“Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (2 Tim 1:2 NIV)
Just as the Apostle Paul wrote this encouraging prayer to Timothy, it is my prayer for all who read this blog. This short prayer is also presented at the beginning of many of the epistles. Grace is receiving something good that we don’t deserve, and mercy is not receiving the punishment that we deserve. True peace is the result of God’s grace and mercy made available to us through the gospel.
The Apostle Paul’s letters to Timothy include ministerial instructions along with encouragement. In the text below, Paul uses a personal example to demonstrate the magnitude of God’s grace and mercy in his life.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst. 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. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever, Amen.” (1 Timothy 1: 15-17 NIV)
The following text from the Apostle Peter’s letter describes why we are able to be full of joy, regardless of our present circumstances.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. “ (1 Peter 1:3-7 NIV)
Just as God used the various trials experienced by the Apostles to prompt them to write several epistles that have benefitted Christians throughout the centuries, God can use our suffering and trials to strengthen our faith and walk with Him. We can live in a state of peace and joy regardless of any suffering we may be going through here on earth because of God’s promise of eternity with Him and the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. (See Romans 8:14-39.)
My oldest daughter’s encouragement to her parents (Mary and me), her sisters, and her other relatives and friends, comes to mind as I ponder this subject.
In September 2002, Ronna was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and was told she had only days to live. However, with treatments, she was able to live for several months and went to be with Jesus in late January 2003. During these months, she was able to get her belongings distributed and have a “Celebration of Life” with friends and family. During this gathering, she used crutches for walking and wore a wig to cover her bald head. Mentally, she was still her old self. After the program, everyone present went by her, giving hugs but not knowing what to say. She was all smiles and very cheerful even though the rest of us were fighting back the tears. Her favorite line was: “I get to see Jesus soon!”
What an encouragement and testimony to all of us!
We need to continually remind ourselves that God’s will for our lives here on earth includes being an encourager to our Christian brothers and sisters in Christ. Our trials and struggles can be the training needed to encourage others going through similar trials and struggles. The Apostle Paul describes this process to the Corinthian church in the following text.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the suffering of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm because we know that just as you share in our suffering, so also you share in our comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NIV)
We can be joyful regardless of present circumstances as we look forward to our future home in heaven with Jesus.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.“ (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 NIV)
Your brother in Christ, Roger Bailey