Even the early Church had problems with Church division, and here Paul was pleading with them to unite rather than split into factions. For if you think about it, if the local Church can’t come together and become one voice…how do we expect the world to follow suit? When Jesus called those first disciples, He told them to “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17) And if you look at the other meaning for the Greek word for “perfectly united”… it means to mend or repair broken nets. Now anyone knows you can’t catch fish with torn nets…so how can the Church expect to follow Jesus and be fishers of men when their nets are shredded with division and strife? We as a body of Believers need to become perfectly united together, and mend our nets.
Later in the Bible, the Apostle Paul admonished the Church in Philippi to, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) This has to be one of the toughest things to do given mankind’s self-centered, egotistic nature. Instead of seeking out our own 15 minutes of fame, we need to be trying to outdo one another in showing honor. Rather than demanding respect, we need to be recognizing others and praising them for important work they’re doing. Vanity looks for fame and glory, while humility moves “self” off the throne as we esteem others.
The Believers in Damascus had heard about Saul and his murderous threats against them. Ananias also knew Saul had traveled there with the authority from the Chief Priests to arrest them all. So you can imagine that Ananias had many excuses as to why he shouldn’t go and lay hands on this man…but God said, “Go!” And Ananias went. But somewhere between his house and the house where Saul was staying Ananias had a major heart adjustment. For when he greeted Saul, he called him Brother Saul. Brother meaning Saul had been accepted into the community of brothers and sisters in the Lord.
This is what the Lord said to Saul, (later Paul) on that hot and dusty Damascus road. When we are born again, we have a glimpse of what the Lord has in store for us…visions of the work He wants to accomplish through us. But suddenly fear and doubt take over, for the visions are so large and we feel so small and inadequate. That’s when we need to take a look at this Scripture again, for the Lord says that He was with Paul not only then, but would be into the future… revealing to him more as Paul obediently moved forward. So much, that later in his ministry, Paul proclaimed in Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Please remember this, you too can do all things through Him that gives you strength.
This time of year we are inundated with requests and pleas for donations. They call on the phone, they mail us fliers, they approach us in public places. All these overwhelming requests can turn anyone cold towards helping others…to the point of thinking, ” I can’t give, I can hardly get by with what I have!” Paul addressed this in II Corinthians 8:2 – where he explained even though the Church in Macedonia was going through severe trials and extreme poverty, their joy of the Lord overflowed and welled up into rich generosity towards others. God has proven over and over again that you can’t out give Him. So allow joy and thankfulness to fill your heart this Holiday Season as you give generously to others…not out of your lack, but out of His riches.
Earlier in the day, Paul and Silas had been stripped, severely flogged and then thrown into prison. So we now find them hours later holding their own praise and worship service to a rather captive audience of fellow prisoners and guards. They could have wallowed in their sorrow and pain, but instead chose to worship God. When we praise God in the midst of impossible situations, the atmosphere changes and with it, our attitude. Our eyes are taken off the incurable, the grief-stricken, the hopeless dilemma…and allows God to work in miraculous ways. It says here that the earthquake caused all the prison doors to open…not just the one to Paul and Silas’s cell, and that everybody’s chains came off…not just theirs. When our focus is on praise rather than on self-pity, everyone around us will be blessed.