I've heard that said many times, but the last time I heard it I started to think. It sounds nice . . . what has happened in my life doesn't define who I am in the future . . . but how true is it?
As I thought about it, three Bible people came to mind as examples of the truth of this. The first person being Paul. At one point in his life Paul had been persecuting Christians and trying to stop the spread of Christianity. But, this is also the same person who had an amazing encounter with God and had his entire life changed . . . this man who persecuted Christians became an evangelist and helped to spread the Gospel across the then-known world! Paul's past didn't stop him from what he did with his future.
The second person that I thought of was David - a person described as a man after God's own heart. David had some amazing triumphs in his life and saw his way through some difficult times with God's help . . . but he also had some major screw ups in his life. He committed adultery and then tried to cover it up and when that didn't work he had someone murdered . . . among other things. And yet, he is still remembered as a man after God's own heart and God used him and his decendants in amazing ways. David's past mistakes didn't stop him from what could be in store in his future.
The third person that came to mind was Rahab . . . a prostitute who ended up in Jesus' family tree. She had been living a life of sin, but yet she helped God's people and married an Israelite . . . ending up in Jesus' earthly family line! Her past didn't define her future either.
Being someone who tends to hold on to things that have happened in the past . . . particularily times when I screwed up . . . this was a good reminder to me that God can use everyone no matter what has happened in their past. I mean, I know from my own experience that God can take the situations where I've screwed up and use them to help someone else . . . and yet I still have those doubts that God can use me because of my past.
Now, I know that there are probably some of you who are thinking: "Yes, but what about the effects that past things you've done can have on your life?" Our actions do definitely have consequences that we have to live with in the future. Our past will always have an influence on who we are in the future, because our experiences shape us into the people that we are. But, we aren't held back or prevented from serving God because of our past mistakes. That's the good news here!