A blessing life is one that follows the Words of the Lord. Amen!
“If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land (Isaiah 1:19)” ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams (1 Samuel 15:22)”
There is a scene that comes to my mind regarding to the obedience. Abraham was trying to sacrifice Isaac to the Lord. God wanted to see Abraham's obedience. And He delights in Abraham’s obedience and poured His blessings to him and his descendants. The Lord is pleased when we follow His Words.
However, when we try to follow the Lord's words, we have a difficult time following God because of our preconceptions, stereotypes, and prejudices.
The definition of these words in dictionary is as follows:
Preconception - The subjective judgment prior to the actual experience for a particular subject.
Stereotype - a widespread knowledge or belief about a person or thing in a culture or society.
Prejudice - An attitude that has an opinion or view that is not appropriate for a certain thing or phenomenon. It is an unfair and one-sided accident or opinion.
When prejudices and stereotypes are rationalized and fixed, they appear to be 'social prejudices'. These prejudices appear in the Church and also in our lives. And these preconceptions, stereotypes, and prejudices seem to be the reason that makes us feel difficult to live according to God's Words. As we look at the today’s passage, I hope that if we have preconceptions, prejudices or stereotypes, it will be time to wipe them out through God’s words.
2. Saul's prejudice.
Today’s passage describes the process of meeting Jesus with a man named Saul. Saul had prejudices: he thought that those who believed in Jesus Christ would be dangerous and could cause big social problems. His prejudices made him force to capture the believers.
But all of the prejudices and stereotypes that Saul had was broken down in one moment. As we saw in Acts 9, everything he valued, everything he pursued had collapsed. The killing of those who believe in Jesus was the purpose of his life. However, the moment had come when all the passion he had poured had changed in other direction to serve Jesus Christ.
Was this happening in your life? A case in which all the values you believed and followed fell down in one moment. It would not be a pleasant experience that our stereotypes collapsed and the values we have learned would be devalued. We would feel that we lost the hope to live. It would be desperate! However, we may learn a new thing that Jesus is the only one who we should depend on. As the Lord gave hope to Saul, who lost sight by the Lord’s light, the Lord will give us hope.
3. Ananias’ prejudice
Saul was not the only man who had prejudices, but Ananias also had prejudices and stereotypes about Saul. Because Ananias knew all the rumors about Saul. It was the real, but not the false. Saul was a dangerous person. He captured the believers. Ananias had no trust in Saul. He had no reason to meet Saul or to help him.
"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name." (Acts 9:13, 14).
The information and judgment of Saul with Ananias was accurate. But at this moment, the information that Ananias had misleading because Saul was changed. That was the reason why the Lord explained to Ananias what happen to Saul in more detail.
Verse 15: But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.
Verse 16: I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
Ananias listened to the words of the Lord, which means that he obeys God. He had placed the word of the Lord above all of the information he had. He could have believed that Saul was a dangerous person, or he might not have obeyed the Lord's word. However, he obeyed the words of the Lord. He overcame his prejudices.
In verse 17, he left and entered Saul's house. Amazing things happen to those who obey the words of the Lord. When Ananias overcome his prejudice by the words of the Lord, amazing things have happened. Ananias met not a dangerous being, but a man who will fulfill God’s will. He met a man who made a decision to live for Jesus. Because he have focused on the words of the God rather than the experience and information he had.
We may also have stereotypes and prejudices like Ananias. In 2017, I hope that we have the experience of breaking the prejudices and taste the joy of obedience to God. God’s word should be a priority rather than our experience. I hope that we will also be able to do it with joy. God who persuades Ananias will come to us and change our stereotypes and prejudices correctly.
I hope that we can see the world and people with the eyes of the Lord.
The prejudices within us have profound implications for relationships in our lives.
“How about a white man, how about a black man… “We have some experiences and information for these people, however, which can create prejudice in the society in which we live, and this can appear as discrimination.
