Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.
Saul of Tarsus had a certain reputation that elicited fear in followers of Christ. They all knew who he was and what he was doing, wreaking havoc with his persecution of the church. And so after Paul’s conversion, when God calls upon Ananias to go see him, Ananias is hesitant at first. He knew about what Paul had done, and he had some preconceived notions about this man. He tries to explain to God, in a way, that Paul is His enemy. But God has a different perspective on Paul because He knows what is happening in his heart at that very moment.
God always sees us differently than others see us and even how we may see ourselves. He can see the whole of our lives. He can see our future. He can see what His Spirit and His power and His influence will work out in us. He knows the changes that can come. He knows the story He is writing for us. He knows what we are capable of because He has made us and prepared us for those things. And when He looks at us, He takes into account what we will do, while others only see what we have done. He knows what He wants us to be, while others only know what we’ve been.
Up to this point in his life, Paul had failed to live a life that honored God. He may have been well-educated and influential and in authority, but he was living in opposition to Jesus Christ. He was hurting people, even having them put to death. He was, in the words of Ananias, committing much evil. But Paul is proof that upon our salvation, God puts our past out of mind and focuses on our future. And in Paul, He had a man prepared who was willing to do anything for His sake and would be greatly used for the exact cause he’d once so fervently opposed.
In the same way, we don’t have to be what we used to be or what we’ve always been. We can be changed by the power of God working in us. Our lives can take a new path in a new direction. We can move forward into what God had planned for us all along. We can be redeemed, and in that process, we can gain a new perspective on ourselves and erase the bad reputation that we used to have. In the end, all believers are simply evidence of God’s great grace, mercy, and goodness, and living testimonies of His ability to transform us into something completely different than we used to be.