A year ago I considered myself delivered. Delivered from a life of abuse, shame and guilt. I had an encounter with God and he infused my life with vision and purpose. It gave me new and sounding energy to start life anew. Suicidal thoughts were replaced with new spiritual thoughts of purpose. I began to believe that through the spirit of God I had the authority and power over depression and alcoholism. So I started off on a blind mission with only my belief and faith in God. “That all things work together for good to those who are called to His purpose.” Romans 8:28. And despite my deep seeded feelings of fear and insecurities festering inside of me, I set out on my mission. To manifest the vision my encounter with God had given me.
So I began afraid and with no set finish line in sight. I just started pulling from here and there until I started forming something tangible. And, although I was met with some initial success, shortly after I started my mission, however, I hit a speed bump and things were not going as planned. And what had quickly came together in the name and purpose of God had fallen apart even quicker. And within my mind, It appeared as though I had failed. Because of this failure my spirit felt like it had been broken. I had tried and I had failed.
Although broken, however, I was still hungry. I felt like a soldier who during the course of the fight had been brutally wounded in the battle. I had just enough strength to drag myself to safety. Where in isolation from the war I could heal through the word of God, train and improve myself in order to begin the fight again. Perhaps more wisely this time. Perhaps even the win the battle in the next go around.
But I knew I needed to make some changes. So I took a hard honest look at my performance so far and came up with some lessons learned. I realized I lacked the discipline I needed to purport God’s mission. I realized my name had become more important than God’s name. I also realized that I started wanting to please people versus wanting to please God. I had faith, but I allowed darkness to overshadow my will. The darkness of fear. The darkness of insecurity. The darkness of depression. And I allowed the enemy to make me stand still when I should have been moving.
Next, I had to come to the realization that I allowed myself to fall again. Not immediately and not intentionally, but slowly my mind began to gravitate back towards its comfort zone. Funny, it’s such a natural thing to do that you don’t realize its has happened until you are right back where you started. Doing what you are comfortable doing instead of striving and fighting for something more. You tell yourself it can’t be accomplished. That you are only foolish. Better yet crazy. Especially after failure. Especially after rejection.
And it was hard. Hard for me to admit that I had come full circle. The place I had just left, is the same place I allowed myself to fall right back into.
But, despite coming full circle to the same spot, this time around I feel I am better prepared for my circumstance. You see, I am oddly positioned. I know I can never go back to being that old me. That old version of myself. I can see the promise land. But I can’t reach the promise land.
You see, God allowed me to see the light of the promise land just enough and just long enough in my encounter that I knew I could never go back to who I use to be. So although I am surrounded by the same environment, the same group of people and the same circumstances, and although I tried and failed, my attitude continues to shift. You see, I know I am desperate enough to do whatever it takes to get to the other side. That I can no longer suffer in this old version of myself when I know there is a whole new version of me, a happier me, waiting just a few steps away. That the old version of me is dead. But the new version of me, not yet at reach, is still alive.
So I had to take a honest evaluation of myself and determine what is holding me back from reaching the promise land. And, after looking inside of myself I knew what was holding me back. My deep festering insecurities and lack of self confidence. The darkness that has developed within me because of the circumstances that I had endured in my life. That divorce. The relationships I lost. The friendships I lost. The opportunities I lost. The career that didn’t turn out as planned. That dream that someone told me I wasn’t good enough to reach. The people who told me I wasn’t good. Me telling myself I’m not good enough. Because of all these experiences I lost my way. I lost myself. And I started sabotaging my future because of my past.
But, I asked myself, who do I want to be? And am I willing to do whatever it takes to become that person. And the answer is yes. Deep down inside of me I know going back was not an option. That version of myself was dead.
So I prayed. I prayed for a lot of things, but I specifically prayed for confidence and discipline. And he responded by placing the Book of Galatians on my heart. The Book of Galatians reminds us to embrace and follow the gospel message of the crucified Messiah. That Jesus alone justifies believers. Next God place Damascus on my mind. So I started researching Damascus and modern day Syria. And I realized that while I am worried about trivial matters like what someone is saying or thinking about me or that this or that person didn’t like me, Syrian refugees were currently fighting for their lives in the most horrific ways possible. And my heart was filled with sadness for their situation and gratefulness that I was not battling those current conditions. My fight, in the light of theirs, appeared trivial.
