Years ago I was scheduled to share my testimony at a small retreat home in the South. Ladies from several different churches were represented on this evening to hear from the line-up of speakers. I was thankful for the opportunity to share, yet unaware of what I would face by a particular speaker that would follow me.
I knew with certainty that my narrative would be quite different from the other speakers. My journey was not theirs, and it was lined with pits of sin and many mistakes. But what the Lord had done through it was what I wanted most to share.
As I sat before several women, conversing about my story, I was completely transparent about my former days and how God had redeemed them. Afterward, I took my seat in the back of the room while the speaker following me took her seat at the front of the room to begin her lecture. Yet instead of opening her story with an introduction or a simple hello, she let out a spoiling sigh in regard to my testimony, aligned with a remark that appeared to be somewhat disdaining. I was taken off guard, to say the least. But then, Jesus!
Throughout God’s Word, we read of countless individuals whom God used mightily to help build His Kingdom, in spite of their past.
Paul was a man who was used significantly by the Lord. However, he, too, often faced cold shoulders and doubting Thomases due to his past.
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened. Acts 9:10-19 NASB
Notice the Lord’s words once more to Ananias in regard to Paul: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.” Even though Ananias did not believe in Paul, God did. The matter was settled in regard to Paul’s past. But it was settled by God, not by man.
I remember the day I cried out to God and said, “How can a Holy God like You use somebody like me?” Within my spirit came, “It’s not about you; it’s about My Kingdom.”
A pastor once stated, “The church is a hospital for the sick.” I agree, yet so often the church is the one engaging in the wounding. Have we forgotten how God used David? Peter? Moses? Rahab?
A passage of Scripture that has recently caught my heart’s attention is Galatians 1:1. It states: “Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead). . .” This passage of Scripture notes that Paul was not sent by man but through Jesus Christ and God the Father.
Question to ponder: If God is the One who sends us – (and He is) – then who are we to allow man to set us down?
Back to the retreat story: Weeks after that particular speaking engagement, I received a phone call one day from a woman who was in that group of ladies at the retreat center. God had used my testimony in her life, for she too had a past. She requested to meet with me and wanted to bring another lady with her. Though one may have viewed my testimony as shocking, God used it to help others while opening a door to minister in a profound way.
It’s God’s business whom He uses and how. It’s about His Kingdom and not ours. Paul, in spite of everything he faced, continued moving forward with Jesus, taking Him at His Word. He was forgiven. He was called. And He was willing to be used by God, for the glory of God and for His Kingdom.
Do you see yourself today in this story? Do you, like the woman speaker, see others’ faults as unredeemable? Or, do you have a past that is battling to keep you in bondage? Settle the issue today. We are called by God, not by man. Don’t let others set you down, and don’t be the person who tries to clip the wings of those whom God has called to fly. Let God use you. Answer His call and move forward with Him to your destiny. Much awaits you!
About the Writer:
O’Shea is the mother of two and Nana of five and enjoys both roles tremendously. She is the Executive Director of Entrusted Hope Ministries where she loves serving through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church Dallas, O’Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. She received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi, her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and is currently working on her D.Ed.Min. at Southwestern in Family Ministries.