I am not a bibilcal scholar. I love the Word and love to study it but I am by no means an expert. I keep myself enrolled in Bible study throughout the year because truth be told, as much as I love it, Bible study often is the first thing to fall off of my daily list of things to do when the calendar looks too full of commitments. Knowing that about myself, I made sure to sign up for a study this summer: Beth Moore’s Entrusted. We walked through the book of 2 Timothy which was written by Paul to Timothy while Paul was in prison in Rome. It was a powerful study that I enjoyed so much. One reason that I loved it was because I got to know a little more about this guy named Paul.
Paul didn’t always live life for Christ. Most of us know that about him; we know the story of his dramatic conversion after being confronted by the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus. We know he was a persecutor of the church–that he stoned believers, that he likely was present when Steven was killed, that his fury and zeal to persecute encompassed everyone, including women and children. He wasn’t a lovable guy…but then God stepped in.
When confronted by Christ, Paul’s life changed dramatically. No longer a persecutor of the church, he became one of the greatest proponents of Christ, facing ridicule, persecution, beatings, imprisonment, torture, loneliness, and eventually execution. It wasn’t an easy road that Christ started him down but Paul relentlessly persued the cross of Christ and nothing could make him change course once he set down the path of belief.
Paul wasn’t perfect. He continued being himself after he became a believer. He was a firey guy and that caused some challenges relationally for him. He had a huge falling out with Barnabas, who by all accounts was a pretty wonderful guy. Sometimes, our old self gets in the way as we walk out our faith. But God used even a dramatic falling out to continue to spread the Gospel throughout the world. Could the message have spread without these two men going their separate ways? Sure, but that’s not what happened. God’s fingerprints were on the mess that Paul made. He still used Paul. He wasn’t done with him yet. That is such an encouragement to me. My sin so often brings such pain but God can still bring beauty out of the ashes I create.
I see myself in Paul. My conversion was less dramatic than his, obviously, but it changed my life’s course completely. Nothing has been the same about my life’s direction because of my response to God’s call to come to Him. Everything changed…but there is still plenty of my old nature left to deal with. As I was listening this summer to the new music I couldn’t help but hear Paul’s story in the lyrics of our songs. Have you heard it?
In our Body & Soul Fitness classes this fall, we are working out to “You Found Me” by Mercy Me. (It is our low jack and knee repeater song.) The lyrics say: “Come out, come out wherever you are. Your greatest wound is barely a scar. You’re free indeed, no matter what you do.” Don’t you know Paul thought about who he had been and what he had done to God’s people? He knew his own past, but God still used him in a mightly way. During the bridge of that song, they sing, “You will never have to hide….Before the heavens, before the earth, I knew exactly where you were. I am yours and you are mine!” (Oh my word…I love that part!) Paul could have realized the damage he had done to God’s people and let that paralyze him. He could have let shame keep him from coming to the disciples and then what would we know of his story? But he didn’t do that, instead he didn’t hide from what he had done, nor who he had been. He acknowledged it (he calls himself the greatest of sinners) in so many ways and then let God continue to use him to spread the Gospel. His testimony changed hearts and called people to the Lord all over the world in his own time and still even today.
The song’s high point is the chorus that says: “You found me! Never, never, never going to be the same, ever, ever, ever since that day, You found me…” That’s Paul’s story, true, but it’s our story too! God knew what Paul had done. God knows what you have done but in His great mercy, He forgives you then uses you (and me) for His Glory! That’s so crazy, so counterintuitive, so merciful, so beautiful and it reflects perfectly the character of our God!
He will use you, no matter what your past looks like. He will tell His story and bring Himself glory through you. He will not leave you blinded on the road. He will give you the courage to change your life…even if that looks completely insane to the people around you. He has known you since the beginning of time. He has found you and when you surrender to Him…oh my, you never will be the same.
He has found you. Rest in the glory of that knowledge.