God Is Up To Something Great: When It’s Not Fair
by Jurgen Rausch
“We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5: 3, 4
Until The Pieces Fall Into Place
Joseph, my hero! He’s the come-back kid extraordinaire!
I marvel at Joseph’s tenacity. I admire his ability to pick up the pieces time and time again, pick himself up and keep on going.
Seldom do you find someone with as much determination not to let his circumstances crush him as Joseph.
Last week we looked at the incredible twists and turns of this crazy roller coaster that was Joseph’s life, where behind it all stood a God who often times invisibly guided his steps in some of the most bizarre circumstances.
This morning, we want to take a closer look at Joseph’s reactions with the twists and turns of his life.
How did Joseph fare when his life was taken apart again and again, especially when he had no idea that God was in the roller coaster ride.
For most of the time Joseph was flying blind. As bright as he was, he could not have seen the invisible hand of God behind the crazy scenes of his life.
As far as he was concerned, these were random acts of incredibly bad luck.
None of his life made sense until much later, when he stares into the gaunt faces of his emaciated brothers who drop out of the blue to show up at his door, that the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
Not until that moment did it dawn on him that God had been in these incredible twists and turns.
No wonder it says that: “He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.” Gen. 45:2
This reaction makes perfect sense when you realize that everything he had ever gone through, including a haunting childhood dream of his family bowing down to him, came down to this moment when his brothers were literally at his feet.
No wonder he wept. You would weep as well if you were to realize how everything that’s ever happened to you had a higher purpose than what could be seen with the naked eye.
It’s astounding to think that even the most unfair things in life are being shaped into an eternal purpose.
As Joseph said near the end of his life: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Gen. 50:19
Wow, the saving of many lives; how true that is on so many levels.
There is no way that Joseph could have known what the saving of many lives actually meant.
That it wasn’t just the saving of his people nor the saving of the many lives who were spared in the epic famine, but that the saving of many lives had to do with enshrining the survival of a people out of whom some day would come the Messiah.
Put it together for a moment: If those children of Abraham would have perished in the famine, then not only would there have been no children of Israel as the light of the world and as the cradle of the Messiah, but there would have been no Messiah who would have saved even you from your sin.
Of course, many other moons also had to line up to bring about the coming of the Messiah, but Joseph was definitely one of them.
This means that the misfortunes of his life had far greater implications that he could ever have imagined.
In fact, the full impact of his life on earth would only be felt long after he slipped into eternity. It’s safe to say that he died without knowing the total significance of the twists and turns of his life.
If the full significance of these events was never completely revealed to him until he got to eternity, then it’s safe to say the same for you and me.
Making the Best of the Bad
None of this was known to him when he was struggling through life.
He could not have known God’s higher purpose in any of the events – both positive and negative - as they were unfolding in front of him.
While it was thrill to ride the crest of the wave, what do you think it must have been like when his life crashed in – when he was thrown into the bottom of the well, sold into slavery, accused and framed, tossed into a rotting prison and forgotten there?
The amazing thing is that Joseph determined to serve the Lord, maintain his integrity, and do his very best no matter where he was in life.
He didn’t prance around showing off his new robe in front of his brothers, but simply carried out his father’s instructions to the best of his ability.
He didn’t mope around at Potiphar’s household, but instead applied himself to the tasks at hand to the best of his ability.
He didn’t fall into despair when he was innocently jailed, but instead applied himself to the tasks at hand.
He didn’t become an angry man when he was forgotten in that jail, but continued on to do the best he could.
He didn’t rub it into the noses of his brothers nor did he seek revenge when he brothers at long last showed up.
Turning Lemons into Lemon Juice
Joseph displayed an amazing attitude of always turning lemons into lemonade, with just a dash of sugar.
The author Robin Carr wrote:
“Everyone faces adversity; it is an integral part of the life experience. Who you are on the other side of the trial depends on how you face it. In the Bible, Joseph, the son of Jacob, provides an excellent example of how to face adversity. Despised by his own brothers, sold into slavery by them and then wrongfully cast into prison by one who originally trusted him explicitly, Joseph could have grown angry, resentful and sought for revenge. Instead, he developed character traits that enabled him to come out of his trials a better person.”
He kept his nose down, did the best he could making lemonade with his lemons and, in the process, developed some amazing character traits.
That’s how you make lemonade. You use your circumstances to shape your character.
One of the first things we notice about Joseph is this uncanny ability to accept whatever situation in life he is in and do the best he can.
An example of that is when he is taken away form his family and sold into slavery: “Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.” Gen. 39:1
This now becomes his new normal. The very next thing you read is how he seemingly accepts his circumstance, which allows him to be put to good use.
