As we saw in Acts 7 & 8, Saul of Tarsus was a harsh persecutor of the early church. Luke describes men and women being dragged from their homes and thrown into prison. Clearly, with the death of Stephen, we know that life was no longer sacred to the persecutors. Saul was the face of evil to the early Christians.
Several years ago, I remember Chuck Swindoll painting a vivid word picture of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9. Imagine living as a Jew in 1930s Germany. While mass deportations have yet to begin carrying entire Jewish families to their death in the extermination camps to the east, open persecution was well under way. By the mid-1930s, Jews were prohibited from serving in the Army and from holding government positions. By 1938, the violence towards the Jews took a new turn during the night of November 9-10, 1938, a night that became known as Kristallnacht in German–the Night of Breaking Glass. Throughout Germany, Nazi storm troopers, members of the SS and the German Police, along with average citizens and street thugs ravaged Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues. More than 30,000 people were arrested and imprisoned, over 1,000 synagogues were burned, and 91 people were murdered. It was a horrific night.
The message was clear–Jews were not welcomed or wanted in the German Reich. Some heeded the warning and sought refuge in safer countries. Most, however, either didn’t have the money to leave, couldn’t find a country willing to accept them, or simply refused to leave their homes and extended families. The result was the Holocaust. Millions of Jews were systematically murdered. Whole families disappeared into the smoke of the crematoriums.
Imagine being a devout Jew in living in Bavaria, Germany in early 1939, and while reading the Scriptures and praying, the Lord speaks to you in a clear, unmistakable voice. Without question, the Lord tells you that you are to travel to Munich to a house on Geradestrasse (Straight Street), and in this house you will find Adolf Hitler.
Not believing what you are hearing, you respond, “Lord, are your sure? For this man Hitler has done much to persecute and even murder the Jews. He has given orders for Jews to be beaten and even murdered on sight!”
The Lord responds to you, “Go, for I have chosen him to carry the gospel to the nations of Europe. He is my chosen instrument, and I will show him he must suffer for My Name.”
Being a devoted Jew, you leave the safety of your home and travel to Munich and find the street called Geradestrasse.
When you walk around the corner, you know it must be the right place. There is a string of official-looking cars in front of the house and several fearsome looking men with guns guarding the front door.
With great fear and hesitation, you approach one of the men closest to the front door. He points his machine pistol at you and tells you to stop.
“What is your name?”
His face is like stone hard steel.
You tell him your name in a quivering voice, and to your amazement, he lowers his gun and tells you the Führer is waiting for you.
This is what Ananias must have experienced in Acts 9. No man would have struck fear into the heart of a First Century Christian more than the man Saul of Tarsus. But clearly, and unmistakably, the Lord instructed Ananias to go to a specific home on Straight Street and to lay hands on Saul and then baptize him.
As you read through this week’s Scripture, don’t let the reality of how amazing and astounding it must have been for the early church to hear that their arch-enemy, Saul of Tarsus, had become a Christian! This man who had ravaged (Acts 8:1) the Church, arrested and murdered the followers of Christ, was now himself an Apostle of Jesus Christ!
Yet God is sovereign, and his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:89). He uses the foolish things to confound the wise and the weak things to confound the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27).
Do you have the faith of Ananias? What “impossible” problem is in front of you? Are you trusting in Him in the midst of your trials?
Take a few minutes to identify your biggest problem, and take this to the Lord in prayer.
Pray the following prayer:
Lord Jesus–You are the Creator of all things, and the Author and Finisher of my faith. I know, Lord Jesus, that You have started a good work in me, and You will complete it.
My faith and trust are in You, my Lord, even when it comes to what seems to be an insurmountable problem.
Lord, if it is Your will, I pray that you will … [fill in space with your problem listed above. Pray specifically.]
Lord Jesus, I pray that You will give me strength in the midst of this trial and that You will help me to see Your Hand at work in my life.
May You be glorified! For it is in the blessed Name of Jesus I prayer, Amen!
If you are comfortable, share your prayer request with another, and ask this person to pray with you. If you would like the Elders of First Family to join you in prayer, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be our honor and privilege to intercede on your behalf before our Lord.–Chris Eller