Thursday, December 01, 2011
Today’s Topic: Faith Overcomes Shame
Today’s Text: Isaiah 54:4 “Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.”
It was dreadful. It did great damage to my family, many friends, my ministry, and my heart. There are times when I wonder if I’m still beyond all the pain of what happened seventeen years ago. It was my fault. I was selfish and insecure, and I covered it with shameful behavior. It caused a church to split. What had begun as a marvelous new relationship between pastor and congregation soon turned ugly because I didn’t take the time to really listen to the people God had called me to shepherd and instead demanded my own way. The church’s response was to remove me, so our family was forced to leave that place. I felt the deepest shame I have ever experienced. I had publicly embarrassed my Lord, and felt totally unworthy to ever serve Him again.
After two long years of recovery, thanks to the help of a Christian businessman who gave me a job and a small church that took me in and affirmed my gifts, my wife and I accepted an invitation to candidate for the position of Senior Pastor at the church I currently serve. Throughout the interview process the nagging shame of my past ate away at my heart and kept me in the bondage of fear. I told the search committee that I would not consider full-time ministry again, believing that I needed the security of secular employment to fall back on in case I would fail again.
Then, on the last night of interviews, as my wife and I drove to the meeting place, God interrupted us in the car. I looked at my wife and she looked at me, and we agreed that our fears were not of faith, and that God had called us to step out in faith and enter full-time ministry again. We prayed, and arrived at the meeting. The search committee was prepared to offer a part-time position, but I interrupted them and told them what God had said and done in our hearts. We were afraid, but our faith in God’s promise covered our fears. We stretched out the tent curtains and did not hold back. Now, almost 16 years later, here we are, and God has proven Himself faithful again – as if He needs to prove Himself.
The shame of the past shatters the success of the future. Shame produces the fear of ongoing disgrace and humiliation. Our enemy the Devil seeks to hold us in the bondage of past failures. I see it in my own personal life, and I see it in the church. Past experiences of failure resulting in shame immediately build self-protection defenses in us that we implement every time we are asked to take steps of faith. Go back and read that last sentence again. Think about it carefully in your own life, or in the life of your church. How many times has God spoken and we resisted because it reminded us of another time and another place where we experienced failure by trying?
God has promised Abraham and Sarah a son. Sarah has been humiliated by her peers because of her barrenness. They have been disgraced because of their attempts to solve the problem according to the flesh. Now, when God tells them to move forward in faith, He reminds them of their shame and how debilitating it will be if they don’t fully trust His Word. In essence He says to them, “I know how much you are hurting from your past, but do not let that stop you from receiving my future for you. If you will let go of the past, and by faith accept and act upon my promise, you will be set free from the bondage of that shame once and for all.”
Many of you today are living in the bondage of a past failure. You are stuck in the shackles of shame. You are not moving in faith because you are mired in fear. Today, seek the heart of God. Ask Him to reveal His will to you – He wants you to know it. And when you discover it, do it! Everything that caused shame in the past because you did it your way will be erased and replaced with the glory of God.
As I wrote that last paragraph, an email arrived from a good friend, Scott Soden, owner of Elliott’s Automotive. Please take the time to read this. I share it with his permission.
Pastor, I’ve been wanting to talk and with the busyness of everything going on I haven’t found time to, but after reading your devotion today (from December 1) I thought it’s time to just email you. I wanted first of all to encourage you that since you retuned from your trip I’ve seen an amazing difference in you, in a good way. You have heard the calling of God and clearly understood it and accepted it. I have always liked your boldness but when you have the love of Jesus with it, it seem to flow though the people like the loving water of God should. Back to your Thursday devotion – I feel Elliott’s Automotive was in the same place as Calvary is, bursting at the seams trying to figure out what corner to use next for that storage spot or to stuff a child – I think you know what I mean. As Elliott’s Automotive we felt God’s calling to this new location but could not figure out how we would pay for it. God put us in a place where we had to do something, so we started moving forward. God instantly provided an answer and here we are moving. As I sit here in tears I see God’s hand all over this place, and it’s an awesome feeling! PRAISE GOD! As I sit here in this little building for the last day, I can’t wait for the day that it will be Calvary’s last day in its building. From what you said in your devotion I’m sure you know what the next move is, so let God do his thing whether we understand it or not.
The shame of the past must not be allowed to shatter the success of the future. When God speaks – MOVE!