1 Corinthians chapter 4 verses 11 - 12 are two verses written by the apostle Paul where he describes some of the travails that he, along with the other apostles, had suffered. The verses read this way;
To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;
Paul believed that this unrelenting assault on those who were first called to proclaimed Jesus and His kingdom to the nations, had been deliberately designed by the Lord to make them a spectacle for all of creation to marvel at.
Paul's description of hunger, thirst, nakedness, brutality and homelessness that they endured, was the example of perserverence that they were expected to set for all other believers.
Further to the harshness of their condition, the apostles were to remain working hard for their own living and as well, maintain an exemplary demeanor of graciousness towards those who cursed them and otherwise maltreated them.
Let us bless the Lord whose own example of perseverance and gentleness set the standard for His apostles to live up to. Their boldness and tenacity in proclaiming the gospel to the world, in turn, set the standard for all of us who came to believe in Christ through them.
Having previously looked at Acts chapter 9 verse 13, let's broaden the view to include verses 10 - 18 of the chapter. The passage goes like this;
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,
This excerpt from the story of Saul's conversion to Christianity is a case study of the way God communicates with his bondservants and how effective bondservants of Jesus interact with the Lord and heed His instructions.
First, we notice that Ananias was classified as a disciple which means he was in training in the things of the kingdom of God at the time of this occurrence.
Next, we notice that God chose the method of a vision to talk with Ananias. This implies that Ananias was awake but in an open vision where he could see the Lord and hear Him speak.
We then note that the Lord called Ananias by name to get his attention and to this call, let's also note that Ananais responded by respectfully saying, "Yes Lord".
The Lord, having Ananaias' attention, gave him a street address and a directive to go to that address to ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. The Lord then gave Ananias some background information about the preparation he had already done on Saul which was the vision he saw that informed him that a man named Ananias would be coming to him to restore his sight.
Ananias was concerned about encountering a man with a reputation for being violently hostile to Christians and he humbly mentioned these concerns to the Lord.
Jesus told Ananias to go and call on Saul in spite of his misgivings and the Lord reassured Ananias that all was well because He had plans to use Saul in His kingdom. Here, the Lord outlined to Ananias the destiny that he had reserved for Saul and Ananias, a servant of the kingdom, understood what such a destiny would mean to the kingdom of God and he heeded the Lord's command.
Arriving that the address on Straight Street, Ananias boldly went to Saul and, knowing his destiny in the work of Christ, called him "Brother Saul" and prayed for him to restore His sight and history was forever changed by the straightforward obedience of Ananias to the Lord's word.
Let us prayerfully seek to follow the humble example of Ananias who obeyed the Lord's directive even though it was potentially dangerous. Ananias trusted the Lord's assurances and was recorded into history as a servant of God who, when called upon at a critical point in time, faithfully served his Lord.
OUR LORD WHO SENDS US INTO WHAT CHALLENGES US MOST
Acts Chapter 9 verse 13 say this;
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem.
This passage records the response of Ananias when the Lord Jesus, in a vision, gave him an instruction to go to talk to Saul who was fierce persecutor of the believers.
Ananias was abreast of the political situations of the day in Israel and knew who the hostile players were. When his vision from the Lord directed him to go to a specific address and ask for Saul, Ananias immediately knew who that was and mentioned to the Lord that Saul was an enemy of the people of God with the implication that it would be dangerous to try and contact him.
Ananias must have a close relationship with the Lord because Jesus, hearing the update from Ananias, told Ananaias to go anyway but comforted Ananais by explaining that He intended to make Saul His instrument to proclaim the gospel to the gentiles and also to the children of Israel and also that Saul would suffer a great deal in the Lord's sake.
Let us bless our Lord who sends us into areas where our greatest insecurities lie and He shows us that our greatest fears are the Lord's opportunities to build the kingdom of God.
OUR LORD WHO WAS KILLED IN TIME BUT ROSE TO OCCUPY ETERNITY
Acts chapter 4 verses 9 - 10 record the words spoken by the apostle Peter to the leaders of Israel when he and John had been detained for proclaiming Jesus as the ressurection and for healing a man who was born lame. The passage goes like this;
If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
The statement, made while Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, was a withering indictment of the conduct of the leaders of Israel. They had plotted to kill Jesus and having succeeded, were confounded to find that Jesus was continuing to live through Peter and John and many more people as they stepped forward boldly with the gospel of Jesus and demonstrated the same healing power that Jesus demonstrated.
They were informed that Jesus, whom they had killed, was raised from the dead by God and it was through Him that the lame man in front of them was restored.
