1 Timothy 1:12-17 Faithfulness will find a way out of the darkest seasons of life
1 Timothy 1:12-17
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. 15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
The apostle Paul never fails to recount the grace that liberated him from the darkest season of his life. God’s grace not only exonerates him from due punishment, grace ordains him into service as apostle of the church. However, it is true that Paul’s capacity to remain faithful to his convictions (rightly or wrongly) contributes to his ordination. In today’s devotion, we learn that one’s faithfulness will find a way out of the darkest seasons of life and obtain mercy for forgiveness and sanctification.
He considered me faithful, putting me into service… and the grace of our Lord.
The apostle Paul, having experienced a generous portion of God’s grace is filled with thanksgiving. Even though he considers himself a sinner of inconceivable cruelty, he is appointed as an apostle, a carrier of God’s revelations with power. Paul mentions two things that has not only exonerated him but put him into service for the gospel, namely: his faithfulness (He considered me faithful) towards the tasks entrusted to him and the grace of God.
a. He considered me faithful. Paul has been faithful and true to his beliefs on both sides of the camp. Paul testifies of his former manner of life in Judaism, “For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.” Galatians 1:13-14. Paul’s misdirected faithfulness initially contributes to his zeal as Judaist and later, as an apostle of the church. Regardless of his former manner of life, Paul’s faithfulness to his human convictions and his follow through (rightly or wrongly) are impeccable. Hence, God considers Paul faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer… We must understand that God sees not as man sees, and His judgment is righteous, thoroughly searching the thoughts and intents of the heart (see Hebrews 4:12-13). Even though he was a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor, he is truly misled and misinformed by the traditions of mindless radicalism: because I acted ignorantly in unbelief.
The question: what causes this profound transformation in Paul? Amidst his supernatural encounter with Christ while en route to Damascus and the prophecies surrounding him, he realises that righteousness is not derived by an outward conformance to laws, but a heart of faith and love that came through Jesus Christ. Although self-styled as a relentless a crusader of Judaism, a quintessential follower of Yahweh, he is no more than a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Paul, in realising how he has fallen short, embraces a renewed understanding of truth, which is based on the regeneration of the heart (towards faith and love) and righteousness, which comes through God’s forgiveness. Paul’s dramatic transformation does not come from an exhaustive study of the Law, but from the Spirit that births within him a renewed heart of love and long-suffering even towards those of opposing beliefs.
b. And the grace of our Lord was more than abundant. Paul’s sin is severe in that it sees to the destruction and murder of God’s people which is Christ’s own body. The persecution of the church is tantamount to persecuting Christ Himself, and the wounds laid upon Christians are summarily laid upon Christ. Jesus appears to Paul (formerly known as Saul) in a light while en route to Damascus saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Acts 9:4. However, the mercies of God is greater and His grace more abundant than the hideousness of Saul’s sins. It is inconceivable that God will even forgive the sins of mindless violence that are levelled against Him. However, Paul, in voicing his ignorance does not attempt to diminish his responsibility for his actions. For what it’s worth, Paul clarifies that his acts of violence against the church bears no malice for he is truly misled: I acted ignorantly in unbelief. Therefore, because of his ignorance, God looks pass his crimes and exonerates him. Anyway, in spite of Saul’s ignorance, he labeled himself as foremost among sinners. Saul has put to destruction innocent lives without cause and hence, according to Moses’ Law, his condemnation is just.
Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience.
It is through Paul’s dramatic transformation that the perfect quality of Christ’s patience as a pattern is broadcast to the world. In doing so, all who are in their own eyes, beyond redemption may have hope. Christ’s patience is demonstrated in His capacity to bear with injustice and wrongdoings without immediately destroying the sinner. Nevertheless, Christ’s patience in bearing with evil doers translates into undue suffering for innocent people. In other words, the existential suffering of the innocent testifies to the patience of God towards evil doers so that ignorant sinners may one day be saved.
Faithfulness will find a way out of the darkest seasons of life.
In putting Paul into service, it may seem unjust on God’s part given the damage he has done to the church. Apparently, what sustained harsh persecutions against the church is Paul’s spirited faithfulness to the task of cleansing the Jewish nation from heresy. After Paul’s conversion, he turns the tables on his compatriots, being faithful to deliver Jewish and Gentile Christians from the bondage of Judaism. It is obvious that a renewed understanding of religion did not get him appointed as apostle, but his faithfulness while as persecutor of the church. Only does it fuel his capacity for greater faithfulness towards the work of the gospel. As we know it, faithfulness is the key that enables Paul to find a way out of the darkest seasons of his life.
It appears what God treasures in Paul is not a more profound appreciation of religion but the virtue of faithfulness. It is in deed Paul’s faithfulness while as an insolent persecutor that got him ordained. Many churchgoers in desiring to be used mightily by God invested much time into religious activities, and chasing after anointed ministers but with little results. They find themselves changing direction every now and then in search of shortcuts and secrets to greater anointing. However, God will anoint with greater authority those who give of themselves fully to the mundane and with undiminished zeal and passion. The virtue of faithfulness presents itself unmistakably in every task regardless of its significance and scope. It is no wonder that Paul becomes the most prominent of the apostles, for he is faithful whether in error or in truth, in life or in death.
An undivided heart attracts God’s infinite grace for forgiveness
Even after Paul has repented from persecuting the church, he has to contend with the irreversible fact that many innocent families have been destroyed. How does Paul on a daily basis deal with guilt and regret? By continually putting Christ as the centre of his life, and maintaining an undivided heart, Paul receives God’s infinite grace for forgiveness. As for Paul, the grace of our Lord was more than abundant in overcoming guilt and self-condemnation. Guilt operates in the realm of the spirit as opposed to in the mind. Many churchgoers resort to reminding themselves of the irrevocability of Christ’s gift of salvation. But they remain tormented by condemnation and fear at the slightest accusation from their conscience. Many of them stay away from reading the bible because it surfaces the dark passions that are permitted to remain. Unless believers resolve to follow Christ wholeheartedly without reservations, there is no freedom from guilt. The Christian world is amazed by Paul’s objectivity and ability to combat guilt, having to contend daily with accusations from both the church and the Jews. Yet, we have never detected a hint of regret and self-blame from any of Paul’s writings. When believers install Christ, the source of infinite grace in the centre of their lives, they will be awashed with an infinite supply of peace, joy and righteousness of the Spirit.
Do you find yourself in a rut, and unable to break free from the depressive guilt and gloom that persist in your spirit? Give yourself to Christ wholeheartedly and cut off the notions of sin and the relationships that hinder you from doing God’s will. Be faithful and passionate towards your daily tasks and do all things unto God and not to man. Rebuke the notions of guilt and hopelessness and draw into your spirit the abundant grace of God that is able to prosper.
Dear Lord, I desire faithfulness, imbue in me Christ’s faithfulness that resurrected Him from the darkest seasons of His life. Cause me to soar above the heights of mediocrity and bring a light to the darkest places of the earth. As you find me faithful, ordain me into service for your kingdom’s work. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.