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 struggled during those early months at Bible college – surrounded by people who seemed to be more spiritual and knowledgeable than me. In fact I felt somewhat intimidated and out of place….
Little did I know that God was going to speak some words into my life that would bring life change forever and enable me to be released to serve His purposes for my life. 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 NIV)
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 been a really bad person, 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.’
(Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)
Can I encourage you to be yourself! 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 NIV)
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)
As I look back over the past twenty 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!
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