Our Lectio Divina for today:
I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work. He went out on a limb, you know, in trusting me with this ministry. The only credentials I brought to it were invective and witch hunts and arrogance. But I was treated mercifully because I didn’t know what I was doing—didn’t know Who I was doing it against! Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus. 1st Timothy 1: 12-14 (MsgB)
Last time, we looked at the amazing call on Paul’s life and how that same call can be adapted onto our lives as well. As I see it, we men and women of the cloth, here in the twenty-first century, have the equal-right and the equal-opportunity to walk in the same vocational call (the same kalós: precious treasure) that Paul proclaimed for himself and for his son in the faith, Timothy.
As a reminder, here’s Paul’s descriptive words once again…
I, Paul, am an apostle on special assignment for Christ, our living hope. Under God our Savior’s command, (I’m) carrying out God’s plan laid out in the Message of Life by Jesus…this great Message I’ve been put in charge of by this great God.
Now, as they say out there in the real world, with any acceptance of good news, one must also be willing to accept the bad news. And my dear friends, in today’s passage from 1st Timothy, we are given the cold hard facts about who Paul sees himself to be outside of the good news of amazing grace from God.
Just look at the powerful credentials Paul places on his resume:
I didn’t know what I was doing –
I didn’t know Who I was doing it against!
You see, in truth, working for Jesus of Nazareth is the only job in the world where our credentials, both good and bad, count for nothing. Oh, I know that you and I sometimes believe that we have a lot of good things to offer the Master when we sign up to follow Him. But, in truth, even our best qualities can actually get in the way when it comes to serving Christ.
Take Peter, for example. In Matthew 16: 17-20, we find Peter, the Rock, exhibiting a strong inner boldness when he bravely speaks out on his awareness that Jesus is, indeed, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Yet only a couple of verses later, that same brashness and boldness that is Peter to the core, gets him in hot water with the Master when he openly challenges Jesus, who is explaining to His disciples about how He is traveling to Jerusalem in order to suffer and die.
“Get behind Me, Satan!” Jesus says to Peter. “You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16: 23 NIV
Jesus goes on to explain, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it.” Matthew 16: 24-25 NIV
As I see it, there are dozens of personality tests out there that help us in determining our strengths and measuring our inner fortitude. Comprehensive tools like Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram, StrengthsFinder, and others all offer us excellent overviews of what “good” we can offer the world and what types of environments might best utilize our unique strengths. But let me quite blunt here.
While I’m a proponent of all these tests, and am even trained in helping people in the Enneagram, let me say without a shadow of uncertainty…outside of Christ, all of this is as worthless as a three-dollar bill.
Paul gets it right when he tells Timothy that he brings nothing good to the table when he signs up to serve the Master. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul goes even so far to say this about his credentials:
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. Philippians 3: 7-9 AKJV
Hmm. My credentials = cow dung. Not a pretty picture.
So, lest you get overly discouraged, dear friends, here’s the good news, once again…
Like Paul, you and I share in the kalós, the precious treasure, of being on “special assignment for Christ, our living hope…under God our Savior’s command, carrying out God’s plan laid out in the Message of Life by Jesus…this great Message we’ve been put in charge of by this great God.”
But now, here’s the bad news…
Any credentials you and I bring into this “precious treasure,” whether it be ugly stuff like what Paul talks about here in our 1st Timothy passage, or good stuff like he mentions in his letter to the Philippians, all of it is worthless (i.e. to be counted as cow dung) when compared to the all-inclusive credentials Jesus brings to this work He has assigned to us.
As Paul states it:
I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work. He went out on a limb, you know, in trusting me with this ministry…Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus.
My prayer: Master, it’s very clear that Paul had a healthy and balanced view of himself as he served You faithfully with the kalós, the precious treasure, You gave him. He not only understood that he had no credentials to offer You that would make him more successful in his work, nor were there any failures in his past that might disqualify him in any way. To Paul, everything is centered on You and Your grace mixed with faith and love that poured over him and into him. Like him, I too, choose, this day, to lay down my credentials so that this same grace pour over and into me. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Have I been looking to my credentials when it comes to the call of Christ in my life? Have I allowed my past failures to disqualify me? Have I allowed my successes and achievements to govern the way I serve the Master? If so, what practical steps must I take today to lay down my credentials so that I can say, like Paul, that “grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus?”
So, what is God speaking to you today as you guard the kalós, the precious treasure of pastoral ministry, in your life?
In this 26-session blog series, Kalós: Guarding the Precious Treasure, we explore the kalós*, this precious treasure of pastoral ministry that has been deposited into us by the work of the Holy Spirit. We invite you to come along with us, bookmarking this blog’s home page for easy, on-going referencing.
As you go through this blog series, we also suggest that you use the ancient tool of Lectio Divina as you approach each scriptural text we give you in this blog. Lectio Divina is a slow, intentional reading of the Holy Scriptures. Take your time as you ponder the text slowly, allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate God’s Word for you as you read. Ask the Master as you read, “Jesus, what in this passage do I need to hear today?”
*So, what is kalós?
Kalós comes from a New Testament Greek word which simply means “good.” The apostle Paul, when writing to his young apprentice, Timothy, decided to combine this common adjective, kalós, with a second Greek word, parathéké, a noun which means a deposit or trust committed to one’s charge. As a result, the apostle ends up with one, very powerful phrase! A command that both Timothy, and you and I, truly need to take note of as we continue this ancient work of serving Christ and His Church! “Guard this kalós (this good work, this beautiful deposit, this precious treasure) placed in your custody by the Holy Spirit who works in us.” 2nd Timothy 1: 14