I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.
We don’t have to be defined by the actions of our past. God’s mercy applies to each of us no matter what we may have done. But the truth is that even the regrettable moments from our past are a part of our testimony. No one is perfect, and therefore none of us were perfect before we came to know the Lord as personal Savior. Paul’s dedication to persecuting Christians led him down the road where he met Jesus. And isn’t it true that our failures and mistakes are often what lead us right to Him in the first place? And while we would never boast of the sins from our past, our testimony of what God brought us out of and the ways God changed us personally can be a powerful tool that God uses to work in someone else’s heart.
Paul’s conversion story was a powerful one, and it is recounted several times in the Bible. It proclaims the love of Christ toward one of His staunchest enemies and gives sinners everywhere hope that His mercy is enough for them, too. So instead of running from our past mistakes or trying to cover up the fact that we are sinners, too, let’s use our testimony to show others the graciousness of God as He worked in our lives, the kinds of things we have been able to overcome through His power, and the amazing fact that God’s mercy is there for us no matter what we have done.
We don’t need to share every detail, nor do we need to confess every sin to the people around us, but sometimes God’s Spirit guides us to a person who can relate to our particular struggle, someone who our story will resonate with. And what a special opportunity that is to be used by God in someone’s life, to be a living illustration that can help open someone’s heart to the truth of God and the love of Christ.
Paul had the opportunity to speak before the rulers of Rome. These were powerful people who could sentence him to death. And instead of talking about all he had accomplished for God in the church and all the ways he ministered to others, he told them about a sinful man who met Jesus one day and was never the same again. He told them how everything God had said in the past was true and that that was what he was basing his life on from that point forward. May we be as willing to share our story with those who may benefit from seeing how God has changed our lives.