There was once a young man zealous in his religion. Born in Tarsus, a hotbed for Roman activity, he had the privilege of studying in Jerusalem with the ranking rabbi of the era. A well-to-do family, comfortable lifestyle, and top notch education afforded the man a pathway to prominence. He stewarded his opportunity with fervor and boldness, rising so quickly that at the age of 30 he already had a role on the Sanhedrin and was becoming one of the most promising young Pharisees in the country.
He began to lead a charge against Christians, persecuting them even unto death. He believed these people were blasphemous and had to be dealt with severely. One day a disciple of Jesus, Stephen, began to preach which infuriated the Sanhedrin. Witnesses took off their robes and laid them at the feet of this young Pharisee, and as they picked up their stones to brutally kill the apostle, the man watched on approvingly. The disciple was killed and the man set off to further crush the budding Christian community.
This man was Saul, but we now know him as Paul. The great Paul who became the first missionary, who preached the Gospel boldly, and who wrote most of the New Testament. This man went from a rising star among the Pharisees and persecuting the early church to one of the biggest proponents of the Gospel. What an incredible transformation!
What encourages me the most from his story, and it's really quite simple, is that if Paul can be redeemed and used, anyone can! The guy murdered Christians and God saved him to be used to spread the Gospel more than most. It goes to show that even if you think you're too far gone or you've done too much harm to be of any use to God, you're mistaken. If God can use someone who murdered His people, He can and WANTS to use you for His purposes.
Paul's story is chalked full of great stories of practical lessons but that would take a book to explore. Today I want to leave you with the simple message that you are not too far gone. You have not committed so much sin that you are no longer of any use to God. I've been there and struggled with these very feelings but talking from personal experience, I know God redeems!
If you're struggling to let go of baggage or shame, take a look at Paul's life. Over the many years he was in ministry, he did look back a time or two and comment on his failure. But Paul never allowed those failures to dictate how God used him. He never allowed them to become a weight that interfered with his purpose.
Are you struggling to move on from your past? After an honest evaluation, what is holding you back?
Do you beleive God redeems...even you?