Words at Philadelphia First Church of the Nazarene

I (Paul) was able to speak during the Sunday service at Philadelphia First Church of the Nazarene on July 24. Elizabeth had to return to Ohio to work, but was able to Skype to see the service. I enjoyed being able to speak to both the church members and a visiting mission team (mainly teens) about the story Elizabeth and I are a part of. It was cool to see people again who were there when I interned in Philly for a summer, in 2014. They’ve changed in good ways, and I think that I have as well.

The Philadelphia Church has agreed to become a partner with us, the Hardings, as we embark on our year of missions. We are excited to partner with this group, which was such a key part of my own journey through a summer internship.

I shared about three stories: the story of Joseph from Genesis 50, my story, and God’s story. I think it went well.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been searching for my place in God’s story. I have been helped a lot by the attitudes and actions of Joseph as found in Genesis 50. It goes like this:

God’s Good Purposes

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[b] should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Genesis 50:15-21

I love Joseph’s attitude. Even though he went through a lot of tough things, he remembered what they had resulted in throughout God’s larger story. All of those things in his life had been key parts of his story or his preparation for the ways God was using him to make a difference.

I think some of the things that we go through during our search for our place are like what Joseph experienced. They can be hard, even challenging beyond what we like. But many times they are preparing us for something later on. At least, that’s been the case with a lot of the things that I’ve done in my life.


“Hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny.”
C.S. Lewis

Elizabeth and I are both grateful for the things that have been a part of each of our stories separately, as well as the things that have been a part of our story together.

In fact, past experiences and learning moments have been really important in shaping our callings and our ministry for 2017.

Elizabeth’s experiences with short term missions and her creative mindset have shaped her to work with short term missions projects and media-based missions awareness teams.

Paul’s experiences in the academic setting and in building relationships in a campus environment have shaped him to work with university students and professors.

What are the things that your story is shaping you to be involved with? Looking back, are you able to see any you may have missed?


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