He doesn’t whine nor complain, but accepts his new reality as a slave and goes to work for Potiphar. It is now the new normal for him and it allows him to settle down and simply do his best with what he’s been dealt.
He does the same thing again in prison. Acceptance of his circumstance becomes the pattern that allows him to develop the second character trait that we notice about him and that is his incredible work ethic.
2. Hard work
The guy had an amazing work ethic. He always worked hard no matter what or where.
Not that his circumstances created his work ethic, since he was always a hard worker, but that his acceptance of his new realities allowed him to focus on working hard no matter where he was.
He worked hard for his dad as an errand boy, gopher and junior shepherd. He worked hard for old Potiphar and made him look good. Joseph even had the warden smell like a flower and once he got to Pharaoh, the man was in his element.
What was said of Potiphar, could have been said of the warden or even Pharaoh:
“When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.” Gen. 39:3-6
“Joseph didn’t seek to undermine those who enslaved him. He actually helped them to prosper. This happened in the house of Potiphar as well as in prison. They, in turn, recognized his talents and blessings. If you don’t work hard through your adversity, others may never see your true abilities.” Robin Carr
Not only could he always embrace the new normal and had an incredibly work ethic, but Joseph also had the patience of Job, before Job was ever a twinkle in his daddy’s eye!
He kept his nose to the ground. He did the best that he could. He kept the dreams alive and had incredible patience with his circumstances.
He never preempted God, never took matters into his own hands and never tried to short circuit the life that was dealt him.
Sitting in the bottom of a well, not a problem, I’ll wait! Sold into slavery? Not a problem, I’ll serve. Forgotten in prison? No worries, I’ll just keep working for the warden!
He says to the butler in prison:
“Joseph knew the Lord would bless him because of his dreams. So he endured these trials with patience, knowing the blessings would come. After interpreting the dreams of the baker and the butler he asked the butler to tell the Pharaoh of his predicament. After that, he continued to work hard in prison, trusting in the Lord’s timetable. Remembering the blessings the Lord promises will help you to patiently endure.” Robin Carr
For two more years Joseph languishes in prison. Instead of grumbling and complaining he showed the same patience and trust in the Lord that had served him so well in so many circumstances.
So we see acceptance, hard work and patience.
We also see integrity. In fact, integrity is what Joseph is remembered most for. He not only kept his head down but also kept his nose clean.
“Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.” Gen. 39:6, 10
This is a man who does the right thing, even when no one is watching.
Say what you may about Joseph, no one can touch his integrity. He didn’t cheat his dad, never lied to his brothers and gave Potiphar, the warden and Pharaoh every reason to trust him.
No wonder he was promoted again and again and again. Somebody that trustworthy will have the confidence of those around him.
“Be true to who you are, even in adversity. That is the true test of your integrity.” Robin Carr
What else do you notice? How about humility? Trials have a way of humbling you and certainly Joseph comes across as a very humble guy.
It wasn’t arrogance but youthful exuberance that had him eagerly share his dreams with his brothers when he was young.
In fact, when he sees them again years later there is no arrogance at all but only tears of joy and a determination to test their sincerity. He also showed a great willingness to serve his family by keeping them alive.
Every indication we have is that his head never swelled up or that he believed the lie that he really was a ‘somebody’.
He could have pranced into Pharaoh’s court as the big dream interpreter but he didn’t; instead his response was classic Joseph:
“It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” Gen. 41:16
This phrase, “It is not in me”, in many ways was his signature. He learned in the bottom of wells, in the darkest of dungeons and at the end of his ropes that it was not in his own merits at all. If there was going to be success in any venture, it was going to be God doing it.
“Joseph had learned through all his adversities it was the Lord who was blessing him and helping him. He didn’t take the credit for himself. After coming through a trial, you need to recognize whose hand got you through. It is the Lord’s.” Robin Carr
What about generosity? He could have withheld his gifts, his talents and his abilities to bless others just for spite. He does none of that.
He helps Potiphar and the keeper of the prison to prosper. He interprets the dreams of the butler and the baker. He interprets Pharaoh’s dream and then uses his organizational skills to save the Egyptian kingdom. By doing so, Joseph also saves his own family.
Generosity marked his life, as did his incredibly ability to forgive. Where do you start?
Joseph forgave his dad for setting him up by playing favorites. He forgave his brothers who did so much damage to such a young innocent. He forgave Potiphar and his wife for falsely imprisoning him. He forgave the butler for promptly forgetting about him. His life embodied forgiveness.
I want to end with forgiveness, this morning, since forgiveness unlocks the key to everything else.
None of the other character traits would have been possible had Joseph not carried with him a spirit of forgiveness at every turn of his tumultuous life.
With his incredible ability to forgive, Joseph becomes for us a type of Christ. Above all else, Jesus is known for his ability to forgive the sins of all of us.
