Meditations on I Timothy.
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that He has considered me trustworthy, appointing me to His service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” I Timothy 1:12-14, NIV
I love these verses. What I love is the progressive layering of Paul’s words. They portray a beautiful picture of hope. Paul is thanking Christ Jesus, our Lord, who has given him strength. Hallelujah for this simple yet profound truth. Our thanksgiving belongs solely to Jesus, who through our very weakness, makes us strong. In fact, Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, tells us that “My power (Christ’s) is made perfect through weakness.” Paul continues on to say that he will boast all the more gladly of his weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon him. What an encouragement this is to know that it is Christ and His power who gives us strength and that it is through our very weaknesses that He can make us strong.
But, why is Paul thankful? He is thankful because despite his checkered past, Christ Jesus still considered him worthy and appointed him to His service. Paul used to be a blasphemer, persecutor, and violent man. Yet, in spite of who he was and what he did, Christ showed Paul mercy. How thankful I am for this withholding of punishment of which we so rightly deserve. What hope this inspires. For like Paul, we all have sinned and daily make mistakes. Yet, God can still use us for His Kingdom and gladly extends us mercy.
Paul tells us that he was shown mercy because “I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” Jesus had not yet revealed Himself to Paul. So, like many of us before we came to know Christ, Paul lived his life ruled by the paradigm of which he had been entrenched and by what surrounded him. But once Jesus showed Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus, the scales fell off his eyes. The point we dare not miss is that no matter our past and what we have done, no one is beyond the hope of Christ and God’s mercy. God can use all things for good, even those things meant for evil (Genesis 50:20). He is the God who makes beauty from ashes, turns mourning into dancing, and changes the spirit of despair into joy (Isaiah 61:3). Precious friends, God’s eyes see value, meaning, and purpose within each one of us. He has a plan for our lives and can use each of us for His Kingdom work.
How is this possible? How can God use a person whose past is littered with bad choices and mistakes? The answer comes partly in the latter part of these verses when Paul shares the impact of God’s mercy upon his life. “the grace of our Lord poured out on me abundantly along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” When God extended mercy to Paul, He received from Christ an outpouring of blessings that he did not deserve. Yet notice, that the grace which Paul received was not “just” an outpouring but an abundant outpouring. Paul did not receive a tiny portion of grace or a mere sufficient serving. He received grace in extravagant abundance.
But wait, there’s more! Accompanying this abundant outpouring of grace comes also faith and love in Christ Jesus. What a powerful combination! First, we are given that which we do not deserve. Next, we are given faith which Hebrews 11:1 defines as, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In other words, faith is the unquestioning belief that moves us into action and the walking out of our convictions.
If that were not enough, we are also given Christ’s love. A love freely given to all regardless of past sins and that welcomes us with open arms. A love so great that the Son of God came down in human flesh to die on the cross for our sins. A love which existed before time began. A love that is constant, never failing, and always with us.
The thought I wish to leave you with today is the life changing impact God’s mercy should hold in our lives. Here, God is extending to us mercy, out of which flows grace, faith, and love. How should these things be altering our interactions, attitudes, thoughts, and actions? Should not these things of God possess transformational change in us like it did that of Paul? For when we receive gifts and blessings we do not deserve, the impact upon our heart should reflect from the inside out. May God’s underserved gifts of blessing pour out over you this day.