There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. The Master spoke to him in a vision: “Ananias.” “Yes, Master?” he answered. “Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see again.” Ananias protested, “Master, you can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.” But the Master said, “Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews. And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job.”
We’ve all been there haven’t we? We are faced with conflict and we know that the right thing to do is to face it. It is uncomfortable and not fun. The reality of facing conflict gives us butterflies in the stomach and sweaty palms. Yet, it is a necessity.
Ananias’ story is real stuff. Can you imagine being in his place? Jesus asks him to go and share the gospel with Saul. Saul, you know, no big deal, just the guy who is breathing out murderous threats against the Way with orders to incarcerate anyone who follows Jesus. Great, thank you Jesus. Can’t wait.
Almost always our initial response is fear. We are afraid of conflict. We run from it. We hide from it. If I’m honest, I do everything I can to make sure that conflict simply doesn’t exist in my life. Yet, when we are called to follow Jesus we will constantly be engaging conflict in all new ways.
Isn’t that fun!
Ananias had to face the fear of conflict (and his impending doom) with faith. He did. He stepped out, showed up, and invited Saul to follow Jesus too. His step of faith allowed him to face his fear and experience one of the greatest moments in the history of the people of God. It is safe to say that most of you reading this, who are followers of Jesus, can trace back your spiritual lineage to Paul.
If you keep reading the story of Acts you will see Paul and his companions facing fear inducing conflict over and over again. They respond in faith.
If I had to define faith in this moment I would say it is a long obedience in the face of doubt, fear, and suffering.
Biblical faith is not belief. Biblical faith is much more than that. It drives us to action and that action is obedience. The simplest acts of obeying God require faith in the face of fear.
Last night we had finished dinner and were beginning to wind down for the evening. Amy was cleaning the kitchen, the kids were showered, and I was enjoying the Tigers game. That’s when Amy noticed out the back window a new neighbor checking out their property. In that moment we had a choice. Would we obey and engage or would we stay safe in our house? There was conflict of moving from security and comfort to insecurity and discomfort. This time, we obeyed. We met our neighbor who is kind and warm with a beautiful daughter. We also met another neighbor as he was leaving for work. In that little decision we began new relationships and we were able to experience the joy of following God.
We must embrace faith in the face of conflict, fear, and doubt. As we do, we get to experience life to the full and the great joy that God has set before us.