Growing up, we were often asked who we wanted to be like in the Bible. It’s not a bad question, or one we should avoid. Some want to be like Peter, but I always had this issue of Peter because he found his ankle when his foot was in his mouth – kind-of like me, I often find land mines by stepping on them. Some want to be like Paul, for his boldness, theological acumen, his ability to plant churches and – oh by the way – write 2/3rds of the New Testament, but while Paul has a lot of great qualities, there’s a different guy I’m interested in being like.
I want to be like Ananias, the Disciple from Damascus.
You’re familiar of the story from Acts 9:10-19? If not, click HERE and read it.
Many of you, of course, know this story, but this part of the story is often passed over. Acts 9 involves two people, the disciple Ananias and Saul. Saul was famous for persecuting Christians, and he’s left Jerusalem with a letter that says he can arrest any Christian he can find in Damascus. He will then head to Damascus with the sole purpose of rounding up and wrecking the lives of every Christians.
But on his way, God wrecked Saul. Saul had gone to wreck Damascus, but God wrecked Saul instead. Jesus calls to him and says, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul is now blind and Jesus tells him to go to Damascus but with a different mission, he is to wait for three days and nights without any food or water. Who knows what was going through his mind.
But then the disciple Ananias comes onto the scene – this isn’t the same Ananias the husband of Sapphira who lied against the Holy Spirit – so don’t be confused. Did you see the title given to him? A Disciple.
This is the first ting I love about Ananias. He was known for being a Disciple.
I’m often called “Preacher” which always makes me twinge my eye because I don’t go around calling people “Rancher” or “Banker” or “Investor” or (let’s get real honest) “Retired.” I call them by their name. Oh that I might be part of a church full of people known as Disciples!
Ananias’ LIFE demonstrated that he was a Disciple, that’s the only way you receive that kind of title. To be a Disciple means that you’re a “learner.” But not just that you learn stuff because besides, people aren’t impressed with a persons knowledge, they’re enamored with their love. When people in the Bible are considered disciples, they saw themselves in a relationship to the risen Lord Jesus, and they learned by doing what their Master did. They followed the footsteps of Jesus. That’s what makes you a disciple.
A famous passage – Luke 9:23: If anyone is to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Disciples can give up anything, go anywhere, and risk everything because the gospel has filled us with good things that can never be taken away. He’s growing in the Lord, He’s loving the risen Lord. He’s an example to his community, I love Ananias. I want to be like Ananias – a life that is given the title, “Disciple.”
Look what Ananias does – he LISTENS to the Lord. His response to the Lord when He calls to him is simply, “I am here, Lord.” This tells us that Ananias was a man who was listening for the voice of God. He was God’s man and he was listening for God’s voice to show him the steps he was to take. Oh how often I fail to hear the voice of the Lord! May we be men and women who behold the Lord! What I love about Ananias, is that he was able to discern the voice of the Lord. It wasn’t Mrs. Ananias or any of the little Ananiases running around – he knew that it was God. I love when people listen to the Lord. I love when people are so in communion with God that they know discernibly the voice of the Lord. This is the mark of a Disciple! The LISTEN to Him!
Now, later in Acts – chapter 22 – you can read it later, but we learn more about Ananias that he was a devout Jew with a good reputation who believed in the Messiah. He was probably a leader in the church there in Damascus, so here’s the interesting reality, Saul was out (most likely) to prosecute and persecute a man like Ananias. His name is probably on the “short list” to hunt down as he’s in Damascus! And this is the man that God is asking Ananias to go and speak to!
I love his Ananias’ response. You’ve heard of Paul Harvey and “the rest of the story” well, this is exactly what Ananias tries to pull on God. To a degree, he says, “Umm…. Lord, not sure you’ve heard from anyone yet, but this guy Saul – well, he’s not really interested being friends with your disciples.” Ananias shows me, me. He doesn’t have unwavering trust in God. He doesn’t just jump right in and go visit Saul, but he tries to inform God of the “rest of the story” – sound familiar with your life? Happens to me often – “You want me to move where? Bellville? What? They’re mascot is a cow? What? Where the best place to eat Mexican food is at Dairy Queen? Seriously?”
God knew everything about Saul. And God told Ananias to go. And he went. He LEANS into obedience. He obeys. He surrendered his life to God. He walks with a lean to obey Jesus. He does what he is told to do. He appears before Saul and has the honor of laying his hands on this broken and blind man and in the name of the Holy Spirit, Saul’s blindness ends. We read that Saul spent time with the disciples of Damascus, probably learning from Ananias, but the Bible doesn’t say.
But this is what I love the best: Ananias LEAVES the story. His role in this entire story is small, but significant. A guy who was a disciple, he wavered, but he was obedient. And the impact he’s made was huge. This small act of obedience led to great impact on the kingdom. Ananias isn’t worried about establishing the fact that he was the leader of the church in Damascus. He isn’t worried about taking a selfie with the now Apostle Saul. He isn’t worried about how many Facebook like’s he’d get, he just fades from the entire story.
And maybe that’s the lesson. Maybe that’s why I want to be like Ananias the Disciple. Obeying God and his word, even in the small things, will often result in major things. The small things will become significant. God knows better than we do, we just need to trust him along the way.
I want to be like Ananias of Damascus. I want to live, listen, lean, and leave. Share God’s word with God’s people. Look, the church I’m at is over 157 years old. Had lots of pastors. Most of them, forgotten. I’m just trying to be the same. Because one day, we just might leave or die, just like the long list of pastors before me, but you know what remains? This church. And she will long after I’m gone. May I be like the Disciple Ananias from Damascus.