“For me to live is Christ.” Philippians 1:21 (NLT)
Paul was so intimately identified with Christ that his life message was Christ! It was the life of Christ living in Paul that transformed him from a persecutor of the faith to an apostle. An apostle is a messenger. His life became the message! It was a message of hope and good news! In Romans 1:16 Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” When Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, his life was never the same! He discovered his life message. Luke tells us about it in Acts 9, 22, and 26. Discovering your unique life message may not be as dramatic as Paul’s, nor will it be the same calling, but there will, no doubt, be some similarities. Your life message is unique to you. The message God is writing with your life is based on the one-of-a-kind experiences and challenges of your life. In the bigger picture, like Paul, you’re life message is the person of Jesus Christ. He is in you; in that sense, you are the Gospel. And, as you prepare to carry the Gospel into the world, God is shaping you in a special way to be the message to those around you. God uses similar means as He did with Paul in helping us discover our unique life messages. He uses our failures and pain to turn our worst mess into a life message of grace. Listen to Paul’s story in 1 Timothy 1:12-15 (TLB). He says, “How thankful I am to Christ Jesus our Lord for choosing me as one of His messengers, and giving me the strength to be faithful to Him, even though I used to scoff at the name of Christ. I hunted down His people, harming them in every way I could. But God had mercy on me because I didn’t know what I was doing, for I didn’t know Christ at that time. Oh, how kind our Lord was, for He showed me how to trust Him and become full of the love of Christ Jesus. How true it is, and how I long that everyone should know it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I was the greatest of them all.” Paul shows us that God uses the painful failures of our past; we would like to run from these, but these are the areas where we received the most grace. What is His purpose of using these? Paul adds this in verse 16, “But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as an example to show everyone how patient He is with even the worst sinners, so that others will realize that they, too, can have everlasting life.” Discovering our unique life message is difficult, at times, because we are often too busy trying to cover up our failures and painful mistakes. We try to hide our failures and weaknesses, and we try to showcase our successes and strengths. C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” What does God want to say through the painful failures of your life that could offer a message of hope and forgiveness to others? God never wastes a hurt. He can turn our pain into His purpose.