Little did I know when I rose on that winter’s morning that this was going to be the day that changed my life forever!
It was another ordinary winter’s day, the weather was cloudy and damp and there were the usual pressures of getting a family of young children off to school prior to heading off to the college chapel for morning devotions. I have to admit I had found those early months at Bible college challenging – surrounded by people who appeared to be more spiritual and knowledgeable than me. In fact I felt somewhat intimidated and out of place….
I had been really struggling with college and was particularly feeling inferior, like I didn’t fit and wasn’t like the other guys and was also tempted to copy those around me so I fitted the bill!
The speaker that day was a Swiss theologian Dr Siegfried Schatzmann and I’m not entirely sure what his subject was but at some point in his message he read these life changing words:
‘For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.’ (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)
The day that changed my life forever
It was like a light went on! In a moment I realised that God loved me as I was and that he simply wanted me to be myself and be the best ‘me’ I could be!
The apostle Paul had behaved reprehensibly, persecuting the church, having godly people thrown in prison and even killed.
He was there as Stephen was martyred! Wow – if Paul, with God’s help, could get over that and be everything God had called him to be – then so could I!
I made a very clear decision that day – that I was not going to be intimidated a second longer by those great theologians and spiritual giants around me (many of them are among my closest friends today!) and that I was simply going to be myself and enjoy being myself!
Paul says ‘I am, what I am!’ He refused to compare himself with the other apostles or to compete with them.
That day I came to terms with that fact and determined to focus on my strengths rather than my weaknesses and also, rather than compare myself or copy others, or conform to what others expected me to be or do – I was simply going to be the person God had made me.
Liberty Not License
That didn’t mean I could behave badly or selfishly, in fact to the contrary, Paul says ‘and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.’
It’s important to note that Paul, feeling free, inspite of his past, worked with the aid of the grace and power of God to become the best Paul he could be!
This is what I wrote in my journal that day:
‘I cannot be anyone else – it’s no use watching others or trying to be what others are in that sense. I have decided to be MYSELF and by God’s grace to be & become what He has called me to be.’ (9th Oct 1993)
I think I do a pretty good ‘Simon Lawton’ – he likes football, marmite, American hard gums, mince pies, James Bond and hates cooking, DIY, hoovering and gardening….in fact I would go further and say that I have become pretty amazing at simply being ‘Simon Lawton!’ (although my wife may not be particularly impressed!!)
Joking aside, I’m a work in progress. My constant prayer is that God will change and transform me and that I will become more Christlike.
One of my regular prayers is, in fact, that the fruit of the Spirit will become more visible in my life:
‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’
I’m aware that I’m far from perfect and that God is still working on me.
I’ve discovered that’s possible still to have some blind spots – I’ve written about that here.
Can I encourage you to be yourself! Enjoy being you!
Be the person God went to all the trouble of so beautifully creating…
‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.’(Psalm 139:13-16)
He felt you were worth creating and He has plans and purposes that only you can fulfil.
If you try and be someone else then we all miss out and you will fail to fulfil the purpose you were created for which will only lead to frustration and disappointment!
The world doesn’t need another Simon Lawton it simply needs you to be YOU!
‘Be yourself – everyone else is already taken’ (Oscar Wilde)
The day that changed my life forever
As I look back over the past twenty-five plus years since that ordinary day where God brought life change.
I am so grateful to the God who cared enough to speak into my life.
We must each of us grasp that we are uniquely shaped by God and for His eternal purposes.
He actually takes great pleasure in who we are and what, with His help, we are going to become.
Why don’t you make my journal comment your prayer right now:
‘Father God, I cannot be anyone else – it’s no use watching others or trying to be what others are in that sense.
I have decided today to be MYSELF and by God’s grace to be & become what He has called me to be.
Please help me Father God. Amen.’
This has become a life message for me and I hope it helps you to become free to be and become all that God has destined for you!
Try this – ‘Five ways to grow your faith’
If you’ve enjoyed this post you might like to check out my book entitled ‘Imagine’ that is all about trusting God based on the amazing promise in Proverbs 3:5-6. Imagine is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and other major book sellers worldwide.
One recent Amazon reviewer said, “This is an incredibly powerful book written as if the author is chatting to you about his own life, struggles and experiences during his ongoing walk with God. It is a very real and honest book with bible verses to back up what the author is sharing about. Personally this book is having a big impact on me and my faith in God. I would recommend to anyone to buy this book if you want to deepen your relationship with God at whatever stage you are in your walk. Imagine the impact this book could have on your life….”
Another reviewer said ‘A wonderful story of faith and dedication overcoming all obstacles. Full of practical advise and wise instruction. The book invites the reader to ‘dream dreams’ and to live out vision with tenacity and determination. A good hearty read.’ (Pastor Paul Hallam)
Well said Simon…..a God bless…..Peter.
Thanks Peter. God has been very good to me!
Great thoughts, Simon.
I wholeheartedly agree with you! One of the best things an individual can do for themselves is to recognize who they are in Christ and not worry about trying to be someone else. God has made each of us peculiar. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks Joshua. God has been very patient with me – I’m still a work in progress and I’m sure there’s still much for me to learn. God bless!
Great post – and such an important theme if we are going to remain healthy in ministry – thanks for sharing!
Thanks Damian. It was quite a lesson for me to learn. Thank God he was gracious enough to teach me – I needed to learn. Hope ministry is going well in Japan!
God spoke to me through your post Simon.
Words so true one so easily overlooks them.
“Paul says ‘I am, what I am!’ He refused to compare himself with the other apostles or to compete with them.”
These words form a new beginning for me as I begin a new phase in this wonderful life I have with Jesus.
Born again in 1965. Walked a crooked road of deception for many years. Today, Jesus shows me daily how important the great “I AM” is in my life.
Hi Michael. That’s so good to hear. It sounds like God has done a wonderful work in your life. Those words set me free! God is so good. The critical thing is that we learn to trust God more every day. Please forgive the plug but you’re interested check out my book ‘Imagine’ – it’s on Amazon. Every blessing to you and yours!