Ananias obeyed the words of the Lord. He was a praying man. He was always the one whose ears were open to the Lord. So he could obey and see, and experience the new plan that the Lord showed. It should be a part of our experience. I hope that you will experience the blessing of following His Word.
We often have to fight our prejudices. I think that breaking the prejudice would be a life of faith.
There are many such things in the Bible. To obey God is to lay down our preconceptions, stereotypes and prejudices.
Do you know the story of Gideon's 300 warriors?
Gideon recruited people to fight the Midianites. So many people gathered. It would be advantageous to have many soldiers in the war. But the Lord said that there are too many people. Among the people, God asked to go back home if one was scared. Twenty-two thousand left home and ten thousand remained. But when the Lord said that it was too many, God asked Gideon to pick out three hundred of them. Amazingly, three hundred men beat the Midianites. Although it was not easy to understand this situation, but Gideon won in this fight. It is the day when the prejudices that people had had fallen down.
4. Our prejudices.
There are many prejudices in the church, which come from wrong appliance of the words of the Lord in our life. This was a story that we shared at the last Wednesday bible study.
There would be an issue whether you would go to the hospital when you sick.
Some people might not want to go to the hospital because they believe that they would be healed by only prayer. Yes. It would be true sometimes, but not always.
So, if you are sick, I would like to recommend you to go to the hospital. That is why God trains pharmacists and doctors. God gave them the wisdom to understand and treat the disease. It is natural to go to a hospital if you are sick. If you have a headache, you need a few pills of medicine. Some people would be sicker because they lost the chance to be healed by simple treatment.
However, there are many diseases that a doctor cannot treat. Although modern medicine and science has developed, people still cannot overcome many illnesses yet. The only thing that can be done at that time would be ‘to pray' to God for healing. Indeed, some people have prayed to God, and cured by the grace of the Lord.
I was sick for two weeks. For a couple of days, it was hard for me to sleep at night because of coughing. One day I recalled a day when I was young.
At that time, I was sick for a long time. Whatever I ate, I vomited. I could not drink a bottle of water and also take a medicine. One day, my great-grandmother came to my home. She gave me a medicine and pray for me. Do you know what happened? I didn’t vomit the medication and I was healed. It was a memory that I have to pray even if I have a medicine.
After remembering this, I held my throat and prayed for healing. I ate some medication. Then I could sleep.
It is natural to take medicine and meet a doctor. Please, pray for your healing. There is a part that man has to do, but also we should lean on God.
When Saul saw the light of the Lord, he was blinded. His eyes covered something like scales. Only Ananias could help Saul. The Lord informed Saul through his vision. And the same message to Ananias. God used Ananias’ obedience. Through his prayer, Saul was healed.
“Information and experience” are very important for us. However, sometimes, the information and experience we have would become prejudices, which make us difficult to follow God’s Word. Most prejudices are caused by insufficient and inaccurate evidence, and are often attributed to limited experience and emotional attitudes. The way to overcome the prejudice is to have opportunity to experience a new thing.
What God wants us to do is a new experience. God gave Saul the opportunity to have faith in Jesus. God gives everyone the opportunity to be saved.
God gave Saul two missions.
The first was to be the person who preaches the gospel. The second was to suffer for God.
Suffering is not the punishment of God. Especially for the apostles, suffering is a mission. The apostles worked hard to fulfill the mission. The apostle Paul knew this well. When we believe in Jesus, we preach Jesus, and also we live according to the words of the Lord, suffering can come.
If you believe in Jesus, you can become peaceful, rich, and healthy. But God wants to give more than that. The suffering for Jesus, the suffering for justice, and the suffering for peace are glorious. The suffering for the Lord is not a shame. It is not a shame to be imprisoned for the Lord. It was given to someone as a mission.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Matthew 5:10-12).
I believe that you will have many plans in 2017. Please read the words of the Lord, and if the Word of God touches your heart, please follow Him. I pray that we have lots of confession that it is a blessing life to follow the words of the Lord.