October 6, 2019 [Pentecost 17]  1 Timothy 1:12-17  J.D.Roekle

 

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

 

Christ Jesus Displays His Patience

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          A young father in a supermarket was pushing a shopping cart with his little son, who was strapped in the front. The little boy was fussing, irritable, and crying. The other shoppers kept their distance from the pair because the child would pull cans off the shelf and throw them into the aisle. The father seemed to be very calm; as he continued down each aisle, he murmured gently: "Easy now, Donald. Keep calm, Donald. Steady, boy. It's all right, Donald."  A mother who was passing by was greatly impressed by this young father's calm demeanor. She said the father, "You certainly know how to talk to an upset child—quietly and gently."  And then bending down to the little boy, she said, "What seems to be the trouble, Donald?"  "Oh no," said the father. "He's Henry. I'm Donald." 

          You can relate, can’t you?!  Maybe you lose patience when the check-out line at the store seems to take forever.  Perhaps, you lose patience with the driver ahead of you who is going too slowly or the driver behind you who is right on your tail.  It might be you lose patience with your child when they keep doing the same thing over and over even though you’ve told them to stop. 

          Patience doesn’t come easy.  Even the most patient person has a breaking point.  But Jesus, Paul says, has unlimited patience.  And he displays that incredible patience through Christians. 

          The Apostle Paul was incredibly zealous in whatever task he pursued.  Before Jesus got a hold of him, he was a faithful Jew.  He was a Pharisee who tried to follow God’s law perfectly.  And in his zeal, he pursued those who went against the Jewish faith.  He persecuted Christians. 

          And then he came to realize the error of his ways.  He came to realize what a sinner he was.  The word ‘sin’ means to miss the mark.  Think of this in terms of archery.  The object in archery is to hit the middle, the bullseye.  If you have ever tried archery, you know how difficult it can be to be consistent at it.  And in fact, no matter how good you get at it, it is impossible to consistently hit the bullseye every single time.  Even the greatest archers in the world aren’t able to do it.  Even they miss the mark they are supposed to hit. 

          In archery, how do you know how well you shot your arrows?  You examine the target.  You go up to the target to retrieve your arrows and you find that while you have one bullseye, the other arrows are off the mark.

          How did Paul know he was missing the mark?  It was the Son of God himself, Jesus Christ, who appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and forced Paul to look at the target:  Why are you persecuting me?  Jesus hit Paul between the eyes with the full brunt of the Law.  When Paul examined the target, he now realized how badly he had missed the mark.  By persecuting followers of Jesus, he was persecuting God himself. 

          Our Lord patiently works with you and me too…pointing out the fact that we miss the mark.  In fact, he lets us know that it’s in our genes.  We have a flaw that doesn’t even allow us to hit the intended mark.  Our very nature is corrupt.  And we can’t do anything by nature than to miss the mark.  In fact, we miss the whole target. 

          And so, what should Christ Jesus do with us?  He should really say, I want nothing to do with you.  All you are and what you do is contrary to me.  You don’t live up to the standard I have set.  That’s the standard of perfection.  Paul couldn’t live up to it either.  As one who was persecuting Jesus himself by persecuting Christians, we might naturally think that God should have simply cast Paul away.  Isn’t that precisely what you and I deserve?  For God to punish us by casting us away from his presence? 

          But our God is incredibly patient.  And we see that patience on display in Jesus.  Not only did he confront Paul with his sin, but he also brought Paul to his side.  He made Paul his own.  Just think of that.  Paul had once thought that the death of Jesus was a good thing because he thought Jesus and his followers were the bad guys.  But Jesus patiently worked with Paul to get him to realize that Jesus’ death was intentional so that Paul’s sins would be wiped away.  So that your sins and mine would be wiped away. 

          But there’s more.  When Jesus lived here, he never missed the mark.  He always hit the intended target…perfectly!  And Jesus clearly lives again to tell us about it. 

          Yes, God has displayed his patience with us by not casting us aside.  He patiently expresses his love for us.  He has made us his own by faith.  And even now, he continues to have patience with us.  After all, coming to faith doesn’t mean that suddenly you are able to hit the intended target every time.  You and I still miss the mark.  And since we are talking today about patience, think of how often we display impatience.  How often do you lose patience with a loved one because they don’t seem to be as sanctified as you are?  How often might you lose patience with God’s Word when it says something you don’t like, or something you don’t understand?   

          It is a good thing that Jesus has unlimited patience.  As such, He patiently reminds us that we are forgiven.  He points to the font and tells us that our sins are washed away in him.  He gives his very own body and blood to us in the Supper to very personally assure us of his patient forgiveness. 

          Then he further displays his patience by using us for his purposes.  The prime example was the Apostle Paul.  Once Paul was on Jesus’ side, it is incredible what he all did.  His zeal for the Lord is unmatched.  Wherever he went, no matter what the circumstance he proclaimed: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” 

          Paul was a well-known persecutor of Christians.  As he proclaimed the saving Gospel, just think of who and what were really on display.  Jesus and his patience, where Paul was concerned, was on display by the very fact that God chose not only to save Paul, but to also make him His instrument. 

          That’s how God is using me as well.  I must confess that I am the worst of sinners.  At the same time, I join heartily with the hymnwriter: “Chief of sinners, though I be, Jesus shed his blood for me.”  God uses a sinner like me to reach sinners. 
          And so, he uses you too.  Jesus’ matchless patience is on display in you too.  May you and I then, display patience for others.  May we be patient in the way that we treat them and interact with them.  May we display patience for others as we share with them the truth that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

How many people do you know that don’t have that truth?  Whoever it might be, don’t give up on them.  Patiently look for ways to tell them about Jesus.  After all, Jesus uses his Spirit to convict their hearts in his own time.  Be patient.  After all, Jesus has been patient with you and me!  Amen.