“And the Grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
I Timothy 1:14-15
When we really see ourselves as we are and what we are apart from His Grace, we will also feel this way about ourselves.
“Of whom I am chief.”
Was Paul feeling down-and-out when he wrote these words in today’s Manna? Or, knowing his competitive nature, did he somehow feel he had to be the worst sinner to offset how he’d once felt he was the best Pharisee (Phil. 3:4-6)?
It’s safe to assume that the aged Apostle didn’t suffer from an inferiority complex where he had to feel bad about himself before he could feel better. Paul’s problem (like some many of ours) was a “superiority complex”—i.e., pride. Stinkin’, sinful pride.
We’re born with it. We thrive and rely on it. We love flaunting it.
Power. Prestige. Prowess. Popularity. Possessions.
And, getting “saved” or religious doesn’t free us from it. Some of the worst atrocities ever committed have been done in God’s Name (e.g., Paul’s persecution of that “born-again cult” called Christians, the Crusades, the Salem Witchcraft Trials, jihads, etc.).
That’s why our Manna attests to Paul’s true conversion—for no longer did he see himself “as somebody come;” instead, he realized his “laundry list of sins” was extensive (vv.13a, 16a), but God “in His Mercy was exceedingly gracious, giving him faith and love in Christ Jesus” (vv.13b-14). And, he knew our omniscient Lord knew he would trust Him and “counted him faithful and entrusted unto him the Ministry of the Gospel” (v.12).
When we realize “Who God is and that He is faithful to keep His promises” (Heb. 11:6), we begin looking at things differently. Instead of striving to be #1 in men’s estimation, we “press for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). Instead of gloating in our accolades and achievements (Phil. 3:4-6), we “count it all as dung that we may know Christ in His fullness” (Phil. 3:7-10).
Yes, the road upward is always preceded by the downward road. As someone said, “We’re never as close to God as we are when we’re on our knees.” Paul knew it was his “obtaining,” not “attaining,” that mattered. He also knew “thorns in the flesh” have a way of reminding us that “God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness” and, therefore, we should “glory in and find pleasure in them” (II Cor. 12:7-10).
If God blesses you with prosperity, Pilgrim, never fail to realize from Whom those blessings come. Never forget the danger that accompanies them in tempting you to focus on them (or ourselves) rather than the One Who gave them. And, never forget, as someone said, “But for the Grace of God there go I.” Start today by reminding yourself of Paul’s words: “I’m the chiefest of sinners;” then go forth in Mercy and Grace to those who’ve yet to know how to become an adopted, pardoned child of God and tell them how they, too, can come to know Jesus.
By Tom Smith Morning Manna Dated September 12, 2009