What’s your favorite story?
When I was growing up I knew a story of a cowboy separated from his best friend in the whole wide world… destined to suffer until the day he would be reunited with his long lost friend.
Sound like anyone you know?
This story also included an astronaut, a tyrannosaurus rex, a man with a potato head, a slinky wiener dog, a talking piggy bank, and a handful of green army men.
Why yes… this story is one that we all know from the big screen. It is Toy Story.
But… on a serious note. We all have a story.
Some parts we would like to remember… others we’d like to forget.
The problem is that the past is always there… it can’t be undone and sometimes it can’t be forgotten. How can we as believers deal with the pain in our past, and our present, and persevere knowing that God is good and His purposes are being done within our lives?
In Scripture we see the story of Saul. Saul was an angry man who persecuted, tortured, and killed Christians. Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee in Jerusalem after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He swore to wipe out the new Christian church and destroy the Christian movement.
One day Saul was on his way to Damascus to arrest any Christians that were in the synagogues and an amazing thing happened. Let’s pick up this story in Acts 9:3-19,
Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.
Every time I read this story, I am amazed at the great grace of God. I see the Lord take this man Saul, save him by miraculous grace, and transform him into a great Apostle and Kingdom builder. Through this story I realize that there is hope for people like you and me to be used by the Lord.
The truth is, Saul was a very unlikely candidate for the service of the Lord. Here was a man who was feared and hated by Christians and one who did everything in his power to destroy the name of the Lord Jesus. Yet, God reached down in grace and took this man from where he was and used him to change the world. God used him in such a great manner that Paul’s ministry is still reaping fruit today. Just the fact that we are talking about his life and the impact he had on the world is a testimony to way God used him than and is using him now!
Saul encountered the very God He had been persecuting and was never the same again. Something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. He arose and was baptized into the Christian faith. After his conversion, Saul’s name was changed to Paul, and he spent the rest of his life serving Jesus and teaching people about him. He became a missionary to people all over the world. Suddenly, instead of being the person who hurt other Christians, Paul became persecuted himself for Christ’s sake.
What are your experiences doing within you? Is God using situations and circumstances in your life to make scales fall off your eyes? To prepare you for greater things?
What has your past caused you to see?
We may feel that there is no possible way that the Lord could use us like He did Paul, or that God could even use us at all. I suppose that we all feel inferior and unworthy to be used of the Lord in His work, but I am here today to tell you that Jesus can and will use us if we will make ourselves available.
Through our past God may have created us into exactly who he wants us to be in order to be used by Him. We have heard it said that our stories and experiences have shaped or made us into who we are today. I wholeheartedly agree.
Think about it… it is common sense that we learn from our past.
The first time I touched a hot stove burner or a sharp razor edge I learned that I didn’t want to do that again. The same can be said from our past. We have all gone through things, some harder than others, and to say that these things have come and gone would be wasting the time we had to spend in the midst of our past.
Let’s allow our past to work in our favor! God wants to use our past and is more than capable!
Paul was a Murderer, Paul was a rebel against the Lord Jesus, and yet his past did not prevent him from being used by God. Regardless of what we may have done before we received Jesus as our Savior, it matters no longer, for when He saves our soul, He washes our past away forever! It is just as though we got a brand new start at that precise moment. In fact, the Bible refers to that event as a “new birth”.
John 3:7 says,
Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.”
Psalm 103:12 says,
As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
Do not dismay. Push forward. You are in good company!
Throughout the Bible, God used people in spite of, and after their greatest of failures.
Simon Peter preached his greatest message and had his greatest ministry after he denied the Lord. Moses was a murderer, yet God used him for His glory and worked miracles through his hands. Samson sinned against God, yet he slew more Philistines in the end of his life than he had during his entire ministry. Abraham lied, yet he was used of the Lord. Jacob was a deceiver, yet the Lord transformed and used him greatly.
What is your story… and how can you use it for God’s glory?