We started reading 1 Timothy on Wednesday. What a unique blessing of a letter! Paul’s personal exhortation to his young protege is passionate, practical, gut-level honest about the realities of the world, and piercingly insightful.
It would be easy to gloss over the way the letter starts. 1 Timothy was written by the world’s greatest theologian, at the height of his theological influence. He planted and grew churches across the known world, shepherded countless to faith, and was used by God to form the early Christian church. That’s quite a resume!
And yet as he writes to his spiritual son Timothy, he launches his great exposition on the structure and order of the church by declaring, in 1:13, “Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy…”
Pause and rest in the reality of what Paul is doing. His accolades are too numerous to count! His authority on matters of church and faithfulness is unquestionable. His faithfulness, sacrifice, dedication, and integrity are beyond doubt. And his theological and spiritual contributions are literally world-shaping. And yet for Paul, the clearest – the most defining – reality he knew himself by was as a recipient of divine mercy.
This mercy defined Paul and drove him towards humility and graciousness; away from pride or self-aggrandizement. The reality of who he was apart from Christ, compared to who he was in Christ was always forefront on Paul’s mind and drove Paul to glorify God in all things – not pat himself on the back.
Read this tweet slowly, carefully, and ponder it:
Read this again this morning, had to share:
Right before the Puritan Thomas Hooker died, a close friend said to him:
“You are going to receive the reward for all your labors.”
“Brother, I am going to receive 𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘤𝘺.”
— James Dorman IV (@alfredsparks) August 20, 2021
Paul embodied this mentality. Truly, his words in Philippians 1:21 were genuine: “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” This is so clearly demonstrated in how he begins his letter; his mind is set: Paul will not rest on his accomplishments or see greatness in his faithfulness. Paul sees himself as a sinner, redeemed by Jesus and used by God for His glory.
How different this mindset is from that of the world! And yet, it’s so commonly biblical. Over and over again Scripture challenges us to live our lives through the lens of God’s mercy. We’re told to “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6). This is a daily practice of remembrance and surrender.
How might this mindset affect your day-to-day life? Do you chase the rush of accomplishment? Do you look for promotion or value derived from what you do? Christ wants to separate yourself from that, and implant a quiet humility in everything we do. It’s freeing, life-giving, and eternity-shaping.
Let us be the type of people who follow Jesus like Paul did – in full acknowledgment that Jesus is the one who provides value and purpose, and He does so abundantly. He is the one who provides mercy; He does so unconditionally.
And we are the ones who require that mercy – every day, every minute. Even after a successful career, “Friends, I choose mercy!”