One of my associates preached our early service some years ago. He preached the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). His introduction focused on the fact that it was a story about a father who was there for his two sons and took care of their needs. As a sinner listening to the message, I was moved. As a preacher listening to the message, I couldn’t help but think that I would have never thought of getting into the text that way. It was doorway into the story that I had never even seen.
Later that week, the associate and talking church porch. And a brother who was walking by stopped to thank me for the message I had preached that Sunday. I expressed my appreciation for his kind words. But as he kept talking, it quickly became clear that he was not talking about my 11 AM sermon. He was talking about the associate’s 8 AM sermon. We both looked at one another knowingly and smiled.
I had another associate who began his ministry at middle age, having spending a good part of his adult life in the world. And he had many experiences, both good and bad. But the Lord had changed his life. He had a clear sense of call on his life. And he was willing to do whatever it took to be fruitful the Lord.
He came to me one day to express his concerns. He was surrounding by young men training for ministry, several who had started preaching at an early age. Myself included. He felt there was a sense in which he was handicapped by starting his work for the Lord so “late.”
This brother became a good friend and trusted advisor. And many in our church sought him out for his godly counsel. He had seen a lot of what the world had to offer. But transforming grace changed his perspective on the world. And he had a wisdom that many of us benefited from. I assured him of this.
My relationship with these two colleagues made a great impression on me. It taught me that the details of your calling are not an accident. God integrates the circumstances of our lives to prepare us for the work of the ministry. Your life experiences are a strategic part of your ministerial call.
My friend who was raised without a father read the scriptures in a way that helped him related to other men in our church who were also fatherless. And my friend who had come to God from a life in the world was able to warning against temptation and offer the hope of restoration in powerful ways. God used what they thought were negatives to bless others.
The same is true of you and your life experiences.
Young or old. Single or married. Success or failure. Raised in church or saved from the streets. Lead by an obvious path to ministry or by a sudden U-turn. The ironic providence of God orchestrates life to equip you to fulfill your call.
Don’t be discouraged. Don’t compare yourself to others. And don’t underestimate the grace, wisdom, and power of God. God can use a church-persecuting Pharisee to be the Apostle of the Gentiles. And God can we weave the story of your life into his great purpose to spread the gospel, edify the church, and advance the kingdom.