“Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream” —Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990), English Journalist, Author, Satirist, Christian and WWII spy.
“O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray and gather my thoughts to you, I cannot do it alone.
In me it is dark, but with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not desert me;
My courage fails me, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace;
in me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me.
Amen.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Morning Prayer
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.”
And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”
So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”
Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
And Ananias went… (Acts 9:10-17a, NKJV)
PRAYER FOCUS: (Having Faith) When It Gets Crazy
Ananias had guts. Upon hearing his name spoken by the Lord God Almighty—El Elyon, the Adonai—he faithfully replies “Here I am.” Then upon understanding that the Lord is sending him out on what seems to be a suicide mission, he turns and questions the Almighty, essentially asking, “Are You sure…?”
Our Father-God is patient (and, perhaps, lovingly amused). He repeats Himself (“Go…”). He shares details with Ananias, reassures him.
This leaves Ananias in a quandary. You might even call it a crisis of faith: God has sent him to Saul of Tarsus, a dangerous, Jesus-hating, Christian-killer who is actively hunting for people like, say, Ananias.
It must have seemed crazy.
[Note that the Lord never tells Ananias whether he will survive this rendezvous with Saul. He just says it’s important, and to go.]
So Ananias went. In a large demonstration of faith he stepped out of his safety zone (never mind his comfort zone) and into a situation that appeared to have no other ending than his own imprisonment and death. But things are not always as they appear. And because of Ananias’ faith and obedience, Saul of Tarsus became Paul the Evangelist.
Let us ask you a question: Do biblical accounts like this make you want to step up or step back from serving the Lord?
We wonder how many would-be Christians read this passage and walk away from the Lord—not because they don’t believe—but because they fear if they truly surrender their lives to Jesus Christ they might actually be sent to the heart of Africa (or something crazy like that in the worst place they can imagine) and live in a hut in less time than it takes to say, “Save me, Jesus.” How many actual Christians fail to step into the fullness of their faith for the same reason? For them, the account of Ananias and Saul/Paul serves as both an inspiration and a warning. It seems crazy…
Unless you believe in a God who is both Supernatural AND Superloving.
If you stand back from the Lord your God because you fear that the first thing He will do is send you out to do something you’re sure you’ll hate, perhaps you hold a twisted concept of who and what He is. Please note that Saul doesn’t just jump up and dash off to the Deep Amazon Rain Forest in search of unsaved cannibals to evangelize. He doesn’t rush out and careen headlong into the Roman legions.
The Apostle Paul doesn’t set out on his missions for quite some time yet. That’s because God always trains and equips those he calls before He sends them. In most cases, the call to service involves something you’re already good at and enjoy, using talents you know or suspect you have, in a place you are, or would like to be. As we mature in our Christian faith we learn to lean away less, and lean forward more.
We begin to pray, “Put me in, Coach…send me.”
And when He calls our name, we reply, like Ananias, “Here I am.”
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? (Try not to be disappointed if it isn’t Africa.)
We’d like to add that we personally know and pray for Christian missionaries in Africa (Ghana and Uganda), the Philippines, Indonesia, Guatemala, Honduras, China, Iraq, Iran, and the main campus of Louisiana State University. None of them live in huts. All of them are living extraordinary lives doing extraordinary work. You can read about some of them on our Home Page under “Missions and Ministries”.
It’s Monday morning. Please take a moment and join us in praying for the missionaries in the field who have heard the call and answered, “Here I am!” And pray for God’s blessings on the missionaries who are home on furlough, resting and recovering as they wait for their next assignments.
,,Gott, zu Dir rufe ich in der Frühe des Tages.
Hilf mir beten und meine Gedanken sammeln zu Dir;
Ich kann es nicht allein.
In mir ist es finster, aber bei Dir ist das Licht;
Ich bin einsam, aber Du verlässt mich nicht;
Ich bin kleinmütig, aber bei Dir ist die Hilfe;
Ich bin unruhig, aber bei Dir ist der Friede;
In mir ist Bitterkeit, aber bei Dir ist Geduld;
Ich verstehe Deine Wege nicht, aber Du weißt den Weg für mich.
Amen.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Morgengebet