Insignificant people...like us?

I was reading recently - which for me is like saying I was breathing recently: stating the obvious - and came across the account of Paul's "Damascus Road experience" recorded in Acts 9. It's interesting reading, for sure, and marks the beginning of one of the most historically significant lives ever.

But Paul is well known, the subject of myriad books and sermons. My attention didn't fall on Paul, but on Ananias. Mr. Nobody. The guy who came from nowhere and apparently returned there. While he was in the spotlight, Ananias, a Jewish follower of Jesus in Damascus, was told by God to go to Paul and deliver a thirty-second message. No big deal. Sort of like Jesus to Peter: "Hey Pete, can I borrow your boat for a few minutes?"

Except...


Except this Paul was well known as the scourge of Christians, a bitter and aggressive enemy of the church. "Paul is here" was not occasion for celebration. On the contrary.

Despite this, Ananias was a man of character who obeyed God, going to Paul and delivering his message.

This small act seems close to insignificant. But in retrospect, it was profoundly important, a turning point in history.

Ananias' obedience was the contact point that began the new life of Paul - no longer Saul - the same Paul who wrote most of the New Testament, who brought Christianity to vast areas of the Middle East, who took the church to the Gentile world, and who pretty much formed the fundamental doctrines of the church. The Paul who, with Jesus, changed the course of history. Out on the road, God stopped Paul and "turned on the gas." Ananias brought the match to light the fire.

As I think of this moment when two lives intersected, I am fascinated by Ananias. What did he think of all this?

Initially, he had serious reservations. His situation was sort of like being given a pound of hamburger on a short stick and being told to go feed the dragon. The odds of surviving the experience are not comforting. In fact, Ananias raised his concerns with God.

But God prevailed, and Ananias obeyed.

What did Ananias think of the significance of his actions at the time? Did he know of the implications of his message for Paul? It was certainly no small thing. But did he have any sense of being a part of a major shift in history? Probably not.

If subsequent experience is any indicator, he had little idea just how important his actions would turn out to be. Just like the person who led Billy Graham to Jesus probably never knew. And others in history, such as those influential in the lives of Luther and Calvin and others, but who remain anonymous, known only to God. Only God knows the instrumental part they played in the life of someone who was used to change the world.

And us? You and I?

Will my actions have profound consequences? Will yours? Nah, never happen. I'm just me, you know. An average person living an average life of obscurity and little significance. You too, probably.

But Ananias did not know. And many others in history did not know. In fact, profoundly important events in life seldom appear so at the time. And seemingly life-changing things seldom are, when seen from a ways down the road.

So here's the point: We never know what God is doing with "small" things. We never know - and will not know in this life - what impact our actions have on others.

Therefore, it's all the more important that we be attentive and ready to say yes to the "whisper of God's voice." It's through his whispers that he changes lives and through them the world. God is in the people business, and his followers are his junior partners in that. And people are profoundly moved by what seem like little things. Insignificant matters.

God is the God of small things. But with God, there are no "small" things. Or "small" people.

6 Comments

I loved this post, Larry. One thing that has helped me to hear God's small whispers is the contentment I have of just being in His presence. When I felt like I had to do the 'Grand' things in order to get God's attention or try to please Him, the 'small' things were overlooked. God's whispers have an amazingly profound ability to open our eyes to the seemingly small ways He can use us to impact His kingdom. Something as seemingly small as praying for my campus keeps my ears attuned to opportunities to manifest in action the very things I was praying for.

BTW, if it weren't for you, I would not have heard about 'Abbas Child'. Much like C.S. Lewis, Manning has had a deep impact on my relationship with Jesus. One recommendation can change a life. :-)

Norah,

Thanks for the kind words. Thinking back, we have a fairly long history, don't we? Don't even know how many years.

Someone has said God is the God of small things. I love that idea, and I love the paradox it sets up. The same God who spoke light into existence and who created the mountains and the seas, also created the most delicate rose and the ant that crawls on it. He is the God of the roar of the hurricane and the God who whispers ever so softly to his people.

What a God!

He never fails to amaze me!

Gideon tried to explain to the Lord exactly how small and insignificant he was himself. Yet the Lord Almighty would not hear of it! God delights in the smaller ones, like young David _ the giant slayer!

It's like God sees the diamond underneath and will polish us until we shine.

Jesus is the Reason for the Season. . . .at Christmas time I am sure you
have heard this phrase so many times, you want to smash something.
But in the cosmic scheme of things, Jesus is the Reason, not only for
this season, but for All seasons. Unlike St. Thomas More, HE IS the "Man
for All Seasons" And He is all the things the prophets said He was. .
.and an infinite amount more. . . . .

How can we possibly talk about any being, let alone a human being, in
these sorts of terms? What frame of reference does anyone have for
first hand knowledge of this 'G-d become Man'. . .Our frame of
reference is the New Testament and the belief in the Incarnation. . . .the
belief that coherent thought. . .and belief produces a Real person, who
is the epitomization of the Word, as explained in the Gospel of John. We
know that Words are the most powerful things humans possess(
including this sentence, imagine life WITHOUT words. . .)and that words,
in the form of ideas and concepts actually form our minds, bodies and
souls . .
". . . .and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us." So that the
Highest Concept we can perceive, any human, anywhere, anytime,
becomes a superman, or a god, a human above other humans, a human
that can become a spirit, a superpowered person capable of miraculous
acts, a zephyr, angel, jinn, avatar, . . . . . .In the eyes of a 2nd century
Roman, we might appear as gods to them, more so to a Neanderthal or
Cro-Magnon cave dweller. . . . 3,000 years from now, we may appear as
cave dwellers to citizens of the year 5,000 A.D. . . . . .In any case we can
thank Jesus the Christ, who is a Living entity, who will always be the
highest form of human expression, because we all live and die in him in
some way or other. No one will accept the universality of Jesus'
existence as The God Particle, the capacity to be matter and spirit, at
the same time, and at the speed of light. This is theology at its absolute
finest because it has already explained all of the physical natural world
in which we live and breathe, and is preparing us eternally for the spirit
world just outside of our perview.". . .In the Highest. . .

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  • Martin Cosentino said:
      Jesus is the Reason for the Season. . . .at Christmas time I am sure y...
  • Rebecca said:
      It's like God sees the diamond underneath and will polish us until we ...
  • Dirk said:
      Gideon tried to explain to the Lord exactly how small and insignifican...
  • Norah L. said:
      He never fails to amaze me!...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Norah, Thanks for the kind words. Thinking back, we have a fairly lon...
  • Norah said:
      I loved this post, Larry. One thing that has helped me to hear God's ...

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