Hi, my name is Ali Martin. I'm one of the pastors at a church in Watford called Soul Survivor. I'm a mom to two kids and married to an Aussie.
I'm getting ready for the kids to go back to school, I'm guessing some of you will be heading that way or it won't be too distant a memory. One of my jobs is to get them labels for their clothes. My mum used to do the sewing on kind. I'm not the sewing on kind, I am the sticking on kind: much, much quicker. And so when my kids first started school I looked around for the stickiest labels I could find. And I found these ones. I am committed to this brand now because they don't come off and I don't want them to come off. I want them to go on their clothes, on their shoes, on their lunchboxes and I want those labels to stay. So that for the rest of the year, everyone will know that's who those things belong to.
The thing is sometimes for us, we have labels and they have stuck to us and they don't seem to come off but unlike the school labels, these labels have got to go because they're not helpful. And the kind of labels I'm talking about are those things where we begin to believe things about ourselves that are not in line with how God sees us.
But let me tell you for me and it came, I sort of realised this label quite a few years ago, only when I completely crashed and burned. So I was at a time in life where quite a few little things had gone wrong. Life wasn't going great, but not dreadfully. And I was in a job I didn't love, but something happened over a few months. I was getting depleted, I was getting more and more sad, I was losing energy, I had begun to just weep uncontrollably. I cried all the way to work. I'd sit at my desk and cry as I was working. I'd drive home and cry. I didn't wanna see friends. I'd started cancelling things and a very wise friend noticed this and pointed out the fact that I was probably depressed and well, she sent me along to the doctor, she actually came with me and the doctor signed me off work and prescribed me some antidepressants.
And in that time, after a while of being off work and after a while of being on this medication, I was able to meet with some people in that church who I didn't know very well at the time, an older couple who were just known for really just sitting with people who were in pain and praying with them and for them. And here they were seeing people really come to a place of healing and freedom and they said they would see me.
And so we began to ask the Lord what was going on in me. And really it was them. They were asking on my behalf, I still was not in a great place to have the energy to ask those questions of God, but they sat and God was so kind. And He showed me that I had been wearing and living out of a label that was failure, believing that I was a failure and believing that everything I did would fail. And it had all come to a head through the circumstances themselves were kind of irrelevant, but as I looked back over my life so far, I could see that I had been so constricted in my decision making, in the things that I wouldn't do for God you know, every time I felt like He would stir something in me and say, Ali, I want you to do this or step out in this way. I couldn't do it cause I was so frightened of failure.
And this label had so stuck to me and it had begun to influence everything that I believed about myself. And so it was time for that label that was so sticky, that was so stubborn to come off.
And so my friends, they prayed for me and asked the Holy Spirit to change the way I was thinking and to bring me in line with who the Bible says I am. And the Bible doesn't say I'm perfect. The Bible, doesn't say you're perfect by any stretch of the imagination. And the truth of it is, is that as a human being, I do fail at things. Not everything I do is perfect by any stretch but that doesn't mean that I am a failure. Yes, I make mistakes but I am not a failure.
I am loved by God. I am chosen by Him. He is committed to me. He says that I am valuable to Him. He says that He has plans for me and that He has chosen me that I would be fruitful.
So it was time for that label to come off. And that was a process, but He is kind at restoring me to my pre sticky labelled state.
And so I just want to encourage you. I don't know if you've ever thought about the labels that might be stuck on you, the ways that you think about yourself, things that you believe about yourself that aren't in line with who the Bible says you are. And like the Psalmist, he prayed. I think it's Psalm 51, "Search me oh God and know my heart." You can pray, search me oh God, know my heart and tell me if there are any labels that need to go. And then it's as simple as saying, Holy Spirit, would you renew my mind and show me how to live free and in line with who you say I am. Get rid of that sticky label. He can do that for you. And that's a bit of my story.