And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.
We all have a past, things we’ve done before we were saved that we regret so strongly. We know the ways we have failed God and hurt others. But with God, our sins are forgiven and forgotten through the blood of Christ, and He does not hold them against us. He knows everything we have done, but past is past. He also knows what we have yet to do and wants us to go forward in serving Him in what He has given us to do.
Paul is saying to the Lord, “Everyone knows what I have done, how I’ve persecuted Christians and had a part in Stephen’s death.” But Paul’s sins have been forgiven. When God looks at Paul, He doesn’t see Saul the persecutor, but Paul the minister to the Gentiles. We, too, can depart from the old version of ourselves, the notorious sinners that we were. We can depart from our mistakes and failures and rest in the forgiveness God has given to us.
Let’s not let our failures of the past prevent us from moving forward. Let’s not sin further by using them as an excuse not to go where God calls us and do what He’s asked us to do. We’ve failed before, and we will fail again. We’ve sinned before, and we will sin again. But God’s forgiven us before, and He will forgive us again. He’s used us before, and He will use us again. Paul was once an adamant persecutor of Christians, and he became one of the greatest ministers for Christ. So no matter what we may have done, we can still be used mightily by God.
God tells Paul to leave his past behind. He pushes him forward to move on to a new place among people he will impact greatly. Perhaps we’re at a place in our lives where we’re focusing too much on the mistakes we’ve made. Maybe we’re struggling to move on past some sin that overtook us. Maybe we can’t forgive ourselves for doing something we thought was right that turned out to be wrong. Let’s prayerfully seek to follow God’s command to Paul and depart from the things of our past. No, we can’t change what we’ve done. We can’t make others forget who may have been witnesses to what we’ve done. But we can go forward to something new with God’s grace and God’s blessing.