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Archive for November, 2018

Extending Mercy

Sunrise in Key West

“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16 NIV).

In his letter to Timothy, Paul called himself the worst of sinners. When we meet someone and they tell us they are sinners it can be unnerving. We wonder just what sins they have committed. In Paul’s case there were many. Because he was a religious man he committed many sins in the name of God.

Probably the most well-known of his sins is his aggressive persecution of Christians. It was Paul’s desire to wipe out followers of Christ. He describes one instance in particular that made such an impression on him that he never forgot it. He stood by and observed the stoning of Stephen. He came to persecute Christians and when he got there his fellow religious Jews prepared to stone Stephen. Paul held the cloaks of the men while they picked up stones.
The vision that stayed with him was of Stephen as he was dying, asking the Lord to forgive his executioners.

Perhaps Paul could see the reflection of Jesus in Stephen’s eyes as Stephen beheld his Lord and Savior.
Even after Jesus watched the persecution of one of his loyal children, He made a way for Paul to be saved. On the road to Damascus He suddenly appeared to Saul (he was known as Saul before God changed his name). Immediately Saul recognized His voice and knew who He was. Jesus forgave Saul, changed his name to Paul, changed his life forever, and showed him mercy. Instantly transformed, Paul became one of Jesus’ greatest disciples.

In 1 Timothy 1:13 Paul tells Timothy, “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.” Here Paul admits to Timothy and to us something very important. Before Paul accepted Jesus he was a persecutor and a violent man toward those who did not agree with his view of God. But now Paul no longer persecutes or hates those who do not accept his teaching. When he received the Holy Spirit he was changed. That is Paul’s example for us mentioned in our text. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are changed. We no longer persecute or are violent toward those who do not accept our message. God gave them free will and we must accept that to honor Him. Christ forgave us and we must now forgive others.

People betray us. Friends do things that we find hard to forgive. In our humanity we want them to get a taste of their own medicine. We don’t feel like showing mercy to the worst of sinners. But if we want to be more like Christ, forgiveness must be given to anyone who disappoints us. Yes, it hurts. But we can take our hurts to the Lord and He will heal us. And when we see our friend again, we must put on an attitude of mercy. In Matthew 5:7 Jesus tell us, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Paul mentions that Christ displayed immense patience as an example to His followers. This attitude of patience is rare in our day because people think multi-tasking and rushing in all directions is admirable. In fact, this becomes mindless activity when we look at what we’ve accomplished at the end of the day. You might save a minute by crowding in line, but at the end of the day, what will you have done with that minute?

Today let’s have an attitude of mercy and patience toward others and joy in whatever occurs!

Merciful God, thank You for the attitude of mercy and patience You have demonstrated through Your word. Give me a heart like Yours. I am grateful for the times You have shown me mercy. Remind me to be patient with others. Amen.

This is an excerpt from the forty-day devotional, “Attitude Matters”. Click here to order.

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