The University of Georgia hosted Arkansas State in a football game on Saturday. Georgia was ranked third in the nation; Arkansas State was not expected to make the score close. In fact, Georgia won 55–0.
However, what mattered most to many watching the game was not the competition on the field but the apparel worn by spectators in the stands. The stadium was filled with Georgia fans wearing not their traditional red and black but bright pink.
This was in honor of Wendy Anderson, the wife of Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson. Wendy died on August 19 from breast cancer.
One of the most famous stories in history is the battle between David and Goliath. Most people can tell you how the giant was killed: the shepherd boy hit him in the forehead with a rock from a slingshot.
Except, that’s not actually how the Philistine died.
1 Samuel 17 tells us that after David hit Goliath with a stone and the giant “fell on his face to the ground” (v. 49), “David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it” (v. 51). David had no sword of his own (vv. 38–40), so he killed Goliath with the Philistine’s sword.
Fast-forward four chapters.
David is on the run from King Saul and needs help. He comes to Nob, a city near Jerusalem where the tabernacle is located. He seeks the aid of a priest named Ahimelech, looking for “a spear or a sword” (1 Samuel 21:8).
The priest replies, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you struck down in the Valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it, for there is none but that here” (v. 9a).
David answers, “There is none like that; give it to me” (v. 9b).
What Paul can teach us about the past
Dwight Standridge rallied a stadium and made national headlines by using his past tragedy to effect present action and future change. David employed a weapon from his past to wage battles in the future.
God is especially good at using our past in ways we would never have imagined. The Apostle Paul is Exhibit A.
His scholarly training at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) equipped him when he “proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews” (Acts 13:5). His engagement with Greek philosophy while growing up in Tarsus enabled him to cite Greek philosophers in engaging philosophers with the gospel (Acts 17:28, 34).
Paul’s Roman citizenship not only protected him from unlawful punishment (Acts 22:25); it also gave him the right to appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:11–12) and thus to bear witness in the capital city (Acts 23:11; 28:30).
Even Paul’s persecution of Christians was redeemed by God as the apostle’s sins convinced him that no one can be saved by observing the law (cf. Romans 3:20).
“He has done all things well”
Culture-changing Christians must engage the culture we wish to see transformed (cf. Matthew 5:13–16). One of our best strategies for effective ministry is to examine our past for ways we can serve Christ in the present.
You will probably talk with more lost people today than will hear your pastor preach in a month. Bankers make the best missionaries to bankers, attorneys to attorneys, tenth graders to tenth graders.
Just as we must know the verbal language of those we wish to reach, so we must know their cultural language as well. Those whose commitment to personal and public excellence has earned them social influence are positioned to make a great impact for our Lord.
Jesus is our best model. He was such an authoritative communicator that “the crowds were astonished at his teaching” (Matthew 7:28). He was such an effective healer that “his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick” (Matthew 4:24). In fact, the crowds once said of him, “He has done all things well” (Mark 7:37).
Now the same Spirit who empowered our Savior (Luke 4:14, 18; Acts 1:2) is ready to empower and use every Christian who submits to him (Ephesians 5:18).
Going back to your firehouse
Would you ask God to use your past pain and failures to touch hurting people with his hope?
Would you ask him to use your past achievements to impact those you influence?
A fireman once asked Charles Spurgeon how he could develop a personal ministry. Spurgeon encouraged him to go back to his firehouse and bear witness to Jesus there.