How significant that we would end at the Table of the Lord today. Your ability to forgive your adversaries and those who have meant to bring you harm, lies in your ability to accept God’s forgiveness in your life.
How much of that was known to Joseph in those years I don’t know. But I do know that his ability to forgive his brothers and everyone who ever meant to harm him was placed in him by the same God who would later say to us:
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Col. 3:13
Receiving God’s forgiveness in your life enables you not only to forgive all those who have sinned against you, but also to develop all these other characteristics we see in the life of Joseph such as acceptance, hard work, patience, humility, integrity, generosity.
Forgiveness unlocks it all.
God Is Up To Something Great: Mistakes Can Become Miracles!
by Jurgen Rausch
Failure is Not in Their Vocabulary
I am amazed at how some people can pick themselves up after a fall, and how the phrase ‘failure’ doesn’t seem to be in their vocabulary.
Colonel Sanders was turned down over 1000 times before finally somebody agreed to give his secret recipe a shot!
Walt Disney was turned down over 300 times in his attempt to get financing for this crazy idea called Disney World.
Michael Jordan was such a failure at basketball that he was cut from his high school team only to overcome his handicap to become the greatest player ever. This is what he said:
“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
It’s absolutely true that yesterday’s failures can be the seedbed for tomorrow’s successes.
God can take our failures, sins and mistakes and use them to make us into better people.
This is not to excuse bad behavior or somehow make God’s grace cheap, but the truth of the matter is that God can turn our past mistakes and failures into success stories.
Just like a trial can become either a test from God to grow you or a temptation from the devil to defeat you, so your failures can either become building blocks for growth or road blocks of shame and inaction that keep you paralyzed.
Biblical Superheroes Who Failed
Did you know that the Bible is full of stories of spectacular failures that become building blocks for growth and success?
Just think about the who’s who of the Bible. Most of the superheroes of the Bible were people who overcame incredible personal failures.
A careful study of the Bible reveals that most of the great figures of Scripture experienced failure at one time or another, yet those failures did not keep them from effective service for God. Though they failed at some point, and often in significant ways, they not only recovered from their failure, but they used it as a tool of growth—they learned from their failure, confessed it to God, and were often able to be used in even mightier ways. Hampton Keathley
So name your superhero from the Bible and I can almost guarantee you that I can tell you about a failure or two in their lives.
Abraham anybody? The father of faith was fearful and thus lied about his wife and just about got killed! How is that for heroism?
Joseph maybe? His impetuousness and youthful arrogance caused a huge rift in his family and set events in the motion that not only broke his father’s heart but led to his own imprisonment.
Moses perhaps? I don’t need to tell you how he smote an Egyptian in a fit of rage.
Shall I go on? Maybe David, the greatest King of Israel is your superhero. Well, the great king not only had an affair but also arranged for the death of her husband. How is that for greatness?
All of these great people had spectacular failures in their lives the likes of which would have disqualified them from ever serving in leadership roles in most of our modern churches!
The Greatest Failure Of All Times
But above all of them ranks one who, hands down, wins the trophy for least likely to succeed and the one with most spectacular failure of all.
Do you know who that is? Peter. That’s right, the great Peter!
Peter, the great apostle and one of the top three leaders of the early church, had huge failures. Peter the bishop of Rome; Peter the author of New Testament books; Peter of the inner circle of Jesus’ closest friends. That Peter!
That Peter had a litany of failures. Where shall we start? Let’s see:
Ø His jockeying for prominence among Jesus’ disciples
Ø His misplaced passion that resulted in chopping the ear off a soldier
Ø His rebuke of rebuke Jesus and attempt to block his path
Ø His brilliant conclusion that Jesus was dead and that all was lost
That’s the Peter I am talking about, and I haven’t even mentioned the greatest failure of all, which was what? His denial of Jesus made worse only by his boast that he would never ever deny the Lord, ever!
Unbelievable! Such failures would absolutely be the ruin of many a man.
Let’s take a closer look at the shocking denial of Jesus:
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:31-34
54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”
57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.
58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied.
59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”
60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.”
Luke 22: 54-62
What a sad story. But there are a couple of really key things in what is otherwise a sad tale of failure.
The Tug of War Between Good and Evil
The first thing I want you to notice is the tug of war between good and evil over Peter; the same tug of war that goes on for all of us.
There is Jesus praying on the one hand, and Satan seeking to sift him on the other hand.
Peter was clearly a disciple of the Lord (we would call him a Christian) and yet Satan was looking to “sift all of (him) you as wheat.”
Meaning that Satan was determined to show that there was no kernel of faith inside Peter’s stalk and that the wind would blow him away and expose him for the fraud Satan made him out to be.
Satan was waiting to show that, if given the right circumstances, Peter would even deny Jesus.
