Commissioned to Be Apostles: Love, Worship, Community, Learning, Service

Commissioned to Be Apostles: Love, Worship, Community, Learning, Service

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Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.”  John 20:21

The Book of Acts and the Early Ecclesia—Part Eighteen

Here I Am, Lord—The Story of Ananias

Now there was a disciples at Damascus named Ananias.  The Lord said to him in  vision, “Ananias.”  And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”  And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying, and he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”  But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to Thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon Thy name.”  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry My Name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name.”  So Ananias departed and entered the house.  And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight.  Then he rose and was baptized, and took food and was strengthened.  Acts 9:10-18

Good morning Prayer Team!

Have you ever felt that God has given you more than you can handle?  Or perhaps that He has placed an unfair burden on you?  What if God told you that through you He was going to work a miracle for a person you absolutely hated? What would your reaction be?

The story of Ananias often gets lost in the story of Paul’s (Saul’s) extraordinary conversion.  We know of his experience on the road to Damascus.  And we know that he became an extraordinary Apostle.  However, often lost in the story is the role of Ananias.

Ananias was a disciple in Damascus.  He would become bishop of Damascus and is one of the “Seventy Apostles” (the second classification of Apostles after the Twelve). But what a tall task it must have been when the Lord came to him in a vision one day and asked him to go and visit Saul.  Ananias said “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to Thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon Thy name.” (Acts9: 13-14)  In other words, if Ananias were to go to Saul, wouldn’t he be risking his freedom and his very life?  How could God possibly work any good through Saul?

Which leads us to two very significant lessons that come from this passage.  First, God can work good through anyone or any situation.  This does not mean that every person is good or that every situation is good.  However, there is good that can come out of bad people and good that can come out of bad situations.  Saul (later Paul) is a prime example of someone who worked actively to persecute the church and to hurt Christians, who later became one of the paramounts of the Apostles (along with St. Peter).  There are many tragic situations that occur that are no fault of anyone’s let alone God’s fault, and God is behind the good that comes out of every one of them.  We have read countless stories where in the wake of a natural disaster, mass murder or some other catastrophe, how people band together to help one another.  This goodness indeed is inspired by God.  James 1:17 says “every good endowment and perfect gift is from Above, comping down from the Father of lights.”  Thus, every good thing is from God, even the good things that happen in the wake of bad things.  And people who have done bad things are capable of repenting and doing good things.  Thus, we should never totally write off anyone, and when we find someone whose repentance is genuine, we should encourage them to do what is good and right.

The second lesson is sometimes God gives people very difficult assignments.  Imagine Ananias, a devout Christian, living faithfully each day, and then God all of a sudden call him to a really difficult and potentially dangerous task.  Does he go with faith?  Does he run away?  He has some doubt and some trepidation.  These are natural feelings.  But ultimately he goes and ministers to Saul, baptizes him and sets him on the path of being the greatest of Apostles.  Ananias plays a very key role in Saul’s journey to Christ.

Many times in life God will give us difficult assignments.  It is our response in these moments that are the true test of faith and trust in Him.  Like Ananias, we will probably all be given some task by God and will think “What the heck, you want me to do THAT?”  And that’s exactly what God wants us to do.  He wants us to have faith, and in order to spread the faith, sometimes we have to embrace challenges that are difficult, even dangerous.  We see, however, that Ananias’ faith was rewarded.  And ours can be as well.

God can work good through anyone.  And sometimes we have to trust God, even in very hard assignments.

Preserve me, O God, for in Thee I take refuge.  I say to the Lord, “Thou art my Lord; I have no good apart from Thee.  As for the saints in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.  Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their libations of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.  The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; Thou holdest my lot.  The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.  I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.  I keep the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure.  For Thou doest not give me up to Sheol, or let Thy godly one see the Pit.  Thou dost show me the path of life; in Thy presence there is fullness of joy, in Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.  Psalm 16

+Fr. Stavros

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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0