I have been invited, and have agreed, to teach a group of ladies each Thursday morning who are doing a book study on anxiety. Today, the topic was on mercy and how God is, in fact, a merciful God. Because of His mercy toward us, God extends us grace and that should result in our inner peace – knowing that we have experienced mercy – and received grace.
When I was in seminary, we studied definitions of theological terms and I was always impressed with the short, but accurate definition of grace – “undeserved favor.” That’s right – that’s all there is to it – God can judge, punish or treat us in any way He chooses, yet He chooses to be merciful and extend grace to us – that we do not deserve.
Paul, the author of 13 New Testament books, was a recipient of God’s mercy and grace after his conversion experience on the road to Damascus. He had been one of the worst offenders of persecuting Christians. It is even thought that Paul was at the stoning of Stephen and many scholars believe that he was present at the crucifixion of Jesus. Later, we know that Paul had been struck blind on the road to Damascus, interacted with Jesus, eventually regained his sight and became one of the most effective apostles in history.
Paul started multiple churches and then turned them over to others who grew the respective churches under his guidance. Rarely, if ever, have we read about experiences as devastating at the ones Paul encountered; and how mercy and grace played such an important role in his ministry for Jesus.
In fact, the topics of mercy and grace were so important to Paul that he mentions grace and peace in the opening of every letter that he wrote to the churches as well as his two letters to Timothy and his letter to Titus, collectively referred to as the pastoral epistles. He also mentions grace and peace in his personal epistle to Philemon. Clearly, these concepts were tremendously important to Paul as he recognized the mercy and grace that had been granted to him – resulting in contentment and peace.
In Paul’s letters to his young pastor friend, Timothy, he adds the word “mercy” in his opening. I can’t help but believe this is because it is thought that Paul let Timothy to a belief in Christ and as a pastor, it was very important for Timothy to understand the impact of mercy and grace for every believer. As an emerging pastor, Timothy would have been on the forefront of needing to know how important mercy and grace are to the church and how God demonstrated His love for us by extending grace.
The apostle John, who wrote the Gospel bearing his name as well a three epistles and the book of Revelation, also includes the word “mercy” in the greeting of his second letter. So, he, in addition to Paul and many other church leaders, understands the ideas of love, mercy grace and peace…
The bottom line here is that these three concepts are interconnected. It is because of God’s mercy that we are granted grace and then we can experience God’s peace, a peace only possible when we are in communion with God. Of course, this peace also includes contentment – the kind of contentment that Paul refers to in his letter to the Philippians.
Our verse for tonight is the greeting from Paul’s first letter to Timothy, his young pastor friend. Paul tells Timothy, and us, in 1 Timothy 1-2, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
My encouragement this evening is that God has been merciful to us and He wants us to exhibit the same mercy to others. This is counterintuitive to many of us, but my prayer is that we can all stretch to be a little kinder, more merciful, extend grace and promote the idea of living in a more peaceful world. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…