This should have brought a sense of dread over the temple leaders in the same way that crashing your car into a police car would bring dread to you. The leaders of Israel had been free to mistreat anyone who inconvenienced them with no consequences but now, they were finding out that it was God Himself whom they had abused and mistreated.
They did not count on what happened after they had killed Jesus.
Jesus, as a solitary man, could only minister to a limited number of people while he lived on earth.
However, those who killed Him, did not understand that they were actually releasing Him into eternity from where He, through the Holy Spirit, could reach out to all people at any time and live through hundreds and thousands and millions and even billions of people concurrently.
This why it the scriptures say in 1 Corinthians 2 verse 8, "None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."
Bless our Lord who died to redeem us and also, because He rose from the dead into eternity, is now able to meet every one of us where we are geographically and where we are in time.
Genesis 15 verses 1 - 3 records a vision that Abram had where a conversation between he and the Lord God took place. It reads this way;
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?”
And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
In the preceding verses in chapter 14, Abram, after returning from the daring rescue of members of his household and other households that were raided, declined to take a share of the plunder that came from the rescue mission.
In this context, the Lord assured Abram that the Lord himself would protect him as a fortress and that the Lord would be his very great reward.
This was certainly a very lavish promise by the Lord to Abram but Abram responded in way that revealed the foremost fear in his heart.
Abram brought up before the Lord the fact that he had no heir and thus, the reward he would gain would only fall to his servant Eliezer.
Abram's fear may have concealed from him the depth of the assurance that the Lord God had offered him.
While Abram was considering the things like goods and land that could be inherited from one person to another, the Lord had offered Himself as Abram's shield and his very great reward. In other words, God was saying that Abram would be getting the Lord as his eternal protector and eternal reward which would be a vastly superior inheritance to any earthly belongings.
The Lord, in an awesome gesture of grace and magnanimity, showed Abram the eternal scope of his reward by pointing out to him the stars in the night sky and revealing to him that his descendants would be as numerous as the uncountable stars and that the promised heir whom he did not yet have, would be the one through whom the reward of God would come.
Let us bless our Lord who kept His promise to Abram and through the Son of God who died for the whole world, redeemed even us to join in the vast family that is Abram's promise from God.
In the book of Job chapter 14 verses 9 - 14, Job compares a man to a tree and declares that whereas a man passes and is no more, a tree that had been cut down, at even a hint of water, may send forth new shoots and revive its life. The passage reads this way;
...yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.
But a man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more.
As the water of a lake dries up or a riverbed becomes parched and dry, so he lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, people will not awake or be roused from their sleep.
“If only you would hide me in the grave and conceal me till your anger has passed! If only you would set me a time and then remember me!
If someone dies, will they live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come.
Job, having suffered a set of life-shattering calamities, asks God to kill him so that he may be hidden from the Lord's anger that he believes is the cause of his suffering. Job suggests that God could keep him dead for a period of time and then remember him and bring him back to life once His anger has passed.
Having said this however, Job wonders if death is a one-way street and that if he were to die, he might never return.
Job offers a solution to God by saying he would hand in the chips of his life of hard service in exchange for his revival from death.
Job's profound soliloquy summarizes the necessity of the gospel which is the story of our Lord Jesus suffering and dying on a cross to pay for our sins so that we may be shielded from the wrath of God and be brought out from under death and into life.
Job, in his desperation, tried to concoct a workable escape plan from his painful and grievious condition and saw death as the ultimate hiding place from the anger of God but he realized that if there was a chance that he would live again, it would have to be at a price.
The price that Job suspected was necessary was far more than his own life of hard service; It was the painful and grievious death of the perfect and sinless Lamb of God who, having lived a life of hard service to people, gave Himself up to die on the cross for all mankind.
Bless the name of Jesus our Saviour whose salvation hides us from God's wrath and gives us new life out of death.
So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?
Joshua was asking this question of the seven tribes of Israel who had not taken possession of their inheritance that was given to them by the God of their forefathers.
Whereas other tribes had undertaken to displace the people who were settled in the land, these seven tribes had stagnated and were not possessing the land that was theirs.
What was holding them back? Was it the lack of courage to face the inhabitants of the land, the lack of military prowess or was it the lack of understanding of their right to the land?
Joshua, seeing the plight of the tribes without their inheritance, counseled them to send three representatives from each tribe who were to go into the territories to survey and bring back written descriptions of the land.
These descriptions provided the blueprints for a formal division of the land amongst the tribes of Israel by Joshua.
Bless our Lord Jesus Christ who sacrificed his own life to redeem us and then, in His great mercy and kindness, made us co-heirs with him in the inheritance that He gained through His obedience to the Lord our God. Let us strive to possess was is ours in Christ.