Have you ever noticed the character of those who have gone through trials? They often have a deep appreciation for little things, forgotten things, and even difficult things. When life is easy, simple joys of life become the expected rather than the cherished. People who have been laid up for an extended time are grateful for the chance to resume their normal activities. When you are separated from a loved one, their memory becomes a treasure. When Pam and I have faced losses, things that were previously irritating didn’t seem to matter anymore, friends mattered a lot, and heaven was a place that we longed for.

This fall we are looking at the theme “Moving on to Maturity” in 1st and 2nd Timothy. Growing deeper is important for us as a church and one aspect of that growth is gratitude. In 1 Timothy 1:12-14, Paul says, “I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus”.

Notice, Paul thanks Jesus for giving him strength. That means that he was facing problems that were difficult. Paul was previously the blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. Now he faced those who had the same attitudes he previously had. Now he was faithfully serving the One he had previously been persecuting. Paul was not asking to be taken out of difficult situations; he only wanted to be faithful to the calling that he had been given.

To grow as a church, we need His strength to live out our faith. That means standing on God’s Word even if it is not popular, or even if people oppose, blaspheme, and persecute us. Our culture harshly rejects anything that represents biblical or Christian values, and this is our opportunity to pray for strength. Instead of praying that the problems of the world would go away, this is a chance to pray for the ability to live out our faith.

Paul also thanks God for the mercy, grace, and love of Christ. Paul was keenly aware of who he was before he met Jesus and he was aware of the change that had taken place. Paul labeled himself as the chief of sinners. When we are alert to what Jesus has done for us, then we won’t have any room for pride or arrogance toward those who do not yet know the mercy, grace, and love of Christ. Maturing in our gratitude means that we live in the world with the strength that only Christ can give, and it means loving the people around us with the mercy and grace that Jesus first gave us.

At Emmaus, we have a unity that comes from the Word of God and the evidence of the Spirit’s work in our midst. Visitors repeatedly comment on both, and appreciate the warm sense of community that we have. The world around us needs that same love, grace, and mercy that we experience in Christ, but the only way they will experience it is if we bring it to them. To do that we need the strength, love, grace, and mercy that only Jesus can provide. O, may Jesus flow over from our lives into the lives of all of those around us.

Where do you need Jesus to strengthen you to live out your faith in this world?

Who needs the love, mercy, and grace that you have received from Christ?