Several years ago, as I drew near to the mid-point of my life, I began to wonder whether or not I had used my time on earth effectively. I had come to know Christ at an early age–having been raised in a Christian home and steeped in evangelical teaching–but, as a Christian, I wondered whether I had made any real impact on the kingdom of God. I had learned so much through my life experience and the wonderful people God had placed around me over the years, but had I effected other human beings in any real, tangible way? And more importantly, was I really worthy to teach anything? Given my past failures, could I be an influencer for the kingdom?
You see, years ago, as a young adult, I made some bad decisions in my life. In fact, there was a period of time when I stepped out of God’s will and was living somewhat irresponsibly in self-centered abandon, far from the path God had laid out for me. I went through a painful divorce (you can read more about that here: 5 Marriage Myths Busted) and found myself as a single parent for a while. Eventually, the Lord drew me back to himself and I realized that, just as the prodigal son, I needed to run back into the arms of my Father. It was a period of my life of which I am not proud, especially due to the fact that I was a Christian at the time and knew good and well that I was not walking in the truth. Maybe many of you can relate to wandering away from God’s path and yet, feeling the pull of the Holy Spirit on your life–convicting you and drawing you back into the fold.
So, can one who has made mistakes (even big ones), go on to become an effective influencer in the kingdom of God? The answer is “Yes, yes, and yes!” and here is why:
- Falling down hard has a tendency to knock the pride right out of you! Many of the problems that we bring on ourselves are due to pride. And when we are prideful, thinking that we cannot fall or that we are better than those “other people” who have experienced problems such as: divorce, alcoholism, drug addiction, imprisonment, spousal abuse, bearing children out-of-wedlock, or abortion–then it is impossible to effectively minister to them! Once you have gone through the fire and realize that you are neither perfect nor infallible, you gain a sort of empathetic mercy that you never had before.; you come to understand that sin is sin, and that we are all susceptible to it.
- Who do think allowed (not caused) you to go through those trials anyway? I mean, God is in control of everything, right? He is all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present–God. He did not lead you into sin but, he certainly allowed it to happen. Is it possible that he allowed it to happen for a reason–a reason that might one day be impactful to the kingdom? Is there someone out there who might just benefit from the lessons you have learned? Someone who needs to know there is a way forward? God can and will use the trials and issues that have impacted your life to move someone else towards salvation or into a closer relationship with him.
- There are numerous examples in the Word of God where broken, sinful–even formerly despicable–people were used by God to do great things. First of all, there is David, King of Israel. He committed adultery, deception, and murder, (2 Samuel 11 and 12) and yet he became beloved of God–“a man after God’s own heart”. We see his repentance in Psalm 51:1-4 when the prophet Nathan came to him after his sin with Bathsheba (“For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me”), and his brokenness in Psalm 51:10-17 (“My sacrifice, oh God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”) Then there is Saul of Tarsus, who later became the apostle Paul. He is known to have murdered and persecuted Christians in the early church. Acts 9 tells of his conversion. Paul was certainly not perfect, but became a very useful tool of encouragement, inspiration, and teaching in the early church. In fact, he is still inspiring Christians today as they read the New Testament, much of which was written by Paul. And how about Peter? He denied that he even knew Jesus, in his very time of need…3 times! (Mark 14:66-72) He was later used by God to teach, heal, encourage, and grow the early church. And lastly, there was Rahab. She was a prostitute by trade yet she gave refuge to the Jewish spies and helped them escape. (Joshua chapter 2) She is mentioned as an example of faith supported by works in James 2:25 and is also listed in the great “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 and the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1:5! This is not even a complete list of all the broken people who God used in the Bible but, I would certainly say all of these sinful, flawed people had a great impact on the kingdom of God, wouldn’t you?
If you, my friend, have gone off the deep end, messed up, hit bottom, or wallowed in the “pig pen”, God can still use you to impact the world for Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, there will be certain people who only you will be able to reach! Now, if your experience is still fresh, it may be some time before you’re emotionally or spiritually ready to share your story effectively. It really depends on whether or not you have come to terms with your issues and if you have really seen your experience through the filter of God’s truth. For example, several years after my divorce, the Lord revealed to me the gravity of my sin. I was broken and came to terms with my culpability in the demise of my marriage. I no longer made excuses or blamed others. I looked at the situation with spiritual eyes and tried to see my former spouse as the Lord saw him. I asked the Lord’s forgiveness and eventually the forgiveness of my ex.
If you are holding on to grudges, excuses, anger or bitterness, then you may not be ready to help others. Oftentimes, if we haven’t truly repented or dealt with our issues before God, we end up just airing our own gripes and enabling others to continue in sin. In the case of divorce, for example, we may fall into the trap of simply swapping stories about how awful our spouses were, when, in fact, what is needed is for a Christian friend to steer them to the truth of God’s Word.
If you have the desire for God to use your story to minister to others, first, get right with God; in repentance, seek Him for healing and forgiveness. Then, make the attempt to mend any broken relationships. Ask the forgiveness of those you may have hurt. Forgive those who have hurt you, even if they haven’t asked for it. You will be able to help others when you have a clear conscience before God and have mended those relationships that are possible to mend. Sometimes so many years have gone by that we cannot do so, but, relationships should be restored whenever possible. And then, realize that you will never be perfect…sin is an unfortunate reality in this fallen world. But, God uses repentant and willing sinners to share his gospel message of love, mercy, and forgiveness. Let’s face it…he has no one else to work with!
Begin now to use your experiences, good and bad, to influence and encourage others in the faith. Your particular story happened for a reason. Don’t waste it. You don’t have to be perfect to impact the kingdom. Remember the old saying,”Christians aren’t perfect…just forgiven!” God can use little old broken, sinful, tattered and tarnished, you and I…just like he used mighty King David!