Here we go again! We just read how an angel told Philip to walk down a particular road and then the Holy Spirit pointed out an Ethiopian official he was to lead to Christ. Now we hear the Lord speak to a disciple named Ananias and tell him to go to a certain address and lay hands on Saul of Tarsus. Both situations are divine appointments. In both, Jesus sends His disciple after someone He has targeted. He knows whose heart is ready to receive Him, but He also can see into the future. He can see a persons obedience and fruitfulness, and some will be more fruitful than others. Some will choose to be apathetic and do little for Him, others will passionately serve Him the rest of their lives. Theres no way a human being can know these things. We cannot see into this realm. We have no idea who these highly fruitful people will be, but God sees the heart and knows the future, and because of this He does pursue some people more aggressively than others. He does so because He knows certain people will bring many others to Him. As illogical as it might have seemed at the time, Saul of Tarsus was one of these. This ravager of the church would become a great apostle, and write half of the books in the New Testament. God knew all that but Ananias didnt. All he knew was that he had to put his life on the line and knock on that door.
My translation (Acts 9:10-22)
v10 There was a certain disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision Ananias! And he said, Behold, I, Lord.
v11 And the Lord (said) to him, Rise up and go on the street called Straight and seek in the house of Judas a Tarsian named Saul, for behold he is praying,
v12 and in a vision he saw a man named Ananias coming in and putting hands on him so that he may see again.
v13 And Ananias answered, Lord, I heard from many about this man, what evil things he did to Your saints (holy ones) in Jerusalem
v14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all the ones who are calling upon your name.
v15 And the Lord said to him, Go, because this man is a chosen vessel to pick up and carry My name before nations and kings and sons of Israel.
v16 for I will give him a glimpse of how many things he will be bound to suffer on behalf of My name.
v17 And Ananias went away and entered into the house and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord has sent me, Jesus the One being seen by you in the way which you were coming, so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
v18 And immediately there fell away from him, from the eyes, something like scales and he saw again, and rising up was baptized,
v19 and receiving food was greatly strengthened. And he was with the disciples in Damascus some days
v20 and right away proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, that this one is the Son of God.
v21 And those hearing him were stunned (beside themselves) and were saying Is not this man the one who captured and slaughtered those who called upon this name in Jerusalem, and for this he had come here in order that after binding them he might bring them before the chief priests?
A chosen vessel (v15)
This isnt favoritism. It isnt that God loves one person more than another. Its Gods loving heart in action, strategically targeting certain people because if he or she comes to Him, many more will be saved. Yes, He wants every person saved, but many will refuse Him. And yes, every believer should be a passionate disciple, but some seed falls in rocky soil or among thorns. What should happen, and what does happen are two different matters.
Indeed, the Lord loved Saul of Tarsus and knew he would say yes when he saw the truth, but thats not the only reason Saul was a chosen vessel. God also chose him because He loves us, you and me, and knew that this man would preach and write in such a way that Gentiles like us could hear the saving truth and believe it. Being chosen went beyond Sauls own personal salvation to his fruitfulness as a minister. It meant he would suffer enormously (2 Co 11:23-29). It meant his life would no longer be his own. Later on he would describe himself as a slave of Christ (Ro 1:1). Listen to the full text of what Jesus said to him. (Ac 26:12-18).
Set apart (Gal 1:11-17)
In writing to the churches in Galatia Paul looks back on his life and realizes God had a plan for him even before he was born. He wasnt formally set apart by a church until the elders in Antioch laid hands on him and sent him out (Ac 13:1-3). But God knew who he was going to become and gave him the gifts he would need while he was still in his mothers womb. David said the same thing:
For You formed my inward parts, You wove me in my mothers womb. I give thanks to you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made
My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.
And then he said:
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them (Ps 139:13-16).
The Lord said the same thing to Jeremiah:
Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations (Jer 1:5).
These passages arent about physical appearance, they are about the natural capacities and spiritual gifts that would be needed for that person to fulfill Gods plan for their life. Like a potter (Jer 18:1-4) the Lord molds each of us in such a way that we can effectively minister to others. Weve been designed to contain Him and serve Him. So God looked beyond the deception in Saul and saw him as he was going to become. While still in his mothers womb God had given him the gifts to be a great apostle. In other words, He saw Paul, not Saul.
Whom God chooses
So, does God only choose apostles, kings and prophets, or does He choose ordinary people, too? Lets let Him answer that question:
At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this was well-pleasing in Your sight (Lk 10:21).
For consider your calling brethren, that there were not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God (1 Co 1:26-29).
The answer is: by far the greatest number of people He chooses are ordinary people. He looks for humble, yielded hearts willing to serve Him faithfully, and then targets that person. He pursues them and wont let them get away. He sees them not as they are, but as they will become. He sees the way He designed them, the lives they will touch, and the joy they will bring to Him. Listen to Jesus:
You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain
Who bears fruit?
I believe God designs every person to be highly fruitful. All are intended for His service, but fruitfulness doesnt come because of gifting, it comes because of abiding (Jn 15:5). And we are the ones who decide whether or not we will abide, not God. Thats why Jesus warned us, Abide in Me, and I in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing (Jn 15:4,5).
When you are finally doing what you have been chosen to do, you will look back on your life, including those years when you werent a believer, and see that God was always at work preparing you to serve Him. Youll discover you are using everything youve learned. Nothing has been wasted. Theres an odd, but wonderful, sensation that this is what I was made for. Youll feel His pleasure and His constant support. Youll realize you are a chosen vessel. But remember, you cant sit back and passively wait for such fruitfulness to arrive. Its something that arises inside us when we abide in Jesus, in His word and prayer. It requires faith and perseverance. Its selfless and hard to do. But those who choose this path are His chosen ones, and He sets them apart from their mothers womb. He knows who they are so He watches for the right moment and then captures them with His grace. And then He calls them to serve Him
as He knew they would before the world was made.
1) Has God called you to serve Him? What did He say?
2) Have you learned to abide in Jesus (Jn 15:4, 5). How do you do this? Do you have daily disciplines? If so, please share this with us.
3) Name something in your past that you now realize was preparing you to serve God.