Pearls of Grace - January 11

January 11

From Useless to Useful

"…I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me."

Philemon 10 &11

Is there someone you know in your family or friend circle that you doubt even God could change; someone so vile or despicable that you have no hope of them ever changing? Change is a mystery to most of us. We desire it within ourselves for various reasons ranging from pants sizes, attitude adjustments, compulsive eating or binging, excessive dieting, giving up smoking, changing the way we think, compulsive lying, fear, pride, jealousy, worry, obsessive behaviors, mistrust, stealing, lustful addictions to those secret sins that we are enslaved to that no one else knows about. Most of us would probably agree that we desire change somewhere on some level to some degree in our lives. The problem usually doesn’t rest with the want to change but with the power to bring about that change. And if that change did occur would people accept it as genuine?

One of the most beautiful illustrations in the Bible of God’s power to save and restore lives is found tucked away in the little book of Philemon. Written by the hand of Paul to his brother in Christ, Philemon, he is appealing to him as a fellow brother in the Lord to embrace Onesimus. Onesimus was a slave who had stolen from his master, Philemon, and ran away to Rome. But in his running, God brought him face to face with the Apostle Paul who had compassion on Onesimus and led him to the Lord. The challenge came when Paul sent a letter, what we know as the book of Philemon, asking him to embrace Onesimus, not as a slave that he once was, but rather as a beloved brother. It’s difficult enough to give someone their job back after they’ve stolen from you and left you high and dry, but it’s even more challenging to embrace them as a "beloved brother". He was asking for forgiveness with complete restoration plus a promotion!

Paul was asking Philemon to recognize and to honor the change that God had brought about in Onesimus’ heart. He was appealing to the spirit of the Lord Who dwelt within his heart and now was abiding in the heart of his former slave. Paul was reminding Philemon that only God can change a heart and when He does we are to rejoice! The powerful reminder here is seen in the fact that before Philemon was ever asked to forgive his slave for his wrong doing, God had done so first. Before he was asked to embrace him as a brother, God had embraced Him as His child. God had removed the shackles of sin from his feet long before Philemon was charged to lose the fetters of slavery. Paul reminded him that he, who was once useless, was now useful to the kingdom of God.

Accepting change comes when we see others, not as they once were, but as instruments in the hand of God; useful and full of purpose, welcomed in the family of God. Nothing is the same when placed in the hands of God. God can change lives, He has and He will continue to change lives; from useless to useful! Only God can change us, but change He can. Are you willing to embrace those who have been changed by the hand of God even though they have wronged you? Have you looked to the hand of God to bring about the change needed in your life that you have so desperately longed for? Have you given up on those you have marked as "hopeless" believing they will never change? Have you refused to accept that another has been truly changed by God? Then may I leave you with the words of Paul today, beloved: "Accept Him as you would me." God-changes are rare beauties of grace upon the earth; from useless to useful!

Make my heart open to all that you do and make my eyes blind to the faults of others.

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