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  • Writer's pictureLaura Neal

May 28, 2023: God Gives Strength- Acts 9:9-17

Aji was a dedicated Hindu worshiper. He participated in acts of violence against Christian missionaries. He disrupted religious services and made cruel threats against the participants. He was so devoted to his beliefs that he made the pilgrimage up Mt. Sabarimala. To do so, he had to fast for forty days before, then hike the mountain barefoot carrying his family's religious icons to be dedicated to one of the thousands of gods worshiped in his religion. He was so weak and malnourished that he collapsed and dropped the religious articles he carried as he neared the top. In deep frustration, he cried out to the object of his worship, “Why aren’t you able to give me strength?” Afterward, while armed with boards and stones and preparing to disturb a Christian gathering, he heard the minister call him out by name and also call out his sin. He was shocked, he listened, for the first time to the gospel message, and he believed. He surrendered his life to God. He’s now a missionary to his people for Jesus Christ. He found that the one true God is able to give strength. (

Martin Luther was a devout and religious man. He was determined to make it to Heaven and fervently adhered to religious discipline in order to be sure that he had attained salvation. He also made a pilgrimage to Rome. Physically exhausting himself by making the journey on foot and then bleeding, wounded, and physically punishing himself with whips, he climbed on his hands and knees up the stone steps of the cathedral and begged God to remove his sin and make him sure of his salvation. He recounted that he heard God’s voice in the midst of that chaos, saying, “The Just Shall Live By Faith!” He surrendered to Christ, the only one who can save, and found that the one true God can indeed remove sin and make us assured of our salvation through the sacrifice made by Jesus, and not because of our works.

This lesson is about another very religious man. Saul is strikingly intelligent, wholeheartedly devoted, and determined to defend the religious dogmas that he had become master and promoter of. However, just as the previous two gentlemen were unable to find answers to their most pressing need in their religious endeavors, Saul was as lost as lost could be, until…

Acts 9:3-6

3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

The evidence that God exists and that consequences exist, the evidence that good and evil are present, and that the world has been broken by sin is obvious to wise men and women from every country, culture, and creed. God is no “respecter of persons,” meaning He can be found by those who honestly seek Him. When God is honored, Christ is confessed, and the Holy Spirit is given, the difference is phenomenal. Lives are truly irrevocably changed. When Paul was groping in the darkness, blinded by the power of God, God had prepared an honest and obedient man to pray for him and to help him to his feet. This lesson is about Ananias, who chose faith over fear and obedience over sacrifice. Let us all do the same.

9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. (Saul)

10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.

11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

It would have been possible for Ananias to brush off his vision from God. Many would justify disobedience to God’s command by saying, “God would never ask you to put yourself in danger, He loves you.” His friends and family members, if asked, would have surely discouraged him from making himself vulnerable and going to the dwelling of a man bent on the destruction and injury of Christians. Ananias is honest with God and discusses his concerns with Him, but ultimately knows that when God makes a request, it is not a negotiation. After all, those who are redeemed “have been bought with a price” the precious blood of Jesus.

13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:

14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

What a beautiful reminder that God sees us as He intends us to be and not as we are. God knew what he had created Saul for, that he would be born again, that all of him, even his name, would change. Ananias could serve God and, by doing so, would play a role in the redemption of the greatest soul winner of all time. Through the ministry of Paul, we understand the plan of salvation, the way to evangelize the world, and the inclusiveness of the gospel toward every individual. Ananias could see no God in Paul, but understanding that God is good, he obeyed, and the world was blessed.

16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.

Paul, formerly the Saul in today’s lesson, would years later pray for something hard to understand.

Philipians 3:10-12

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

It makes sense that he prays to know Christ in the power of his resurrection, but to pray to know Him in his suffering. He’s asking to be able to understand the agony of the cross and the mystery of the love that held Him there. From the beginning of his life as a believer, God makes it clear that Paul will be asked to suffer for the gospel. Far from a punishment, this is redemption. What Paul suffered for Jesus became his clearest and most effective sermon. His sufferings demonstrated the difference between Jesus Christ and all the idols, religious laws, and false beliefs he encountered as he spread the gospel as far as he could carry it. Jesus Christ was the real and living Son of Almighty God. Far from a faith-building fairy Tale, Jesus was able to give strength, He was able to change lives, and He impacted the lives of all those who put their faith in him in a real and tangible way. Jesus wasn’t a character in the pantheon of false deities. He is the one and only way to Heaven, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, and a friend to sinners and outcasts.

17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

Thanks to Ananias’ listening to God, Paul’s vision was corrected. Because of his obedience, Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, began to “fight a good fight,” and eventually, he would “finish his course.” What an honor it would be to say that he laid hands on Paul the Apostle and prayed for him and that he believed the word of God about Paul’s purpose and calling. A real God is able to make a real change in those who really believe.

Thank you for studying with us! God bless!



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