Where Nothing is Ever Wasted
by Jurgen Rausch
Quite the Resume
I have here in front of me a copy of my resume. It’s quite a little document of accomplishments and abilities which took quite a bit of work to pull together. This is my resume!
If you think you will ever get a job these days without one of these ‘puppies’, you’re going to have to think again.
Gone is the day where you could simply apply for a job by showing up somewhere. You need a resume, letters of references, clear security checks and jump through all kinds of hoops.
Without a resume you will never land that job!
When I think of a resume I think of what Paul wrote in Phil 3. In some ways, it sounds like a resume to me; a long list of Paul’s accomplishments and abilities.
What I find most surprising about Paul’s list is that he includes the good, the bad and the ugly.
Let me read it to you:
“If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” Phil 3:4-6
This is quite the little résumé Paul had created! It is also quite a list of accomplishments and experiences.
So if you ever need someone to write your resume, then maybe Paul is your man!
Speaking of which, if you’ve ever had to write a résumé you will know that it is no easy task.
To have to collect your thoughts on the matter at hand is one thing, but to identify personal strengths and abilities and then shape them into language to show off what you are capable of doing, is a little unsettling.
A good résumé is like getting a makeover, getting all cleaned up and putting your best side forward. Not that you lie, but you definitely accentuate the positive about who you are and what you can do.
We tend to downplay or tuck away weaknesses or things we are not good at or proud of. It would be foolhardy to put those on a résumé, and somewhat career limiting.
Yet look at what Paul included in his list of accomplishments:
“Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” Phil 3:4, 5
When you look at Paul’s résumé, you find all sorts of attributes; experiences and abilities that were developed very early on in his life long before he ever became a Christian.
Some things became essential in his later tasks in life.
Among them he lists spectacular failures as well. This little line of “as for zeal, persecuting the church” is rather troublesome.
We know that Paul was, for a while, one of the fiercest persecutors of the church and was responsible for many lives lost.
That’s not something you put in a résumé!
In Paul’s case these should have been the missing years; best not to mention those years for that will certainly limit your career aspirations.
It’s never a good idea to be missing years on a résumé.
I have been tempted to erase certain failures and mistakes and thus skip over certain times of my life, but I know that they have a way of catching up with you later.
When Paul writes his résumé he does none of that. He clearly states “persecutor of the church”. He doesn’t whitewash it, doesn’t erase it, nor does he position it in a positive light but calls a spade a spade.
That’s what he was. He was a persecutor of the church! That’s where his considerable talents, ambitions and experiences took him.
It took him into dark places where he ended up a murderer.
Yet to be a successful persecutor took considerable talent. Not every Joe would be a successful persecutor.
It took him being “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews.”
All of these life experiences converged at a single point in time, making him an incredibly effective persecutor and murderer in those days.
These same life experiences could make him an incredible instrument for good if only God would get a hold of his life!
An Instrument for God!
You know the rest of the story. You know how God got a hold of his life and how the man experienced such a radical conversion that everything about him, including his name, was changed.
Let me read you part of the story of how this man met God:
“3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:3-6
This was a dramatic encounter with God!
As this man met God, he would never be the same again! He turned from persecutor of the church to something far more productive.
He ends up being part of an elite group of Christian leaders that included Peter, John and James; the likes of which this world has never seen again.
He ends up writing many of the New Testament books, planting numerous churches and was responsible for the explosive growth of the Christian faith in the first century.
And here’s my point: Those same attributes, life experiences and characteristics that made him dangerous and a successful persecutor also made him an effective and successful leader in the early church.
There is no way that he would have become what he became had it not been for the fact that he was “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.”
These same strengths that were unredeemed and made him dangerous prior to God getting a hold of his life, became the very tools that successfully launched him into greatness after God got a hold of him!
Nothing is ever wasted, friend! The same attributes that make someone dangerous, God can redeem and turn around to become incredible instruments for good!
An Amazing Choice
I love how God reaches deep into Paul’s past, way back into his pre-conversion days, and pulls out attributes that would make him great after his conversion.
Consider the following:
When God looked for someone to be an early leader in the cause, he found Paul well equipped!
When God looked for an author who could capture in words the connection between Old Testament faith and what was happening in those days, he found Paul!
When God looked for someone who could take on the strongest arguments against God in those days, he found Paul.
When God looked for someone who could comfortably engage world leaders and yet also the slum of the earth, he found Paul.
