Acts 9 tells the story of the birth of the early church's mission to the waiting Gentile world - the beginning of real obedience to the ends of the world challenge from Jesus in Acts 1:8. It tells how Paul, that colossal figure who stood at the helm of this cross-cultural mission movement, came to faith in Christ.
Two huge issues are settled for Paul. Firstly, the ‘Who?' Verse 5 articulates that very clearly: "I am Jesus." Then, the ‘What.' In verse 6, Paul is told to "arise and go into the city and you will be told what you must do." Soon that is very clearly defined to him by Ananias in verse 15, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My Name before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel." So for Paul it was almost clinical; the Who and the What are thus settled, and he is on his way to change the then known world.
Massive though this amazing calling of God on the life of Paul is, yet recently I was struck by another aspect in Acts 9. It is the place of the anonymous (or almost anonymous) ordinary people who figure in this church and world changing event. Though Paul is the leader and the most significant figure, there are a host of other ordinary folk around him. Without them, I doubt he would have fulfilled his call in Christ. In the same way, the task of pursuing the challenge of mission to China and to other nations today, in our generation, must be fired by "an army of ordinary people".
In verse 8, perhaps rather unwillingly, there are "the men who journeyed with him", who take him into Damascus, blind from his encounter with Christ. They are nameless men and women.
Then, in verse 10 and following, Ananias, who only makes this one cameo appearance in Scripture, burst into Paul's life and released him from blindness and into his calling and into the power of the Holy Spirit. How critical (in verse 17) that the first two words Paul hears this Ananias say are "brother Saul..." - a remarkable statement to a man who had come to arrest, persecute and even kill him! Then Ananias, this one great act performed, carries on an ordinary unrecorded life for Jesus.
Next, in verse 19, we are told that Paul spent some time with "the disciples at Damascus." More willing and able workers who were there at this key moment in Paul's journey. Obviously Paul spent ongoing time with these faithful and anonymous servants of Jesus. Then in verse 25, we are told that other disciples (some say months or years later - "his disciples" in the NET version) took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket, escaping from Damascus when the Jews wanted to kill him.
Thus in Damascus and the events surrounding Paul's salvation we see the critical role of individual and of groups of unknown Christian servants. In this magazine, you can read of similar folk. Some are engaging in short-term work; some in long-term work. Some are engaging in literature ministry, feeding and supplying the hungry Chinese Church with the Word of God. Some are engaged in humanitarian outreach. To you almost all of them are anonymous, like these people who helped Paul on his journey hundreds of years ago. But to God they are not unknown. They are His precious servants.
It is my prayer that these China Challenge articles will come as a provocation from the Lord of the Harvest to you, to be one of that "army of ordinary people" taking the Gospel to the nations. That you would be content to be one of those ordinary people who under God really makes a difference!