A couple of weeks ago, my brother got a phone call from an old friend that wanted to meet up. He and his wife conceded to meet for dinner, knowing full well how awkward it would be. You see, my brother is a very different person than he was back when he was actively friends with this guy. And it's safe to say that this particular "friend," and his dad, were the very instruments that the enemy used to lead my brother into a path of destruction, and what I refer to as his rock bottom experience.
Sometimes we need to hit bottom though, before we recognize our own depravity and our need for God. My brother, who had been a Christian for several years, did not completely surrender his life to Him until reaching that low point. And since then, I view his life as a beautiful picture of the grace of God and redemption.
"Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves. Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it." Romans 11:11-12
My pastor taught through this passage in Romans a couple of weeks ago, pointing out how it was in the failure of the Israelites that God's promise to Abraham to make him the father of many nations extended to the Gentiles, and therefore to us. It really spoke to me to hear how God's plan might, and sometimes does, include the stumbling of one people group in order to open His invitation up to others.
I recently read a quote on this passage by Mark Driscoll that I really liked: "Paul is not removing the moral responsibility of people but revealing the gloriously encouraging truth that God is bigger and more powerful than sinners and their sins, and he will, in his ultimate redemptive good, work all things for good."*
God doesn't just save us for our own good, but so that we can, in humility, be a blessing to others around us. Reading those verses in Romans, I couldn't help but imagine how the angels will rejoice when one of my brother's friends finally comes to salvation.
It would have been so simple, not to mention comfortable, for my brother, or even his sweet wife on his behalf, to ignore that phone call, and shy away from a potentially awkward experience, brushing those "friends" off as being from a previous life, or not wanting to stoop to the level of "hanging out with sinners." But, like Jesus, they know the power of a redeemed life.
God is so good to use even our lowest points, our mistakes and blunders and even our willful acts of obedience against Him, for His glory. He truly can work all things for good. I'm thankful and encouraged that He's chosen to use my brother as an example of His power to save people and change them to be used for His glory, and I'm excited to see how He continues to use his story to bless others.
How powerful is the testimony of a life redeemed from the pit!