Have you ever had a conversation like this with yourself in the mirror? “Dude, who are you kidding? How could God ever use you?” “Seriously?”
About your birth
Maybe you were conceived out of wedlock. Or perhaps one or both of your parents were not Christians. You may not have grown up in the church or around teaching from the Bible. Does God use people like that?
About your life
Maybe you have messed up. A lot. Perhaps you used to make fun of Christians or mocked them behind their backs or even to their faces. Maybe you were a bully and found ways to embarrass Christian kids at school or adults at work.
Your past may be riddled with all sorts of events that you find shameful and embarrassing today. And that’s just the outside. If people could ever get a glimpse of what you have thought or desired in your heart, everyone would draw the same conclusion–there is no way God would use a person like you. Really?
A Great Passage of Scripture
The apostle Paul found himself in a very similar situation. Did you know that? The statement is embedded in a larger discussion about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul explains that Jesus appeared to Peter, and the 12 apostles, and to James, and to five hundred others. But then he says this:
“And last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9).
About Paul’s birth
“As to one untimely born.” What in the world does that mean? We’re not exactly sure, but it was certainly no compliment. Often the original word (ektroma) was used to describe an abortion, a miscarriage, or a premature birth. Paul may have just been speaking about the fact that he was born later than people like Peter or James and therefore too young to be one of Jesus’ disciples during His public ministry.
About Paul’s life
Have you ever considered the significance of the fact that Paul formerly persecuted followers of Christ? He was even present when one of the church’s first deacons, a godly man named Stephen, was stoned to death for his faith in Christ. Luke recorded it this way, “When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 7:58). A few verses later we read these haunting words, “Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death” (Acts 8:1). What a legacy–“in hearty agreement” with putting a faithful man like Stephen to death.
Here’s the lie of the devil–if your your birth or your life is riddled with events or circumstances that are embarrassing or shameful, God simply cannot or will not use you. What’s the use of even trying?
A Great Conclusion
This is why it is so important to consider God’s Word in its context. Yes, Paul was “untimely born.” And yes, his life was filled with choices that were unimaginably wicked. But keep reading.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
Friend, your story is not ultimately about the circumstances of your birth or the decisions of your life. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The real question is whether you have accepted God’s free gift of salvation in Christ (Romans 6:23) and whether you are allowing God’s grace to continue to mold you into the image of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
So what do you see when you look into the mirror? A person who was “untimely born”? Or an individual who has messed up in too many ways to count? Or do you see beyond your disappointments and failures and see the grace of God working in and through you.
Can God use a person like you? He used Paul, didn’t He? Let’s be sure that His grace toward us does not “prove vain.”