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A Ministry Of Encouragement

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Have you ever really needed encouragement? 3rd yr here just had Abi, our second. There were some struggles going on in the church and Jess and I were a little beat down and discouraged. I will never forget a Sunday when both children were acting up and Jess and I were both trying to deal with them and with all the other things we do on Sunday. Bess Crawford, who is now with the Lord, says to us “You guys are really good parents. I think you are doing a great job. And I am so thankful that you came here.” Wow! It was a perfect, God-ordained moment, that encouraged us and kept us going! It was this breath of fresh air.
Saul the persecutor of the church has had his world turned upside down. He has realized that He has been persecuting the Messiah. He has been blinded by the light he saw on the road and he is now fasting and praying in Damascus. Into this situation, God is going to send encouragement. God is going to use Ananias to encourage Saul.
God is going to use Ananias to encourage Saul. But first
This passage challenges us to have a ministry of encouragement.
In a ministry of encouragement there are two requirements.
When we meet these requirements we are able to encourage others.
If we are going to have a ministry of encouragement our first requirement is to…

1. Identify And Demolish Barriers To Encouragement vv. 10-16

The greatest barrier to a ministry of encouragement is ourselves. We put up roadblocks.
These verses identify three barriers to encouragement that must be demolished before we can fulfill this ministry.

a. The barrier of need vv. 10-12

from the very first we learn a valuable lesson about encouragement.
To have a ministry of encouragement you must be a disciple.
Disciple – μαθητής (mathētēs) disciple. Disciple n. — a student who adheres to (and travels with) a teacher in a pedagogical relationship; especially used of students of spiritual leaders. Noun (subject), nominative, singular, masculine.
Disciple – μαθητής (mathētēs)
A disciple is a follower of Jesus who is committed. He is not casual in his Christianity. He is not a weekend or holiday Christian. He is someone who is pursuing Christ!
The fact that Saul was headed to Damascus to arrest believers tells us that Ananias wasn’t the only disciple there. Yet he is the one God chose. I believe all of us need to be challenged with this thought. “Would God have chosen me? Am I displaying the kind of faithfulness necessary to be used by God to encourage others? Am I a disciple of Jesus Christ?”
Ananias is a disciple and and God speaks to him in a vision. The Lord calls him by name and Ananias gives a revealing response.
If you are going to minister to others, you must have a heart that is sensitive to the Lord’s leading. We have discussed this before, but the expression “here I am” indicates a readiness and willingness to hear and obey.
To have a ministry of encouragement, you must be listening.
We are so consumed with ourselves that we don’t hear God’s leading to reach out to others! This is somewhat of a culture thing. If we are to encourage one another, we have to be listening to God.
Having indicated his willingness to hear and obey, Ananias is given an assignment in v. 11.
Three commands. Arise, Go, Inquire.
Arise – ἀνίστημι (anistēmi) rise; get up; rise up. To rise up v. — to rise up for the purpose of taking action. Verb, aorist, active, participle of attendant circumstance, singular, nominative, masculine.
Arise – ἀνίστημι (anistēmi)
When God speaks, we get up and take action.
Ananias is to arise and go to the street called Straight. Here is a 19th century picture of that street (S). Once he arrives at the street, inquire for Saul of Tarsus. Ananias is to seek Saul out at the house of Judas.
Saul is praying. The life-altering revelations Saul has had, have left him blind. He has been fasting for three days and now we know what he has been doing during that time. He has been praying.
When life has you mixed up confused, unsure, and overwhelmed; pray.
Here Saul is praying and God is orchestrating the answer to his prayer! In v. 12 the Lord reveals that Ananias is that answer. Saul too has had a vision. In his vision Ananias comes, lays hands on him, and he is able to see again.
This is where our first barrier to encouragement comes in. Saul has a need. He is blind. He knows that he has a need, but the one to encourage him, Ananias, had to be made aware of it as well.
Both the one to be encouraged, and the one to do the encouraging, must recognize the need.
If you don’t recognize your need, you cannot be encouraged. If you don’t see the need to encourage, obviously, you will not encourage anyone. Need is the first barrier. The Lord has revealed his need to Saul, now it is revealed to Ananias.
To have a ministry of encouragement, you must be sensitive to the needs of others.
James talks about this. Turn to .
James 2:15–16 NKJV
If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
James says that when we don’t both recognize and meet the needs of others, our faith is worthless. It benefits no one. The first barrier to encouraging others is failing to recognize that they need encouragement! The second barrier identified in these verses is…