Next, God placed the Saul of Tarsus on my heart, better known as the Apostle Paul. So I started researching Paul. And in my studies I found that Paul was born around the same time as Jesus. He became a believer shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus. He was an ordinary man, a tent maker by profession. Although educated, he was not wealthy and did not have an aristocratic background. Despite this, he goes on to write half the new testament of the bible through the Spirit, authority and power of God.
You see Paul has an interesting story. Because prior to Paul becoming an Apostle he was one of Jesus’ biggest persecutors. Young Paul, or at that time better known as Saul of Tarsus, was a Pharisee and a careful student of the Hebrew bible. He traveled to town to town urging for the punishment of Jews who embraced Christianity. On one trip, Saul was traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus on a mission to arrest Christian believers and bring them back to Jerusalem for persecution when the resurrected Jesus appeared to him in a great light. He was struck blind, but after three days his sight was restored by Ananias of Damascus.
You see Saul of Tarsus had an encounter with the Spirit of God that allowed him to see the light in darkness. This brief encounter. This brief view of the heavenly promise land, infused Saul with the Spirit of God. And from that moment on, he knew he could no longer be who he use to be. He had been called. He had been anointed. He had been forgiven. So from that moment Saul shed his old identity and he became a new man.
The text reads:
Ephesian 4:17-24 “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
This passage is saying that Saul had to decide who he wanted to be. He had to make a tough decision. He could stay within his comfort zone and remain Saul of Tarsus, the old version of himself, or he could believe and accept the Spirit of God and become Paul, the new version of himself, the person who was called according to God’s purpose.
But shedding your old you and becoming the new version of yourself is not easy. Paul was compelled to struggle in order to establish his own worth and shape his character. Paul was subject to criticism, abuse and punishment for his missionary work. He had to go against everything he did know in order to discover everything he didn’t know. He had to place his complete trust and faith in God in order to become that better version of himself. Believing that through God’s purpose and love he would be made whole. And that the inheritance of the Spirit would be given to him.
This word from God has meaning for me because I am at a crossroads. And my two identities (my old self and my new self) are colliding with one another. And I have to choose and commit to who I want to be. The choice is mine. But I have to keep in mind, that there are people who don’t make it to the promise land because they are too afraid to move. Too afraid to change. Because they are too afraid to step out in the unknown. Too afraid to try again after failure. To afraid to walk through the darkness.
But I am hungry enough to say I am willing to do whatever it takes to make it to the promise land because I can’t go back to who I use to be. In fact, I am desperate enough to give Jesus total control over my life. I surrender myself to Him.
And that I am thankful for all of God’s blessings. Thankful enough to live according to His will and His purpose. That my desire to reach the promise land will allow me to do whatever God asks me to do in righteousness and His name to get there.
Paul the Apostle is a story about forgiveness. It is a story about second chances. It is a story about two identities being at war with one another. It is a story about how God can make your mind anew. But it is also a story of hope and love. Because God’s love for Paul gave him the ability to start anew. And when made anew through the Spirit of God, He shed that old wretched identity to become one of God’s greatest warriors. He was healed. He was made whole. And that resonates with me.
Galatians 2:20 “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.”
Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The love is unbreakable. And if we are secured by God through his love, what right do we have to be insecure? Are we not secured through the Power of the highest love? My initial prayer was for confidence. And I received my response. I must place my confidence securely in the Lord and look to his love. Confidence is faith. Your level of confidence is directly proportional to your level of faith. You build confidence by reading and believing in the word of God. By knowing and trusting in God’s love you forsake any feelings of worthlessness. Because as a child of God you are given an inheritance. When Jesus died on the cross and ascended to heaven, it was so His Spirit could live inside of us and free us from our sins.
It is not about confidence. It is about purpose. And the desire to accomplish that purpose by any means necessary. And by doing so, you will ultimately embody confidence because you are moving in accordance to God (in Harmony with God) and not yourself.
Romans 3:29 “…And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not people.”