“Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” –Romans 7:12
I was reading this morning the words of Paul, a man who though he had always thought of himself as God’s servant, finally realized his righteousness was actually self-righteousness, no better than filthy rags. He was not rich and honored of heaven as he once supposed, but “poor and miserable and blind and naked”.
Paul has been a great inspiration to me, especially since taking the time to study his life as I wrote VBS—Superstars for Jesus. I spent a lot of time then comparing his acts with his letters to the believers, and just really getting to know him.
Today, the Holy Spirit impressed me anew with just how much Paul and I have in common. Perhaps you, too, can relate.
12And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
It is none other than Jesus Himself who “enables” me. He gives me strength and courage to face trials large and small. He gives me wisdom and understanding. He guides my mouth and my pen.
He “counts” me faithful, for it is truly His goodness that covers me, even as I must cry “I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
He has put me into children’s ministry. It is only as I remain connected to Him, the Living Vine, that my life bears life-giving fruit.
13Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious…
I was before “a persecutor”. Perhaps I am not guilty of taking one’s physical life—of course, I would never think to do such a thing! But wait. I am guilty. How many times has my tongue crushed the Spirit of someone? How many times has my natural mind been inclined to break the “bruised reed” and give up on the “smoking flax”?
I was before “injurious”. No way can I say that everything I have ever done has been uplifting and profitable.
I was before “a blasphemer”. Ouch. As far back as I can remember, I have loved Jesus. He has always been attractive to me, and I would never…Well, wait a minute.
We read in John 10, verse 33: “The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” Jesus did not have to “make himself God”—He is God, the Great I Am.
What I was acutely aware of as I read this verse, though, is my own blasphemy. How many times have I insisted on my own way, putting my own ideas and decisions—that is my own self—above God? How many times have I felt justified in being another’s conscience, which is clearly the job of the Holy Spirit? Yes, I was even before a blasphemer.
…but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
“But I obtained mercy”! Praise the Lord! His grace is sufficient for even me. As I learn more, as my understanding is deepened, I am held more and more responsible for truly reflecting the goodness and glory of God. I must cling to His mercy, though, whether my sin comes through ignorance (that is, not knowing) or through outright unbelief in the power or words of God.
14And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
15This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
I am not sure we should all be trying to claim this label, “chief of sinners”; but I am sure of this: I am a sinner. I am unworthy of God’s grace, but…
16Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy…
That is what grace is all about: mercy undeserved.
…that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
He was patient, longsuffering, with me first. It seems I am slow of understanding, coming short of the great faith that Jesus has demonstrated to me. Now I know how to treat others who would believe on Him. I have no place to judge. My place is to be a faithful, encouraging example, pointing others to the Saviour whose grace is sufficient for all who would come unto Him.
17Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
What differences can we expect in our own actions and attitudes when we truly realize that it is Christ that enables us for children’s ministry–not our own “experience” or “wisdom” or “goodness”?