by J. Randal Matheny, editor
At a Christian event this past weekend, a number of people came up to me, because of my work in publishing, on the Internet and in giving seminars and studies around the country, and said, “I’ve heard a lot about you.” My fun reply to that was, “Don’t believe everything you hear.” Some of them would come back, “But it’s all good.” And I’d insist, “Then what I said goes double.” And we’d have a good laugh together.
No laughing matter was what Ananias, all the way up the road in Damascus, had heard about Saul.
“But Ananias replied, ‘Lord, I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem, and here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call on your name!'” (Acts 9:13 NET).
Saul’s reputation preceded him. But Ananias lacked the latest chapter of the persecutor’s story. Outside of Damascus, the Pharisee of Pharisees had encountered the exalted Lord and Savior. He awaited at that very moment, in prayer and fasting, a word from a man by the name of Ananias to tell him what he must do.
Ananias was the chosen disciple to go to Straight Street and tell Saul where his future now lay. His knowledge, one might say, was a barrier to obeying the Lord’s order promptly. Or, at least, what he thought he knew. He was acting on the knowledge he had in his possession.
From all accounts, the persecutor would not be open to hearing the gospel of Christ. If Saul has seen a man named Ananias coming, as the Lord told him, then he must be waiting with handcuffs.
Like Ananias, we have a word from the Lord. Not a vision, but a book. Like Ananias, we have an order to preach, not to a single person only, but to a world tumbling toward hell. Like Ananias, our knowledge of people’s belligerence to the gospel glues our feet to the floor.
We know the world isn’t interested.
We know the world has no place for Christ.
We know the rejection and, perhaps, persecution, that will come to us if we speak the gospel.
What we know rises as a barrier to a prompt obedience of the Lord’s command to go into the streets and homes and proclaim the gospel.
After all, we all know that people aren’t interested in the gospel.
Like Ananias, we have yet to hear that many have reached the end of their hopes. The depths of despair. The frustration of pleasure-seeking. The desperation of daily routine without meaning.
Some people — not all, but some — are hidden away in back rooms with silent prayers on their lips, looking for an answer to appear in the doorway. But we won’t know about that until we go.
Yes, we’ve heard a lot about them.
And we shouldn’t believe everything we hear.
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