The Value of Broken Things

I have just finished listening to an audio-file of a short message called “God’s Plan For Those Who Have Failed” by a guy named Zac Poonen. The whole message is just under thirteen minutes long. But he packed in a number of very valuable biblical points.

He begins by pointing to the first few pages of the Bible to show that God is able to make His perfect plan for His people work with and around and through their sin, even though that sin was never His will for them.

Along the way, he addresses a thought that many of us have, namely that it is the repeated nature of our failure that must disqualify us from anything like a fulfilled and God-honoring life. But even a long career of sin and failure is something that God can use to make something glorious of us.

One way that God uses our repeated failures, according to Poonen, is to make us humble. “It’s not only important to get victory over sin, it’s important to be humble at the end of it. And how does that happen? Only if God allows us to fail many times. Genuine victory is always accompanied by humility.”

A second but related good outcome of our failures is our increased understanding of other sinners. Along with a humility regarding ourselves, comes a compassion and an inability to despise others whom we see failing.

Poonen also points to the Lord’s parable in Matthew 20:1-16, wherein there is a disparity of time invested in the vineyard by different groups of day laborers. Some work all day, some work half a day, and some work only the last hour of a twelve-hour workday. Yet the owner of the vineyard comes at the end of the day and pays all of them the same amount. Poonen says that this parable is teaching us that even those of us who have wasted and made a mess of half or most of our lives can still be restored for God’s glory.

Those who only worked the last hour had wasted 91.6% of the day, and yet they received the same pay! Poonen’s wild claim is that this means that, though we may have messed up nine tenths of our lives, we can turn to God, and He will work His plan out in our lives such that what He accomplishes in us will ultimately be seen to have been His best, not His second best, plan for us. How is that possible?! I do not know. But I hope with all my heart—I hope with a desperate hope—that it is true.

It was D.L. Moody who said, “Moses spent forty years thinking he was somebody, forty years learning he was nobody, and forty years learning what God can do with a nobody.” From the vantage point of a reader of Moses’ life in the Holy Scriptures thousands of years after Moses lived, I can say with great confidence that this was a pretty awesome and glorious plan that YHWH worked out in his life. It doesn’t look like a second-best outcome to me. Yet Moses’ life and ministry did not begin until he was eighty! Granted that he lived to be 120 years old, which is not an accomplishment that I expect to have. But the point of a late hour usefulness to the Lord is still there.

If the Lord does not come, and I live to be 75 years old, then my life might be seen as divided into similar thirds (25-25-25). I can certainly tell you that, in the early part of my life, I really thought I was somebody, and now I am learning with great clarity that I am nobody. The challenge that lies before me is to believe that God can do something for His glory with a nobody like me.

Now, I suppose it is important to mention that this thought, this message, is intended for those of us who feel that we have lived a significant portion of our lives as failures or with very little to show for the days that the Lord has given us. This is NOT a message telling younger brothers and sisters that they can squander the days of their youth and then live for the Lord later. As Poonen points out, those who say (or accuse Paul of saying), “Let us do evil that good may come” will incur a just condemnation (Rom. 3:8). This is not about license. It is about God’s ability to make beautiful things from our messes.

There are some people who know me and probably think that I must be kidding when I speak of my life in these terms. One glance at the previous post should be sufficient to prove that I have had a terrific life filled with many blessings. That is, of course, true. But that is also part of what weighs upon me. See what I have been given, and see what little I have done. I could rattle off a litany of reasons that it is quite appropriate for me to apply these thoughts to myself. But that would distract from the point. All I can say for the moment is: Trust me. It is not for no reason that I chose to listen to this message this morning.

And the main point from which I do not want to distract any of us is this: YHWH God delights to restore the years that the locusts have eaten. If you are like me… if you feel that your life up to this point has been a far cry from what you know it should have been in service to the Lord and people… if you feel like there has been so much water—or toxic sludge—under the bridge that there is little point in trying now… If you have doubts about whether you can still live for the Lord in a way that brings Him glory and brings you fulfillment as His child… You probably are just now getting to the point of maximum usefulness for the One who makes miraculous wonders from broken things.

That is what I know I need to trust Him for now. If it is also where you are, take heart. Nothing is beyond the reach of God’s grace and power—not even the likes of you and me.

I will end for now with the lyrics of a song called “Broken Things” by Lucy Kaplansky. It’s a very beautiful song, I highly recommend getting from iTunes or something like that, if you can.

You can have my heart
But it isn’t new
It’s been used and broken
And only comes in blue
It’s been down a long road
It got dirty on the way
If I give it to You,
Will You make it clean
And wash the shame away?

You can have my heart,
If You don’t mind broken things
You can have my life,
If You don’t mind these tears
I hear You make old things new,
So I give these pieces all to You
If You want it,
You can have my heart

So beyond repair
Nothing I could do
Tried to fix it myself,
But it was only worse,
When I got through
And You walk right into my darkness
And speak words so sweet
And You hold me like a child
Till my frozen tears fall down at Your feet

You can have my heart,
If You don’t mind broken things
You can have my life,
If You don’t mind these tears
I heard that You make old things new,
So I give these pieces all to You
If You want it,
You can have my heart


One thought on “The Value of Broken Things

  1. I love it man. This is what I am going through. I question myself and whether I am fit to follow the Lord. I know I will make mistakes and unfortunetly some repeatedly. I have been at the point where I thought what is the use and that verse from Mathew helped me. It put the voice in my head saying, “try harder stupid.”

    I thank you for pointing out that the Lord’s grace is not a free ticket to do what you want. It was an excellent point that I have seen many others and maybe myself fall into.

    You the man bro! Keep em coming.

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