Let me explain.
So it all started yesterday, studying early American history with my boys. We were captivated by the biggest take away of our session. China could have been the largest, most populated, Christian nation.
Were it not for the paralyzing fear of 2 monks and also, possibly, the delayed obedience of Pope Gregory X, their boss.
Just imagine with me for one moment what that would look like if today, China was a Christian nation of believers.
Here's what didn't happen. In 1271 when the Polo brothers (Niccolo, Maffeo, and baby brother Marco) came back to Pope Gregory X he was new on the job. They handed him a detailed letter from Kublai Kahn that requested the Pope send 100 teachers back with the Polo's so that they could come and teach his court the teachings of Christ.
Here's what didn't happen next. Pope Gregory X didn't immediately jump on that and make it happen. He delayed. Then he sent just 2 monks back with the Polo's to make the long journey up the silk road. They never make it back to Kublai Kahn.
Along the way they encounter Muslim wars. At this same time in history the Muslims were fighting to take over lands and peoples and close off the trade route to Europe, the silk road.
They were successful and effectively cut off travel from Asia to Europe. No more trade, no more spreading of the gospel. Even then, their battles were not only with flesh and bone, that was a spiritual battle too...primarily. The enemy will stop at nothing to cut off the spread of the gospel.
So, the 2 monks, girded with the whole armor of God, are so bold they proceed despite all obstacles and press on in the name of the Lord! They carry the news of the gospel ahead with them and the work that was accomplished in and through the monks by the power of and might of our Lord has forever changed the course of history.
They got scared.
They feared for their lives.
They turned back and fled for home.
So, Kublai Kahn's open invitation to have Christians come into his country and tell him and his people about the saving grace of Christ was rejected. Kahn was open. Christians who were afraid didn't follow through. They estimated that in light of their circumstances being far greater than their God, it was best to turn back.
Flashback to Ananias's day. He gets an assignment. One that sort of has him rattled, at least questioning the sanity of the assignment. He is commissioned by the Lord to go to Saul, THE Christian killer. On the other side of the assignment is an open heart with closed eyes. Saul has been blinded so that he would soon see.
As a mom I so appreciate Ananias's obedience. It seems that he managed to obey in 3 ways, just like we are trying to teach our boys.
1. Right away
2. All the way
3. With a peaceful heart (I used to say happy, but soon realized happy is temporary and can easily be faked.)
Anyway, Ananias asks a question to be sure of things then the Lord firmly re-instructs him and off he goes. To see THE Christian killer. Nothing is said about his thoughts or ponderings on his way to Saul. Nothing is said about if he trembled when entering the house. We just read that he goes in and straight to Saul and puts his hands on Saul's eyes. He calls Saul "brother". Then Ananias tells Saul the Jesus whom Saul met on the road is the one who sent him. He goes on and says that he was sent so that Saul would be filled with the Holy Spirit and have sight again.
Immediately, scales fell off of Saul's eyes and his sight was back. Only, I suspect, it was better than ever. Saul was not the same. Ever. He had an encounter that seemed to incapacitate him from his work as THE Christian killer. Instead the encounter with Jesus opened his heart. Saul believed.
The world was forever changed by this enemy of the faith turned champion of the gospel.
So there you go.
I'm glad for our time in history together yesterday. Also, am so glad to see a devotion this morning that reminded me what could happen if I obeyed God despite my perceived fears.
The battle is the Lord's. He gives us His armor, and he goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, and is also our rear guard.
If God is for us, who or what could stand against us?
If you're interested in more on these two historical turning points here are some good references I found on the www.
A quick google search of "silk road" will bring up many interesting articles and maps.