“You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion--how I violently persecuted the Christians. I did my best to get rid of them. I was one of the most religious Jews of my own age, and I tried as hard as possible to follow all the old traditions of my religion. ” (Galatians 1:13-14) NLT
Have you ever thought that there's too much in your past for God to use you? Maybe something you would consider shameful or embarrassing either in your past or your present has come to light. Maybe your reputation has been damaged. Or maybe it's something no one ever found out about; no one knows except you... and God. Many of us have argued that we can’t be used by God because of the ugliness in our past. Paul (called Saul before his conversion to Christianity) is a great example of how untrue that statement is. Over and over we find examples in the Bible of God intentionally choosing people that we might not have chosen for one reason or another. Moses had enough trouble speaking that he needed a spokesperson to talk to Pharoah for him. Jesus’ disciples were probably not who we would have chosen to be the leaders of the early church. Jesus seemed to really like fishermen. But honestly, how many fishermen do you need? Matthew was a tax collector, which at the time was considered worse than the more general euphemism of “sinner”. Shouldn't we find someone to help with administrative tasks? And maybe a marketing specialist?
Could it be that God chooses people because of their weaknesses? Because of their past? Maybe God wants to show that His impressiveness and His ability are what matters--not ours. Actually, Paul’s past made his conversion that much more surprising, unexpected, and powerful. It caused people to ask how this man who murdered Christians suddenly become one of their key leaders seemingly overnight. The sudden and profound change in Paul gave enormous credibility to the eyewitness accounts of the resurrection of Jesus. Clearly this is a man who had a life changing experience!
“Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath. He was eager to destroy the Lord’s followers, so he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them--both men and women--back to Jerusalem in chains.
As he was nearing Damascus on this mission, a brilliant light from heaven suddenly beamed down upon him! He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ’Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?’
‘Who are you, sir?’ Saul asked.
And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’
The men with Saul stood speechless with surprise, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice, but they saw no one!” (Acts 9:1-7) NLT
I’m pretty sure that would have gotten our attention as well.
Jesus doesn’t require our impressiveness to accomplish his goals. As we follow Him, we may discover that the things we are least proud of are the things He wants to leverage. At the end of the day, our job is to say yes. We simply need to be available and to follow His lead. In a way, we're just along for the ride! He will give us what we need in order to do what needs to be done, and he will take responsibility for the outcome of the journey. Jesus is asking for volunteers. Is your hand up?