“The Reluctant Evangelist”

Categories: Bulletin Articles, M. W. Bassford

The Bible is full of stories of amazing occurrences, but sometimes, the narratives about very ordinary men and women are what attract our eyes.  For me, one such is the tale of Ananias the Damascene disciple in Acts 9:10-17.  Everything we know about this man comes from the book of Acts.  Indeed, it all comes from the various accounts of the conversion of Saul.  We’re introduced to him in this story, and after it concludes, we never see him again.

Nonetheless, the Scriptures do reveal some things about him.  He lived in Damascus (duh).  He was a devout, Law-keeping Jewish follower of Jesus.  He had a good reputation.  Apparently, he even possessed the miraculous spiritual gift of healing, so he had encountered an apostle at some point.

Jesus has a plan for Ananias, and He tells him about it.  He needs to seek out a man named Saul of Tarsus and lay hands on him so that he can regain his sight.

This plan does not thrill the soul of Ananias.  He has heard of Saul of Tarsus, as probably every Christian alive had.  Saul was Church Enemy Number One, responsible for the scattering of the Jerusalem church and the imprisonment or death of many innocent believers.  What’s more, Ananias knows that Saul has come to Damascus to dish out more of the same.

The Lord’s response to Ananias’ concerns is noteworthy.  He doesn’t pause to calm the fears of His understandably concerned disciple.  He says, simply, “Go.  This one’s Mine.”  Obedient to the word of the Lord, Ananias goes.  Saul obeys the gospel, and the world will never be the same again.

I am encouraged by Ananias.  I am heartened that he too had qualms about obeying God when it came to evangelism.  I often have had, and continue to have, those same qualms with much less reason! 

In fact, it may well be that Ananias’ conversation with Jesus is included in Acts 9 because we do find it so easy to identify with him.  Afraid of personal work?  Well, here’s your guy!

However, we should not focus so much on Ananias’ reluctance that we overlook Christ’s reply.  God is mindful of our frame, and there is much in His word that reveals His compassion for us.  Despite His compassion, He remains King.  When He says, “Go,” He means, “Go!”  It may well be that He has a plan for us too, and that as with Ananias, there is someone only we can help.

Ananias obeyed God, and when he did, he found that he had nothing to be afraid of.  99.9 percent of the time, when we speak up for the Lord, we will find the same thing.  I don’t have any idea how many people I’ve invited to study the Bible with me, and not all of them were willing, but I can’t think of one who even replied with an unkind word.  Fear of the unknown, especially when it comes to evangelism, is natural and understandable, but when God calls us to do His work, fear needs to take a back seat.