When I look back over my years of deer hunting, I see how much I have changed. I can remember the first time I arrowed a doe. It was also the first time I followed a blood trail, and the first time I ever field dressed a deer. That one day actually held a lot of firsts. I guess that's why I remember it so vividly. I can also remember the first time I saw a buck while in a tree stand. Until then, I had only heard stories that I were not sure were true. I couldn't imagine something as big as a buck being able to hide from me for two decades. I can remember when my heart would race at the sign of any size buck coming towards me. Back then I hardly ever contemplated if I should pass him up or not. Those opportunities seemed so rare. That was then. This is now. Now, I guess I'm considered a seasoned hunter. Whatever that means. I do have plenty of stories to tell but I'm not sure they make me seasoned - maybe only experienced. I think I'm like the Farmers Insurance commercial. "I know a thing or two because I've seen a thing or two." That doesn't make me special, or smart, or seasoned; only experienced. And I can be experienced at hitting big bucks or missing big bucks. Both are experiences, but only one has credibility with the hunting community. I'm glad God is not that way. Any experience that we have is not lost when it comes to our spiritual growth and maturity. In fact, I'm at the belief that my worst experiences and performances have done more to shape my spiritual life than any of my successes. They have made a permanent groove in my life - one that carries and confi nes every other experience. It's the same for you. Your failures, sufferings, and pain have done more to influence your ministry than any other thing. They have given meat to your message. And there's really just one reason this is true. It's the same reason I talk about smaller bucks more than monster bucks. It's because more hunters can identify with smaller bucks, than bigger ones. It's the same with failure, suffering, and pain. While some have enjoyed success and have been able to leverage it into a message, by far and away, more people have endured failure and suffering. And they need to know these things don't disqualify them from God's plan and purpose, but gives them increased credibility with others who feel like they will never measure up.