“After everyone was full, Jesus told His disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted” (John 6:12, NLT)
Several months ago my best friend and I were discussing how God wastes nothing, not matter how bad or useless it seems to be to us in the moment. Some of the many examples of this in the Bible are Moses; he was guilty of murder but God made him lead a nation; Rahab was a prostitute but she had a heart of gold and is in the linage of Jesus; David was just a small shepherd boy but God enabled him to defeat a giant. And the list goes on. When we read the Bible we are in awe at these stories but you only need to look around you to see that everyday people can accomplish amazing things too, and it’s often the ones you’d least expect!
My friend is into prison ministry much like I am and by the grace of God the founder and managers of Cornerstone Ministry have allowed me to not waste my experiences by keeping them to myself. Unlike me who does ministry through traditional correspondence, this friend of mine whom I’ve had this discussion with is right there with the inmates nice and close. He is very candid with me about his experiences ministering to inmates, the Christians and non-Christians behind bars in an old run-down Texas prison. He has experienced first hand God’s hand in these men’s lives and seen with his own eyes how He wastes nothing, because he was one of them too once upon a time.
“It’s amazing to see how some people thrive through tragedy and rise high above what should’ve destroyed them,” he said during our conversation back in late July or early August.
It was like he had read my mind. I had just finished reading a book about forgiving the unforgivable and rising above whatever destroyed you.
“Some people I just don’t know how they do it,” I said, still trying to wrap my mind around things, “and then you see amazing things coming out of the most terrible. I’m just thinking back right now to a few months ago when I turned on the TV and saw that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had received a death sentence. Bill Richard spoke and he said that he didn’t want the man who killed his son and maimed his daughter to be executed. That just blows my mind away because he’s the one who should want to see him dead the most!”
“That’s an accurate picture of God’s feelings towards us,” my friend said calmly, “we sinned, we destroyed His perfect creation, but He still sent His son Jesus Christ to pay the ransom for our destruction. But despite this, He still continues to use our imperfect and sinful nature for the purpose of His kingdom and he wastes nothing along the way.”
And then I started to cry.
“Let me tell you a story Melissa,” he went on, “this is about a man that I heard of while sitting in a circle with prisoners in the chapel.”
This is his story as he told it to me, I changed the names for privacy reasons:
When Brandon took the stage, he spoke about how he was saved after hearing the testimony of a fellow inmate who is no longer with us now. His name was Rafael and he was serving a life sentence for hiring two guys to rape and murder his ex-wife after she cheated on him. He didn’t hold back on speaking about his crimes. He said that he knew God could use it for His good, and that’s not something I really understood until after he died.
After Rafael was sentenced his two sons came to see him pretty regularly. They were young teenagers at the time, and one day one of his sons asked him how he felt about his crimes. Rafael said he had no regrets and that she’d deserved it. His son walked out crying and nobody ever went back to visit him after that. Several years after that he was moved to this facility, where somebody from the chapel went behind his back and signed him up for a gospel program. He had nothing better to do so he came to a meeting one day and he kept swearing at the volunteers and saying mean things about Christians but everybody there showed him the love of Christ and he came to saving faith just like all the rest of us. Because of his testimony when I first came to a meaning like this, I am a Christian today.
When Rafael died we held a little memorial for him here in the chapel and the remnants of his family showed up to my surprise. He had attempted to reach out to his children after he had converted to Christianity in hopes to make things right with them but they wanted nothing to do with him. They didn’t believe him at all. But that day that they showed up here me and a bunch of guys gathered around them and assured them that we had come to saving faith particularly because of him. Because he had cared about us when we had been disowned after doing so much harm. I assured them that although Rafael had wasted his freedom, and his punishment was rightfully deserved, God hadn’t wasted his life and He most certainly hadn’t wasted His purpose.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, NLT)
If you’ve felt like you’ve wasted years of your life in the wrong job, hanging around the wrong people, doing the wrong things, God will gather those years and restore them back to you, no matter how much you might’ve thought you wasted because He works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He’ll take those experiences that the enemy meant for your harm and turn them around for your good. He’ll make you stronger, wiser and better off than you were before. He can launch you further into your destiny than before. Be encouraged today because with God all things are possible and nothing is ever wasted!
As hard as it may be for you to hear right now considering what you may be currently facing, God still has a purpose for you because you are still around to hear this. So ask yourself: what part of your life story does God want to use for His purpose?