1 Timothy 1:12–17 – “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 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. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 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 immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.”
Do you find yourself struggling to measure up to the way you think a Christian is supposed to behave? How would you feel if a great Christian leader admitted to a similar struggle? Many of us probably find Paul’s self-disclosure above a great relief because we struggle with a perfectionist ideal of how a mature Christian should behave. We idealize others we know or see in leadership and compare ourselves to them, feeling we do not embody the love, grace, patience and wisdom a “good” Christian should.
As a result we feel inferior, guilty and discouraged; our growth path becomes hampered by these obstacles. However, knowing that someone like Paul, who served God passionately and accomplished so much in his life, can say that he is “the worst of sinners,” gives us hope. It helps us to not focus on trying to be a “super Christian” and instead accept where we are today.
The goal of spiritual growth is not perfection but maturity. Our growth in Jesus will bear fruit in a transformed life and character (see Galatians 5:22 – 23). But we will still have issues and struggles. The Apostle Paul also said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (see Philippians 3:12). We must press on and not let our imperfections get us down.
This devotional is drawn from Boundaries, by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.