By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
This week, I’ve been with my mom who’s still hospitalized after more than five weeks.
During that time, I heard a sermon from First Timothy, a book written by an aging evangelist to a young Christian minister. The apostle Paul recounted what God had done for him, and encourages us to make ourselves available for service.
A recurring theme for why we do this is that we’ve been shown mercy, and we’ve received grace, faith and love. In Christ we can actually experience faith and love – know and understand them - so they become life-giving, and that results in service.
When Jesus came into the world to save sinners, his mercy demonstrates God’s perfect plan. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
The sermon I heard focused on the positives of the first chapter, Paul’s testifying of his freedom under grace and his being set free from the Law. However, a verse in the passage jumped out to me. “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Timothy 1:16). In the parable of the talents, Jesus told the story of a servant who heard the words, “’You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things’” (Matthew 25:21).
Verse 13 tells of God who shows mercy when folks act with ignorance or unbelief. In his former life Saul had thought he was being faithful while still ignorant. We need wisdom to do what God is calling us to right now.
A more pointed area of the scripture has to do with the fact that we are sinners. “Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy 1:13). The words were written not while Paul was persecuting Christians but long afterward as he served as mentor to Timothy. While troubling to some, the present tense seems to indicate an ongoing sin – we’d prefer to be called ignorant or even unfaithful rather than think of ourselves as sinners.
The passage contains a lot of encouragement, but the significance is in the fact that we fall short. Paul's emphasis is on being faithful so we can be put into service – having faith so we can move into new understanding.
Paul’s humility and personal ownership led him to say my sins are the worst. Even the best of us still fall short, and in our ignorance we all sin. Knowing this should not be discouraging, but make us more appreciative of what Christ has done. The person forgiven much will love more. If we say we don’t sin we may have a hard time recognizing what a sacrifice was made on our behalf.
Little is much when God is in it. We don’t have a lot to offer, and probably there’s more to be forgiven than we realize. But his grace is sufficient. God’s mercy is great enough to hear the prayers of all of us sinners, including a reluctant 84-year-old woman.