They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.
Galatians 1:23-24 ESV
Paul–the great missionary who penned many of the New Testament letters–was there at the stoning of Stephen. Yet he wasn’t there as a supporter of Stephen; he was the condoner of Stephen’s execution. Yes, Paul, the one who was greatly persecuted time and time again for declaring the message of the Gospel was once an opponent of that very same Gospel. And not just an opponent; he relentlessly pursued the followers of Jesus with the intent to destroy them.
But then God.
I love this part: but then God. Yes, God got a hold of Paul’s heart…and his life was never the same.
We have probably all heard of Paul’s great conversion, how God appeared to him on the road to Damascus. How God guided him to Ananias, who in turn spoke God’s words to Paul.
Again, if you have spent any time in the New Testament letters, you have heard the story. And do you know why we have all heard of it? Because Paul was not ashamed of where he came from; He was proud of what God had done.
In his letters Paul repeatedly reminds the early churches of his past. Yet he doesn’t recall his past with a woe is me, I am so ashamed of what I have done and could never forgive myself, mentality. He doesn’t share only when forced to do so–but instead he shares openly and often.
Why? Paul new his past was part of his testimony. Paul new God had plans to use that past to spread the Gospel. The above verse from Galatians reveals this. Even before people met Paul in person, they had heard about what God has done in his life and glorified God.
So here’s the lesson for today: Don’t look at your past as a source of shame and regret. See it as God sees it: evidence of His grace and ministry material. Yes, be not ashamed of things you have said and done before, but rather be encouraged knowing God can and will use that past to draw others to Himself.
If you allow Him to do so.
I encourage you today: allow Him to do so. Be willing today to share what God has done in your life. Be willing to share the mistskes you have made in the past. Your testimony may be the very thing God uses to provide hope to the one who has found himself where you once were. Or your testimony may be the very thing that keeps someone from landing where you once were. When we allow God to use all aspects of our lives, even the far from perfect ones, the possibilities are endless.
We all make mistakes. We all have a past. So instead of being chained by it. Instead of hiding from it. Let’s ask God to use it–use it for His glory. Let’s pray that when people hear our story they don’t see all we have done but how far we have come. May they, as those who heard of Paul, glorify God because of us.