Paul begins his pastoral letter to Timothy with a greeting. It seems simple enough. He wrote:
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. (1 Timothy 1:1-2)
Paul the apostle is writing to Timothy his protégé. Everyone knows this. Usually this passage is quickly read to get to the “meat” of the letter. Like my eighth-grade track coach said about me, “Not so fast.”
Paul’s simple greeting is what Timothy needed to hear. For those of us living through and leading in a pandemic, it’s what we need too: the grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
I need the Grace of God, the unmerited love of the Father.
I need the Mercy of God, the undeserved forgiveness of Jesus.
I need the Peace of God, the unmistakable presence of the Holy Spirit.
If we are going to thrive in trying circumstances, then we need the working of the Triune God daily in our lives. That’s why Paul is writing to Timothy. There were difficulties in ministering to the people of Ephesus and Paul is writing to encourage and offer help. Like Timothy, our strength, wisdom and ingenuity will not sustain us during these strange times. We can’t make it on our own.
When people come at me with an unholy anger, unChristlike attitudes, fear driven ultimatums, and/or a theology based on their favorite news channel rather than the Bible—I need the grace of God. When I respond hastily, sarcastically, angrily, self-centeredly, smugly, I need the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus. When I put my head on my pillow after a long and trying day, I need the peace of the Spirit to flood my soul.
Too many pastors (and fellow believers) have fallen by the wayside when difficulties arrive. Why is that? Sin. Yes. Taking their eyes off Jesus? Eventually, yes. But before sin and clouded vision happens, there most always is a reliance on one’s own power to get them through their present difficulty. “I can do this,” they think. No, they can’t. No, I can’t. Listen, I’m not strong enough to make it on my own. Neither are you. We desperately need the grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. It’s living into the simple words of the old, old song:
I need thee
O I need thee
Every hour I need thee
O bless me now, My Savior
I come to thee!
It is at the foot of the cross that we receive the grace, mercy and peace that we so desperately need during all times, and especially during these times.