(From now until November 18 we are focusing in as a church on evangelism, both local and global. Every day we are in the Word together using this guide: 28 Days of Acts. On November 18 we will gather as a church to pray for the lost as well as asking the Lord to empower us and embolden us to reach them. Click here to put it on your calendar. And every Wednesday until November 18 is a Fast Day. Today is the first one, and here are some thoughts to get your started).
“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 so 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 taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ And all who heard him were amazed and said, ‘Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name?’”
SOME FEARS SEEM LEGIT
Could you imagine the fear in Ananias’ heart when the instructions came to him? The news of the evil that Saul was spreading in the Church was traveling around this pesky little movement known as The Way. Saul had a nasty reputation that preceded him. Most notably on his curriculum vitae was the recent stoning death of Stephen, the impassioned and Spirit filled Gospel-preaching deacon.
And God said to Ananias, “It’s ok. Go find him, pray for him, and welcome him into the family.” What overcame his fear? The voice of God. And God’s Word is always correct over our fears.
UNTIL THE HOLY SPIRIT SHOWS UP
Sure enough the Lord proved to him that He was at work in spite of our fears. When Annanias came to pray for Saul, the scales fell from his eyes and symbolized what happened in Saul’s spirit: the scales of hate, doubt, rejection, and opposition all fell from his heart. The Lord did the work in Saul through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit , and it was seen through 1) one of God’s children stepping out in boldness to confirm the message of the Gospel and 2) the immediate change in Saul’s life, who would eventually be called Paul.
Saul had the rare opportunity to hear the saving message of the Gospel from the lips of Jesus Himself. The regular means that God uses to bring the Gospel to the lost is through the lips of His timid, fearful, ignorant…yet Holy Spirit empowered disciples. And Oh the Joy to see the radical change of an unchangeable heart happen before your eyes as a fruit of your faith fueled obedience. It can happen, and it will happen, if we as God’s people would just rise up and open up our mouths.
SO LET’S FAST AND PRAY
Here we are, Wednesday Fastday #2 during our 28 Days of Acts. Last week we were praying for compassion, courage, boldness, and action. On Sunday I laid out a challenge for you modeled after D.L. Moody’s commitment to never sleep until he shared Christ with someone: for the next 7 days starting on Monday, who will share Christ with at least 1 person per day? 3/4 of the church stood up. I gave no tools and no tips beyond the power of the Holy Spirit. I have had an inner wrestling about this: should I give some tips? Should I give some ideas? No: I’m still not going to do any of that. What we are going to do is simply this: we are going to pray, and we are going to act. The only tip I will give is this: don’t do it alone! Go, partner with a friend, pray, and proclaim the Good News of Jesus.
For Wednesday Fastday #2, focus your prayers here, based upon what we have seen already in the book of Acts:
- Pray that the seeds we sew will be harvested. (Romans 10:8-13; Isaiah 55:10-11). Pray that the Word of God, which comes from our lips, will sow seeds that will be harvested this week. It is not our job to care who sows, waters, and harvests (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). However we know that it is through the spoken word of God that anyone is saved, and God’s Word will always accomplish His purposes. Let’s pray boldly that God will harvest one or or more of these seeds this week so we can fire up the baptistry on Sunday!
- Pray that you, your brothers, and your sisters will see and respond to the opportunity without fear but with boldness. Here is the thing: as long as you have a beating heart next to you embodied in human flesh, you have an opportunity. You do not need to wait to overhear a conversation at Starbucks, “You know, I just wish SOMONE could tell me how I could rid myself of all of my guilt and shame and point me to eternal life!” That could happen, but it is not likely. If 9/10 people are on the highway to hell, then you and I need to take every chance we have to sow the seeds in our pockets. So let’s pray for boldness to respond.
- Pray for someone like Saul to be converted in Paul-like ways. This is one of the things I wrote down in my mission-minded prayer requests for Monday. Not everyone is called to be like Paul, but why not pray for one? If everyone is doing their job like the disciples in Acts 4:31 who “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the Word of God with boldness,” there is no telling what someone with giftings like this can do with a bold and prayerful congregation. An evangelist like this does not allow you and me to sit in our comfort and fear. An evangelist like this could be the match we need to start a revival in our city. Is this guy you?
- Pray for an eternal perspective. One thing that keeps us from sowing seeds is a focus on the temporary. Our culture values convenience and comfort above all. If Ananias said “No, Lord, it is scary out there and I am comfortable in here,” he would have missed out on the miracle that He performed through just a regular dude. Ananias’ focus was on the Lord: God spoke to him and challenged him while he was in prayer. His focus was on the eternal. Pray that the Lord will instill in us a focus on the eternal, not the temporal.
As you hunger today Harvest, aim that hunger at a hunger for the Holy Spirit. He is alive and He is accomplishing His purposes all over the earth. Let’s ask Him to accomplish His purposes through us: a church committed to stepping out in bold faith with bold action.