In recent years, Paul's personal testimony of God's grace found in I Timothy 1:12-17 has become precious grist for the mill of preaching the gospel to myself. While pondering these verses again this morning, I was struck by God's very unusual logic - unusual, that is, in comparison to our own.
In verses 12-13 Paul remembers his deep rebellion against God before he was saved. In verses 14-15 he speaks of the greatness of God's grace in light of his deep sin. Then in verse sixteen Paul writes, "But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life." So much is packed into v. 16, but I simply want to draw our attention to God's strange logic. Paul says the reason God showed him mercy was to display His perfect patience in order to incite saving trust in Him in the hearts of others who were destined to believe.
God's agenda is so much different from our own. How many of you woke up this morning saying, "The sin of others I encounter today will give me a wonderful opportunity to display my patience, and thus God's grace in my life, toward them." We don't think that way. We want a day with no barriers to our plans. We want to be surrounded by people who never sin against us but are always ready to extend us grace when we sin. We don't want to have to exercise patience. Furthermore, we're not good at patience. It's not by mistake that the first phrase defining biblical love mentioned by Paul in his famous list in I Corinthians 13:4-7 is "Love is patient...." We are naturally impatient, especially with others' sins. Not God. He does not love our sin, but He mercifully loves to display His perfect patience when we do sin.
Let's spend this day full of thankfulness that God is not like us. He has borne patiently with us ever since we woke up this morning. And He's not done it begrudgingly. He's not grumbled under His breath, "When will these people get their act together?" He delights to show us patience, for it's the lens of His character through which we best behold His fatherly love.