a shortened blog this week as I have had to prioritize my time elsewhere but hope to be back to posting my normal blog next week.


We come this week to the most famous conversion story in the history of the church.  This is the account of how Saul the persecutor became Saul the apostle – a man who went from wreaking havoc within the church to becoming one of the key instruments God used to build his church.  This story is so important Luke includes it three times in the book of Acts, here and in Saul’s speeches in chapters 22 and 26.  As we will have plenty of opportunity in Acts to get to know Saul (or as he is also known Paul), I want to focus this week not on Saul but on Ananias.  Ananias is the man God used to bring Saul to faith in Jesus Christ.


#1 The Danger He Faced

Ananias was asked to do an extraordinarily dangerous thing – to go and pray for the very man who had authority to kill him!  Saul had demonstrated his determination to stamp out the early Christian movement.  He had previously gone house to house in Jerusalem looking for any Christians he could find and sending both men and women to their deaths.  Now he had taken the show on the road going so far as Damascus which was over 150 miles away.  That’s a long way to walk!  What is more, Saul actually had the authority to do what he was doing.  This was not just a lone individual on a rant; he actually had letters from the Jewish authorities giving him the legal power to imprison Christians.


#2 The Groundwork that was Laid

Before God called Ananias to go and speak with Saul, he laid some groundwork.  As Saul neared the end of his journey, Jesus got his full and undivided attention and asked him what was certainly the most penetrating question he had ever been asked: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  This was a reality check for Saul who, as far as he knew, was only persecuting Christians.  But now he learns that Jesus so closely identifies with his followers, that to afflict them is to afflict Him.  Perhaps Saul believed Christianity was primarily about following a set of life principles and that’s partly true, but he learns here that Christians don’t just blindly follow principles, they follow a person.  Saul is left humbled, entering into Damascus in a far different way than he imagined – finding himself blind and needing to be guided by others.


#3 The Faith He Displayed

The Lord appears to Ananias and sends him to go and pray for Saul.  It is clear that Ananias understands the danger as he immediately objects to the task.  In response, God shares with him the big picture of how he intends to break Saul in order to use him as a mighty instrument for his purposes.  In the end, Ananias obeys and finds Saul on the street called Straight in the house of Judas.  He goes and lays a gentle hand on him and in a move of bold compassion calls him “brother Saul.”  These must have been some of the sweetest words Saul had ever heard.  We are told that he was filled with the Holy Spirit and that “something like scales fell from eyes” as he recovered his sight.



Discussion Questions

  1. This passage shares the story of how Saul was converted. If you are follower of Jesus, briefly share your story of coming to faith.  Was it a sudden event like Saul’s or more of a process?  Who did God use?  What got you curious about Christian things in the first place?
  2. Why do you think Saul was so zealous in persecuting Christians?
  3. Jesus does not say to Saul, “why are you persecuting my members” but “why are you persecuting me.” What lesson do you think Saul learned from this?  What lessons should we learn from this?
  4. Why do you think Jesus left Saul blinded?
  5. How do you think you would have responded if you were in Ananias’ shoes? What kinds of thoughts would have been going through your head?
  6. What words of encouragement would you have shared with Ananias if he was still feeling afraid to go and talk with Saul?
  7. How can we learn to walk by faith in the midst of our current situation?

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