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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.”—Philemon 1:9–11 (NIV)
Today I want to give you something to think about . . . something that is going to blow your mind and show you the amazing character, power, and nature of God. I want you to meditate on this truth and consider how it applies to you personally: Where the devil had you at your darkest, God wants you to shine your brightest.
I believe God wants to use each and every one of us in great, amazing ways to advance His kingdom, to bring more lost souls into the family, to bring the hope and healing of the gospel. But where He wants to use us to do this is often surprising and amazing.
Consider what God did with the apostle Paul. Acts 9:1–2 (NIV) says, “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” Saul was looking to take Christ-followers from Damascus to Jerusalem in chains. But then, after his conversion, Acts 9:20–21 tells us that God led him to go into the synagogues to breathe life and truth in the very place he was doing his worst, to shine brightly in a place he had walked in darkness. He was going to use what the devil had meant for evil and turn it for good.
God wants to take the worst in our lives, the place where the devil had us at our darkest and lowest and redeem it! God wants to breathe life into the ashes and make something beautiful to give hope, to change our lives and the lives of others. My friends, there is so much more in your story in these areas. That’s why you so often see those who struggled with various strongholds now helping others break free from those same strongholds. That’s why you see those who experienced unspeakable grief partnering with God in their grief to write beautiful stories of redemption, reconciliation, and rescue.
That’s why Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon. You see, there was so much more to this man’s story than his outward circumstances. He was a runaway slave who robbed his master, found Jesus, was discipled and brought up in the faith, and then sent back to his master, to the place of his deepest hurt and greatest shame. But this time, he didn’t go back as a slave, but as a believer; not as a bondservant to Philemon, but as a brother in Christ; not as a useless worker but as a useful partner in the gospel. God sent this man back to show that He can use your greatest shame and most painful circumstances and write a beautiful glory story in it; to show us that He can take our painful past to bring help in the present and hope for the future.
Listen to what Wilber T. Dayton says: “God's grace rearranges the various conventions and hierarchies that order society's status quo . . . Biblical believers, then, are not surprised that the great majority of the social-transformative movements, such as the nineteenth-century women's suffrage and abolitionist movements and the twentieth-century human rights and prolife movements, are deeply rooted in Christian teaching and indebted to the work of faithful Christians.”
What area of your life is the darkest? Where did the devil try to beat you down? What pit did he throw you into? God can not only take you out of it, but equip you to help pull others out of it, too! Isn’t that beautiful? Maybe you’ve suffered injustice or abuse; maybe you’ve experienced unbearable grief or extreme trauma; maybe you were stuck in an addiction or destructive lifestyle . . . God can take the ashes of this and weave a beautiful tapestry as He sends you back to it with the power of the gospel and the Spirit of Christ in you!
So, this Easter, as we consider how God has saved us, how He has changed our lives, how He rescued us from where we were to where we are today in Christ, let us remember that there are still many people who are where we were. And let us pray about how God wants to use us to bring them out of darkness into His marvelous light.