Sunday, September 14, 2014

So Ananias Went

All of us, at some point in our lives, decide that that excellence is no longer needed in some area of life. Whether it be school, work, sports or blog writing, we reach a point when we decide it is OK to "just get by." We work only as hard as we need to for our efforts to be judged acceptable by those around us. Doing the best we can seems like a waste of effort, because really- who cares? Our attitudes are like that of the man who was hiking through the woods with a friend. As they moved into the deep forest, they suddenly encountered a bear. The bear smelled them and the food in their backpacks and began to chase them. After running for a long distance they had not lost the bear. One man sat down and began to unlace his boots and put on the sneakers from his pack. The other man looked at him incredulously and said, "Are you nuts?" You can't out run that bear!" The first man laced up his sneakers and relied, "I don't have to out run the bear. I just have to out run you..."

Even when it comes to following Jesus we often seek to do only what seems to be absolutely necessary. We go to church. We occasionally dust off our bibles. But when the message gets too tough, we find excuses. When the job gets too complicated, we bail out. We are like the man who falls off of a cliff, only to catch himself on a tree branch. He cannot climb up. The drop would be hundreds of feet. He cries out to God, "LORD, what should I do?" A moment later he hears a response- "Let go of the branch." The man hesitates, thinks about it and then says, "Is there anyone else out there?"  We want to follow Jesus, but we want it to be easy.  And it's not. Love our enemies? Walk a second mile? Be a peacemaker? Lose our lives so that we can find them? No thanks- I'll just sit in my padded pew and be comfortable.

In Acts 9:10-17 we read the story of a man named Ananias. God comes to him and tells him that he has a job for him. He wants him to go to see Saul, the noted killer of followers of The Way, who has been struck blind on the the road to Damascus and has been given a vision that Ananias is coming to heal his sight. Ananias responds as we often do- with all kinds of excuses and reasons why this is a bad idea and he is not the right person for the job. But God says to him, "GO!" We often hear God say the same to us in a variety of ways. God tells us to GO!- and repair broken relationships. He tells us to GO!- and be in ministry to the under-resourced and the lost and hurting. He tell us to GO!- and be witnesses for Jesus in our world. And we, like Ananias, find a plethora of excuses. But there is one main difference between our common response and the way Ananias responded. Despite all of the whining and the excuses, verse 17 gives us the bottom line: So Ananias went. And the Apostle Paul received his sight and set about turning the world upside-down.

And that is what God requires of us. Not that we be perfect, not even that we be qualified for the work He sets before us. It is not our own skill and talents that qualify us to serve God- it is His grace, power and love that sends us out into our world with everything we need. Perhaps, at the end of it all, the greatest thing that could ever be said about any of us is not that we have abilities as a teacher or am artist. It's not to hear others say that we can sing like the angels or preach like Billy Graham. Perhaps the greatest thing that could be said about of me (or you!) is simply this: So Carl went. Here's my heart LORD. Use me. 

Because of Jesus,

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