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The rear-view mirror


GAME CHANGING TRUTH |

...Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”

John 5:17 (NIV)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)

THOUGHT IN A SENTENCE |

God uses everything in your life as preparation for kingdom service.

Personal testimony time. When God's call first became clear in 1969 I ran as hard and fast as I could. In 1979, after ten years that included college graduation, launch of a banking career, marriage, two children, two houses, and a shift to hospital financial administration, Harriet and I answered that call, sold everything, and moved to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to begin formal theological and ministry education. At first I was angry with God about the mileage I had accumulated in those 10 years. Initially I counted those as wasted years. Now, reflecting on all of that thirty-nine years later, I understand that my education and experience in those ten years were just about as valuable in preparing me for ministry as my M.Div. and D.Min. degrees from SEBTS. He taught me that nothing is wasted i the economy of heaven. What is more, all that stuff in the rear-view mirror of life are essential to my preparation for kingdom service. He uses everything to prepare us.

Back in the eighties, Avery Willis asked me to be a group leader in Masterlife training processes. In the group leader training he taught me two spiritual truths that changed the ministry scorecards for me, and I know many others. He taught us (1) that God is always working (John 5:17), and (2) that God works everything in our life for our good (Romans 8:28), both noted above.. That was such an eye-opener for this old accounting type. In my old accounting worksheets there were assets, liabilities, and then capital, which equalized the balance sheet. In many instances the capital was a negative, a provision for loss, or in more critical terms, waste. Suddenly there was the realization that in God's economy there is no waste. He works all the time and uses everything.

Think of the Apostle Paul as a prime biblical illustration of this rear-view mirror thing. Make note of his resume. An intellectual Jew trained in the best rabbinical school. A man who could reason with the best Greek minds of the time. Someone who traveled the world, spoke multiple languages, and understood cross-cultural dynamics as good as anyone of his era. On top of that he was a Roman citizen, familiar with the nuances of their world. He knew the Epicurians and Stoics, and where to find the women washing their clothes in every city. He was on a first-name basis with many of the merchants in that far-flung world. All of his past, the landscapes in his rear-view mirror enabled him to be all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:22-23). God used his past as an essential part of his important package for kingdom service.

A couple of notes work here---

(1) We all have a pre-Christian past. It may not be so holy or spiritually glamorous. But, God redeems our past, forgives the wrongs in it that are confessed, and uses the past to teach us valuable lessons for kingdom use.

(2) Our past is a central element of who we are. Yes, in Christ was are a new creation and begin the process of being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. The marks and lessons of the past are there to guide and teach us.

(3) Our past should not define the journey. It's in the rear-view mirror and should only be accessed by an occasional glance back to the lessons and valued shaping that occurred there. The focus is forward to the future. But, the rear-view mirror is there for instruction and guidance. Forgetting what lies behind and pressing on to what lies ahead (see Philippians 3:13) means moving the past from our path so as not to hinder our forward movement. But, the glance back is essential to understanding God's work in our lives.

(4) There is no waste in his kingdom preparation. Don't quibble here! If he is always working all things as noted in the life-changing truths above, that means he is working in every single moment and event in our lives. If we love him and are called for his purpose, he can shape those things, however grievous, for our good. Even the bad stuff is part of our package.

(5) Your package is the spiritual dynamic of Christ in you, your unique spiritual giftedness, the aptitude or strengths he wired into you while in your mother's womb, and the way he shapes your past into your kingdom influence.

I know many believers, including a sizeable number of minister colleagues, who do everything in their power to forget their sordid past. Yes, there's often some ugly stuff back there, things we cannot be proud of and certainly would love to forget. But, one day he touched us, and shifted us in another direction. And, that past is part of the process that takes us to the next level. It's part of our preparation for kingdom service.

Simon Peter's command to "...always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that is in you..." (1 Peter 3:15, ESV) certainly has a rear-view mirror context. As he penned those words his hand may have trembled in the remembrance of his own denial of Christ, his unpreparedness for an apology of faith. But, you see, this rear-view mirror reflection was part of his package, and essential element of his preparation for kingdom service.

And, one day he went to a cross, fully prepared to serve his Christ.

Christ in you, the hope of glory. The Holy Spirit manifested in you through giftedness for kingdom service. Your unique wiring for life, given in your mother's womb. And, your life, education, and experience, the fullness of your personal package for mission.

Your package. He prepared you. Now serve.


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