That’s the pull of darkness on all of us and points to our capacity for spectacular failures.
Yet, in this tug of war between good and evil, evil is not going to win!
The last laugh goes to Jesus who, even as Peter was being sifted, would pull him the other way: “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.”
It is remarkable that Jesus would intercede for Peter, and that while hell is pulling him one way, heaven is also pulling him another way.
I want to say to you that if you bow your knee to Jesus and ask him to come into your life and do your best to harmonize your life to what He wants for you, from that moment on the pull on your life toward darkness will be countered by God’s mighty pull toward light!
There is a tug of war that explains our ability to commit colossal failures in life but it also explains how you don’t have to go to the dark side.
Failures Not To Cheapen Grace
We’re not talking about committing failures so that you can see God’s grace or experience the God of the second chance.
I am all for God’s grace that picks up the pieces and puts Humpty Dumpty back together again, but I am even more for God’s grace that can keep you from failures and sins in the first place!
The tug of war means that you can choose to land in a place of non-failures and save yourself the pain and grief of failures in the first place.
Every sin has its consequences and every failure has its aftermath.
David had to live with the consequences of his failures all the rest of his life. Jacob had a physical scar that reminded him and all those who saw him limping, of his previous failures.
Peter had to go through the agony of public reinstatement and Paul always carried with him the burden of having murdered people.
If your marriage ends, you will be divorced. If you commit a crime, you will be a criminal. If you are a substance abuser, your body will pay the price. Jesus can save you, but these consequences still remain.
It is better that God’s grace keeps you from failures in the first place, which is a far greater testimony than the one of having been redeemed from your failures.
The tug of war suggests that you can end up on the side of heaven by keeping you safe and away from the miserable mistakes so many people make.
Which was Jesus’ prayer for Peter and for every one of us: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail”.
That’s the tug of war I am talking about.
Life after Failure!
The second thing I want you to notice is that even if you fail, there is life after failure.
I love the fact that Jesus spoke of life after failure. In fact, Jesus spoke of it before the failure actually happened.
Do you realize that Jesus saw it happen before it happened, and nothing about his feelings and attitude toward Peter changed just because of what would happen? That’s so remarkable.
Jesus saw it. He saw it before it happened. He predicted that it would happen and spoke of life after it did happen.
“Jesus knew in advance what Peter would do. Nevertheless, He didn’t stop him. He simply told him, ‘When you get back to your senses, you will be useful again in my Kingdom’.” Tony Evans
Most remarkable of all is that Jesus chose Peter even though he knew that Peter would deny him three times!
“I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” Jesus said and yet it did! Peter’s faith failed.
Jesus knew that and yet it changed nothing toward his thoughts of Peter. Look at what he says: “When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
It’s remarkable that, as far as Jesus is concerned, there is life after failure, even as horrible a failure as Peter’s three fold denial of the Lord himself.
There is life after failure! It will be a different life. It will be a life with consequences, but it is still a life worth living!
Jacob would always carry those scars. David would always have upheaval in his house and Peter would always carry the burden of the memory. But all three, and countless others, would experience an incredible life of blessing after spectacular failures.
The night sets in. The denials happen, one worse than the other. The cock crows three times. Jesus looks at Peter with love. Peter weeps bitterly. Then the morning breaks!
Every time you get to the darkest hour of your night God gives you another day!
The morning breaks and Peter is given a new day to do what is right, to repent of his sin and then to go on and do even greater things.
Greater Things than These!
And that brings me to my last point. Peter, because of his colossal failures, would be able to provide a ministry that he otherwise would never have been able to.
“When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Peter came out of this like a rock. He never went into that space and place again. Never again would he deny the Lord or even come close.
It gave him a unique perspective with those whose hands grow weak and feeble.
On more than one occasion Peter would encourage his fellow believers not to give up nor to abandon and deny.
It gave him a sensitivity that others would not have, and that he himself would never have had, had he not experienced that failure.
God’s grace is so amazing and far reaching that He can even use your failures!
Hand Him Your Lemons!
So here is what you walk away with this morning: Seek God’s mercy and experience his amazing grace.
Give him your lemons and let him make lemonade!
Give him the things in your life that aren’t so good, the things you are not so proud of and pray, “Lord, here they are. I wish my life were different, but it’s not. I wish I could change things, but I can’t.”
Then let God do his work! God’s grace can get into the most impossible messes of our lives and turn the mess around.
Even if the mess is our fault, if we confess our sins to him He will forgive us and make something beautiful out of the messes of our lives.
“If we let Him work, God doesn’t waste a thing. And if you give Him a chance, he certainly won’t waste you – He’s up to something great in your life.” Tony Evans
Let him take your lemons and make lemonade!
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”!
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.