I have been going through an identity problem lately. I didn’t notice it for a while. I knew I was discouraged but I could not put my finger on the root source. The Lord’s kindness has been at work to mercifully reveal and heal over the last week. Yet, even now I fight it off and strive for a life of overflowing grace. God used his word to expose this.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to Timothy, his son in the faith, to give him instructions and encouragement as he served at Ephesus. We read in 1 Timothy 1 beginning in verse 12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
A charge without encouragement is never enough. Paul needed to remind Timothy that his identity was not the pastor at Ephesus but rather a saved sinner by the mercy of Christ. This is hard sometimes to see because you don’t really know what your identity is until it is gone. So how can we know day to day what we are finding our joy in?
Here are some observations from Paul’s identity described in verses 12-14.
- Thankfulness: Paul gave thanks to Christ for the strength given to him. This is an acknowledgement of the source and the need. Paul also was thankful for being appointed as servant of Christ. How long has it been since you were thankful for being a servant of Christ? A heart of thanksgiving comes from a heart that knows that all things are from God…life breath and everything. In other words, a heart of that overflows with the grace of God gives thanks. So, the first evaluation can be “Am I thankful?”
- Acknowledging the past: Paul’s freedom to speak of his former life (and without making light of sin) was astounding. He easily took on the chief of sinners title. If you would have stopped Paul on the road to Damascus two minutes before he meet Jesus and asked him if he was the chief of sinner he would probably have said, NO. I am the most righteous man you have ever met! Yet, a man who finds his identity in Christ and overflows with grace calls himself the foremost sinner in the world. So, the second evaluation can be “Do I remember who I was?”
- Praise/doxology: Upon saying these things, Paul then broke out in worship–1 Timothy 1:15-17 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. You might discover your identity problem if you haven’t genuinely and often worshiped Christ the King…even brought to tears over how merciful he has been to you.
Even now God’s mercy and grace attends to your soul. May your life overflow with grace and put on display Christ’s perfect patience. The one whose identity is in something other than Christ will not display these things stated above. You will be like me: joyless because what I was identifying in was not going very well. Praise be to God that he doesn’t leave us to ourselves. His mercy is abounding!