For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.1 Corinthians 15: 9-1
Some time ago I listened to part of a conversation between two men in ministry who were discussing the idea that mistakes in our past tend to limit our opportunities to lead. We often feel unworthy to speak out in areas of personal failure.
How have you responded to failure in your life? No one had failed so miserably than Paul. In his zeal for his religious life, he had persecuted the church of God. He stood by and gave his approval to the death by stoning the first Christian martyr, Stephen. He rounded up others to put them in jail. He created havoc for the early church and then he met Christ.
How did he overcome his past? It’s easy to read into Paul’s comment on working hard, but Paul responded and depended on the grace of God. In fact, in one single verse above, Paul mentions God’s grace three times.
A healthcare professional once relayed a story of a client (without sharing any personal information) who fell hard for a man she hoped to be her “knight in shining armor” only to find herself alone and suffering from a chronic sexually transmitted disease. She is unable to forgive herself and remains locked in a prison of her own making.
Contrast her response to that of Paul and then think about your (our) own lives. Are we stuck in our past failures or have we embraced the grace of God and moved forward in our lives?