b. The barrier of fear vv. 13-14

These verses stress something vitally important.
It is okay to question God.
In fact, it seems like the most spiritual people in the Bible all question God! What we must understand is that their questioning does not indicate an unwillingness to obey. It simply reflects caution and a desire for understanding. God doesn’t always answer us when we question. But He does here.
God has told Ananias where to go and who to encourage. However, Ananias has a few concerns.
Concern #1 - The evil done to Jerusalem saints.
That is what this word “harm” means.
Harm – κακός (kakos) bad; evil; wrong. Badness n. — that which is below standard or expectations as of ethics or decency; sometimes used collectively. Substantival adjective, accusative, plural, neuter.
Harm – κακός (kakos)
Saul was one of the leading causes for the exodus of Jerusalem saints. 1st use of “saints”. Look at Saul’s own account of his actions in .
Acts 26:10–11 NKJV
This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
Saul’s intention was to do the same thing in Damascus.
In a sense, Ananias is asking “do you know who this man is Lord?” Do we ever do that? God says, “yes! And I want to show you that no one is beyond my reach! I can save, sanctify, and use, anyone.”
Concern #2 - The evil intended for Damascus saints.
Saul had authority. This word could also be translated “power”. Saul had power! He was a commissioned arm of the Jewish leaders to arrest anyone who believed in Jesus!
Obviously, Ananias is not giving the Lord any new information. I don’t believe that is his intention. He is simply voicing his concern and hoping for some greater clarity.
Ananias has great reason to fear here. Saul is literally imprisoning and killing Christians.
Our fears may be well founded. But God is in control.
This is probably one of the biggest, most common barriers to a ministry of encouragement. We are simply afraid. We are afraid of rejection, afraid of saying or doing the “wrong thing”. We are afraid of looking foolish in front of others. Here, Ananias is literally afraid for his life! This is a barrier that we must demolish!
When Paul is writing his second letter to Timothy, he encourages him with these words in (S).
2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
When God calls, He also equips us to answer the call!
How do we overcome this fear? Through a recognition of God’s sovereignty and submission to Him! He is in control and He will take care of us.
Ananias is willing, but he is fearful. God addresses that fear in the final barrier.

