SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Forgiven Sinners May Find Strength to Serve Christ
1 Timothy 1
Key Verse: I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service. – 1 Timothy 1:12
Elton Trueblood once asked me, “Are you pregnant?” I sat in stunned silence until he explained, “I mean, are you filled with a compelling idea about which you must write?”
I admitted that I did feel driven to write about the faith that enabled the Apostle Peter to get out of the boat and walk on water.
“Then,” he said, “you are pregnant with an idea, but remember that birthing is a painful process that requires a lot of hard work.”
He was right. After much rigorous labor, three years later I gave birth to my first book, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of Your Boat.
Trueblood helped me understand the need for passionate motivation in Christian service. Effective ministry requires passion. Otherwise we shall wilt and give up in the heat of battle. When we begin to serve Christ we are thrust immediately into spiritual warfare. Only those prepared and willing to “fight the good fight” can survive. That is why we must be equipped with “the armor of God.”
Paul learned this lesson the hard way. That is why, nearing the end of his journey, he could say “I have fought the good fight.” Knowing that serving Christ is a battle with spiritual powers of darkness, he wants his son in the faith, Timothy, to be well armed for warfare with Satan. He tells Timothy he will need faith and a good conscience to win.
By faith Paul meant confidence in the power of Christ to redeem sinners and transform them into useful servants of the gospel. That had been Paul’s experience. He knew himself to have been “the chief of sinners” but he does not dwell on his sinfulness. His focus is on the mercy he received from his Lord Jesus Christ! In a way, Paul was saying, “If Christ could save and use a sinner like me, then he can save and use anybody!” Many of us know what Paul meant for we have felt that same way about ourselves.
A good conscience for Paul was one that was under the control and authority of Christ. God guides us in many ways, one of which is through our conscience. Normally a good (consecrated) conscience will serve us well in discerning the will of God.
One important key to Paul’s passion about serving Christ was his gratitude for Christ’s mercy. Twice in today’s lesson he uses the phrase, “I received mercy.” For this underserved favor from his Lord Paul says he is grateful. He knew he did not deserve God’s mercy but he knew he could not fulfill the purpose of his life without it. Mercy changed him and made him able to receive strength from Christ.
Observe two things Paul says. He says Christ strengthened him, and he says Christ appointed him to his service. Many times Paul declares that he was a servant or slave of Christ “by the will of God.” He saw that appointment, that privilege, as evidence of the mercy of Christ in his life.
It is often helpful to ask yourself the question, “What am I passionate about?” Reflect on that for a moment. What do you have a passion to do with your life?
Now wrestle with this observation: There is no greater purpose for living than to be a servant of Jesus Christ – no matter what your occupation. And to live as a worthy, effective servant of Christ requires a passion to do so, a passion that grows out of gratitude for God’s mercy. When that passion consumes us, we realize our utter helplessness to serve well unless Christ strengthens us. Only then does the strength of Christ flow into us. Only then do we realize with absolute amazement, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
God’s mercy led Paul to have a passion to serve Christ. Through Paul’s teaching, Timothy had that same passion. By the mercy of God, we can have that passion also and find the strength to serve our Lord Jesus Christ.
+ + + (Contact Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org)