Everything that God was looking for in a leader who could emerge in those critical early days, he found in Paul!
Paul’s upbringing gave him all of that and it was a dangerous tool in someone whose heart was full of pride and darkness. But God was able to get such a strong hold of Paul’s life, that those same attributes became the key contributors that brought about great spiritual success!
This points again to the fact that nothing is ever wasted, and that every experience you ever had can be used by God to bring about greatness and meaning in your life.
I love the words of Rom. 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
God sees the good and valuable things that are deep in your life including everything about your background; who your parents were, where they came from, what education you got, the kind of experiences you had, and so on.
God wants to redeem everything about your past, and sanctify all experiences, so the He can use them as instruments of good in this world.
God Prepares, Positions and Enables
God is not going to waste anything He can use and He’s not going to waste anything that He created. He is an amazing salvager of life!
Paul had all the raw materials that God needed to shape his life into something amazing. The same applies for you and me!
I bet that Paul had no idea how his life would turn out. If you had told him as a young man what he would one day do, he would have laughed at you. The same is true for you and me!
It doesn’t matter how old you are or how many years you think you have wasted, God’s specialty is gathering up all the broken pieces of people’s lives and making something beautiful and meaningful with them.
The key is understanding how God prepares, positions and enables you for a time such as this.
“The principle is the same for everyone – whether God created you for something local or global, temporary or permanent, small or large, hidden or out in the open, God prepares you, God positions you, and God enables you to do what He knows you can do most effectively.” Tony Evans
Paul was being prepared throughout all the years of his life with none of what happened to him being an accident or a mistake (where he took it became a problem, but not what was forged inside him).
The same for you and me. None of what has happened to you was an accident or a waste. God is preparing you for something great!
Then Paul was positioned to be on a dirty road, on a dusty day, the precise moment when the heavens opened and the voice of God was heard.
You could perhaps argue that it could have happened anywhere, but I like to believe that Paul was at the right place, at the right time.
But that’s not all. Ironically, God also positioned him by being known well among the followers of Jesus because he was such as a fierce persecutor.
His name was infamous, so word spread like wildfire that this man was now a follower of Jesus himself. Had he been a stranger, he would not have had an audience.
God used what Paul intended for harm to position him among the followers of Jesus for something great!
God has also positioned you and me to be where we are at this precise moment, to do the great that he has destined for us.
God enabled Paul by giving him the strength and courage he would need to win acceptance among those he had persecuted. He had to withstand the fierce attacks by his former friends and colleagues, who saw in him a traitor and turncoat, and now turned on him with vengeance.
He was in an impossible situation; not trusted by those he had persecuted, while persecuted by those who once were his friends.
Yet God enabled him to move through all that and do some amazing things.
God will also enable you! He will give you what you need for the task he has called you to.
The Bible Is Full of Examples
Paul was not the only one. The Bible is full of stories like Paul; people whose experiences became preparation ground for something God was going to use.
Think of Samuel or of David, or how about Joseph or Moses? Each one had different experiences in life, many of them not good, which became the preparation ground for what was ahead.
Samuel was given up by his parents and adopted into an incredibly dysfunctional home, which prepared him to become a prophet and judge at the moment the nation was in dire straights.
David lived on the run depending on God for his life, which prepared him as a godly, sympathetic king over a nation.
Joseph’s leadership qualities, which would eventually save Israel from famine, were forged in incredible adversity.
What He Does for Others, He Does for You
The same for you and me. What He’s done for others, he does for you as well!
You are not stuck in a rut; you are not forgotten and wasted somewhere. Your life has not passed you by any more than your life has been a mistake.
“You might be able to relate – initially feeling like you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, then finding out that God has put you there for a reason, to use you for his purposes. Are you in a situation like that right now, wondering how in the world you’re going to make a way for yourself, dig yourself out of that hole, turn it around for good? You are not alone. God is molding you and shaping you through this, preparing, positioning, and enabling you for great things that you can’t even imagine.”
For all of that to come together you will need to yield your life to God and surrender your life to Jesus. You need to do what Paul did and that is open your heart to the Lord.
If you do that, not only will He fill your life to overflowing with his presence but He will also bring you to the place of “for a time such as this”!
Scott Street MB Church invites you to write your reflections and thoughts about the weekly messages shared by lead Pastor Jurgen Rausch.