c. The barrier of purpose vv. 15-16

God overcomes Ananias’ fear by detailing for him the purpose for which the Lord was calling Saul.
I find God’s answer to Ananias’ fear very interesting. The first word the Lord says to Ananias is “go”. Basically, God is saying “Ananias, I know who Saul is, I know what he has done and plans to do. I know how he has attacked my people and persecuted those who call on me. But Ananias, I am still calling you to go.” God acknowledges Ananias’ concern, but His call doesn’t change.
Difficulties and trials do not alter God’s plan and purpose.
God acknowledges Ananias’ concern, but His call doesn’t change.
In fact, the opposite is true! Those difficulties and trials are tools in the sovereign hand of God used to achieve His plan and purpose! How do we know that? Turn once again to .
James 1:2–4 NKJV
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Now, we know that what Ananias feared wasn’t going to happen. He doesn’t know that yet! It is important for us to understand that God will not always alleviate our fears as He does for Ananias here. Sometimes He wants us to follow Him despite our fear! In this instance, for Ananias, God reveals why there is nothing to fear.
Saul is a chosen vessel.
The Saul who traveled to Damascus to arrest people doesn’t exist anymore! That Saul died the moment he trusted Christ! I love the words the Lord uses in v. 15. “He is a chosen vessel of Mine.” That gives me chills! Do you know why? This is true of every single one of us. Turn to .
Ephesians 1:3–6 NKJV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
We are chosen vessels of God! We were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world! We were chosen to be blameless, holy, and to bring God glory as we display His grace! Saul is a chosen vessel that belongs to the Lord and so am I! So are you! You belong to Jesus! That means you are not what you once were!
Everyone lean in here for a minute. This is essential. When you come to Christ, you become something new. Just like Saul.
says (S).
2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
says (S).
Colossians 3:3 NKJV
For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
The Saul that Ananias is being sent to is not the Saul who left Jerusalem! He has been wondrously, miraculously, and gloriously transformed! In ch. 13 that transformation will be forever recognized when Saul the persecutor becomes Paul the apostle. That is what takes place when we trust Jesus Christ as Savior! That is what is reflected in the Words “he is a chosen vessel of Mine.” That raises a question. What does a chosen vessel do? Whatever it’s owner demands!
Here in vv. 15-16 the Lord gives us a kind of outline of Paul’s life. V. 15 bearing the Lord’s name before Gentiles, Kings, and Jews. V. 16 – suffering. Saul is a chosen vessel and he is going to bear the name of Christ before Gentiles, kings, and Jews. That is exactly what he does, and we will see that he begins immediately.
9:15 – threefold outline of Paul’s life. Bearing the Lord’s name before Gentiles, Kings, and Jews. V. 16 – suffering.
The Lord says that Saul will bear His name. Bear – βαστάζω (bastazō) pick up; bear; carry. To bear (carry) v. — to move while holding up or supporting. Verb, aorist, active, infinitive of purpose.
Bear – βαστάζω (bastazō)
Every where that Saul goes he will carry the name of Christ. In v. 14 Ananias said that Saul was coming to Damascus to bind all who call on the Lord’s name. This is the same word. The name that Saul once fought so hard against, will now go with him everywhere! Saul is going to carry with him everything that Christ is. That is what the Greek idea of a name is. Saul will carry the name of Jesus before Gentiles. These are people he never would have associated with previously. He will carry the name of Jesus before kings. These are men he never would have had access to. He will carry the name of Jesus before the Jews. These are Saul’s own countrymen. Those he thought to protect through his persecution of Christians.
Ananias has nothing to fear because Saul now belongs to Jesus! He is going to witness for Christ. More than that…
Saul will suffer for Christ.
Saul will suffer for Christ.
Once again we have the use of “name”. The name Saul sought to destroy he now carries, and he is going to willingly suffer for that name. This is a transformed man.
This word “show” carries with it the idea of warning. Jesus is going to tell Saul what to expect if he follows the Lord. This revelation will not sway Saul in the slightest. Later, when Saul has become Paul, he will write to Timothy that “all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Does that sway you? Does knowing that you and I are called to suffering make us want to be a little less vocal for Christ?
One of our barriers to being an encouragement to others is this question “why?” Why is God doing this or that? Why is He calling this person or that person? God revels His purpose to Ananias thus removing any final barriers to encouragement. And so we have the second requirement to have a ministry of encouragement. We need to…
The second essential to a ministry of encouragement is to
The second essential to a ministry of encouragement is to

2. Initiate And Dispense Blessing Through Encouragement vv. 17-19

The blessing is not ours. It is God’s blessing delivered through us. We are conduits of God’s blessing.
For Saul, this blessing take three forms.

a. Spiritual blessing v. 17

I love this. “Ananias went his way”. God’s response of “Go because Saul is mine” is all Ananias needs! He enters Judas’ house and goes in to Saul.
This incredible and faithful man of God puts his hands on a persecutor and murderer. Ananias lays his hands on a man who had likely captured, arrested, or killed some of Ananias’ friends! Yet at God’s command, Ananias blesses Saul.
Look at what he says. “Brother Saul”. WOW! This is faith. There is no more doubt here! No fear! No uncertainty! There is only mountain moving faith! Can you even imagine how those words must have impacted Saul? To be called brother by one of the very people he came to arrest?
This is what Christ-empowered forgiveness looks like.
Ananias lets Saul know exactly who he serves and that he knows everything that has happened. The Lord has revealed the whole story to Ananias. Confirmation for Saul. He tells Saul that the Lord has sent him to accomplish two things. 1 - Saul will receive his sight. 2 - Saul will receive the Holy Spirit. What blessing!
Ananias is God’s conduit of blessing for Saul.
9:17-18 – Sight and receipt of the HS happened together. Baptism came after.
Notice that he confirms all that Saul had experienced. It truly was Jesus who appeared to him! This same Jesus had the power to give his sight back. And this Jesus will give to Saul the Holy Spirit.
Ananias is encouraging Saul through these spiritual blessings. I can say without reservation that Spiritual blessings are the greatest we will ever receive. Greater than wealth, success, or achievement.
Like Ananias here, we are sometimes enabled to be channels through which God’s blessing flows. God uses Ananias to bless Saul.
For us to be used by God to bless others, the barriers have to be removed. Once they are removed, like Ananias, we must obey God and follow His direction. Not only is Ananias used to bring Spiritual blessing. God also uses him to provide…

