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 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.