Thomas a Kempis once said that Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience.
We can know this to be true in our own lives. Kitty can ask me to do something and I’ll say yes I’ll do it but in my own mind there is no set time. Kitty will come back 20 minutes later and see that the thing she asked me to do has not been done and she will then vigorously encourage me to do it right now. For Kitty, when I said yes I’ll do it she expected me to get up and do it. Instant obedience; I am learning.
There is a story of parents who would always say to their son, “please go and tidy your room NOW.” The son would always agree to tidy up, but then wouldn’t follow through. After high school the young man joined the Marine Corps. When he came home for leave after basic training, his father asked him what he had learned in the service.
“Dad,” he said. “I learned what ‘now’ means.”
Ananias is an unsung hero of scripture. We know nothing else about this man except what we read in Acts 9, but what we do learn is that this is a faithful, obedient servant of God.
He was a man who knew the voice of God. God calls him and he says “yes Lord, here I am”. The fact that God called upon Ananias shows not only that he was a man of faith, but that he could be trusted. Yet God’s command to Ananias must have made him very afraid – go to Straight Street and seek out Saul of Tarsus.
Ananias response tells us a number of things. Firstly, it tells us that word of Saul’s mission had reached the Christians of Damascus. In fact, Ananias was relatively safe from Saul. Saul had extradition papers to capture Christians from Jerusalem, who had fled, and bring them back for trial, and Ananias was a Damascene Christian.
Secondly It would appear that Ananias was not aware of what had happened to Saul and his encounter with the risen Lord.
Neil Marten, a member of the British Parliament, was once giving a group of his constituents a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. During the course of the visit, the group happened to meet Lord Hailsham, then Lord Chancellor, wearing all the regalia of his office. Hailsham recognized Marten among the group and cried, “Neil!” Not daring to question or disobey the “command,” the entire band of visitors promptly fell to their knees!
Saul experienced something which instinctively made him fall to the ground asking the question, “who are you LORD!”
Having expected to enter Damascus in the fullness of his pride and power, as a self confident opponent of Jesus Christ was instead led into the city, humbled and blinded, himself captured by the very one had stood against. Ananias also feels that he needs to remind God exactly who Saul of Tarsus was – as if God might have forgotten – this was the man intent on destroying the church; imprisoning Christians – threatening any who followed Christ. Going, willingly, to a man who had approved of the killing of Stephen would seem foolish in anyone’s eyes.
But God tells Ananias to go.
And so Ananias goes.
He was obedient to the call of God and he goes to Straight Street (a street which is still there in Damascus today) to lay hands on Saul.
Now Saul, by this time had been blind for a number of days. I wonder what went through Saul’s head when he heard and saw Jesus standing before him on the road. Jesus’ words are very powerful – “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” – in other words, to persecute the church was to persecute Christ himself.
Saul now discovers that this Christ was indeed the Messiah – risen and alive.
This was the beginning of a total conversion for Saul – a conversion of will, intellect and emotion which now set his life upon the purpose and direction of being obedient to Christ. Saul / Paul’s obedience begins here – when while blind begins to pray and seek after God.
And finally these two men come together – the faithful obedient disciple Ananias and the newly born, newly obedient servant Saul – Ananias lays hands upon Saul and his blindness leaves him and he is baptized.
Obedience is not always the easy road. Ananias went to Straight Street, not knowing what would happen to him or what he would find but in full obedience, trust and faith in his God.
Saul’s new life of obedience to God was about to begin – a life which we know would involve suffering for the name of Christ. We also know that Saul, Paul, embraces it not just willingly but joyfully.
A life of obedience to God is not always the easy road, but it is always the fruitful one, form only when we are obedient to Christ in our personal lives and corporate lives can we do anything of value.
This is what Jesus’ disciples learnt. The disciples spent three incredible years with Jesus – seeing and experiencing things beyond their imagination.
Yet after Jesus is crucified the disciples go back to Galilee and become fishermen again. They return to what they thought they knew best. The problem is that what they know best is just not working for them. When Jesus first met Peter, he said that he would become a fisher of men. Jesus changed his job description. That was their life and their task now and they were not doing anything about it. The fact they caught nothing (John 21 – not a good thing for supposedly professional fisherman!) is a kind of metaphor that they will not catch anything when they are fishing in the wrong place – they can do nothing, nor achieve anything without Christ.
Jesus appears on the bank and cries out “children, have you caught anything yet?” The sentence structure demands a negative!
Just like a parable, Jesus tells them to put their nets over the other side – it is not a suggestion but a command and instantly the nets fill with fish. Even as the resurrected Lord Jesus is teaching his disciples to do what they must do – they haven’t caught anything because they are not fishing were they should be fishing – in the towns and cities of Israel. Fish when, where and how Jesus tells us to and we will have the harvest!
Ananias, Saul, Peter and the six disciples, you and I are called to be obedient to Christ BECAUSE apart from Christ we can do nothing and achieve nothing of value.
It is the first step of our calling as believers, followers and worshippers of Christ.
That Christ is the center of our obedience is shown in the book of Revelation. It says in Chapter 5 ; “Between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a lamb standing, as though it had been slain…” The lamb is the central figure in heaven – on whom all the attention is focused – a lamb that bears the marks of violent death because he was obedient to his Father – but yet standing, alive, not dead.
Is the lamb the central place in our lives? Is he what moulds us and directs us and inspires us?
And here is the main point – the lamb – Christ – is worthy because he is the model of obedience – he is worthy because he laid his life down for every tribe, tongue and nation. He came and did the fathers will – “Not my will be done but yours”.
He is worthy to be worshipped – to be honored – to be praised because he too was obedient, even to death. How much more should we also be obedient as believers.
Somebody once said, “The first duty of every soul is to find not its freedom but its Master”.
IS CHRIST OUR MASTER TODAY?