b. Physical blessing v. 18

The order of events here is important. Saul received his sight and was given the Holy Spirit simultaneously. Baptism comes after that.
The healing of Saul’s eyes is instantaneous. Sometimes when blindness was healed by Jesus it was gradual. Here it was immediate.
Something like scales fall from Saul’s eyes and he can see. I love the imagery here. All of us experience this at salvation. But for most it is the spiritual scales that fall from our eyes.
Turn to .
2 Corinthians 4:2–6 NKJV
But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
When we are in unbelief, we are blinded by Satan. But then God shines a light into our sin darkened hearts! The light of His glory in Jesus Christ shines on us and we are finally able to see! Saul was able to experience this both spiritually and physically.
Saul’s sight is restored “at once”. The same is true Spiritually. I have heard countless stories over the years about how the Word of God made immediate sense when someone came to Christ. The blindness is gone. The light has come.
When we come to Christ we are set free from sin caused blindness.
As soon as Saul can see, he gets up and is baptized. Baptism doesn’t save. He is already saved. How do we know? He already has the Spirit! As we have pointed out previously, baptism is an identification.
Saul the persecutor has identified himself with those he persecuted.
Purely from the standpoint of human reasoning; something dramatic had to have happened in this man’s life for this change to take place! Saul has been baptized as a follower of Jesus Christ! These physical acts of blessing, the scales falling off, the blindness ending, the baptism, all demonstrate the power of what has happened to Saul. The Spiritual blessing has been immediately followed by physical blessing.
Talk about being encouraged! Saul has been transformed! He can see, he has been baptized. Saul has been incredibly blessed through Ananias. Blessed spiritually, blessed physically, and now he receives…

c. Practical blessing v. 19

This verse is one of my favorites in the section. It is so practical! Saul has been fasting for 3 days considering all that he had done and all that it meant for Jesus to be alive, in heaven, and intimately connected to His followers. Now Saul has trusted Christ, had his sight restored, and been publicly baptized. The time for fasting is over.
Saul eats food and is strengthened. There is nothing mystical or mysterious about this. When we eat, we are strengthened! Yet the fact that this is stated demonstrates the strain that Saul had been under. This is often what happens in salvation. Conviction comes and it is crushing. Situations and circumstances pile up until a crisis, a breaking point is reached. This time of crisis, this time of decision has now passed for Saul. He eats food and is strengthened.
God cares about meeting practical needs.
Saul has a need for food, and that need is met. But he has another need. A need for fellowship. Food and fellowship are two of our most basic needs.
He spends time with the disciples in Damascus. Oh to be a fly on the wall as Saul sits with these brothers and sisters and begins to learn of Christ.
Saul gets firsthand experience with the difference Christ makes in our lives.
These people are apparently welcoming to Saul. They don’t separate from him. He is welcomed and encouraged.
When the body of Christ functions this way, it is powerful. How do we react when a persecutor becomes a brother?


What a roller coaster!
Ananias had to overcome barriers before he could encourage Saul.
What barriers are preventing you and me from having a ministry of encouragement?
Do we recognize our own need to be encouraged?
We have the opportunity to bring spiritual, physical, and practical blessing to others.
Will we allow God to use us as conduits of His blessing and through us encourage others?
That is the choice that is before us today.
Yes, there is fear. There may even be legitimate fear. But that doesn’t free us from encouraging those who need it.
We need to see the needs of others and trust that God has a plan and purpose that He will work out through our encouragement of others.
This week, may we encourage and bless others spiritually, physically, and practically.
As I thought about Saul and his life, this song came to mind. We are headed one way in our lives, when Jesus steps in and transforms us. The greatest blessing of our lives takes place…
#338 At Calvary
Acts 9:10–19 NKJV
Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.
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