2 Timothy 1:8-10
When did you first experience the enabling grace of God?
At age 59, I attended a pre-retirement seminar offered by the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (USA). In a variety of sessions, the seminar leaders urged me to “empty my bucket” as I looked toward the last years of my ministry. They wanted to make sure that I shared all of my insights and experiences with younger colleagues, so that any wisdom I had gained would not disappear with me. Instead, it would enable my successors to flourish.
Paul was doing much the same thing in his letters to Timothy, a younger colleague described as “my dear child” (2 Timothy 1:2). Paul began his second letter by giving thanks for the young man’s “authentic faith,” which first lived in Timothy’s grandmother and mother, a faith that Paul was sure was “also inside you” (verse 5). He reminded him that “God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled” (verse 7).
Paul wanted his colleague Timothy to flourish, so he reminded him that “God is the one who saved and called us with a holy calling. This wasn’t based on what we have done, but it was based on his own purpose and grace that he gave us in Christ Jesus before time began” (verse 9). Although Paul had enjoyed a successful ministry and deserved to boast, he gave God the credit for saving and calling him. Paul knew that his call was due to God’s prevenient grace, which is the divine grace that comes before our human response. Sometimes called enabling grace, this display of God’s love can come long before we begin to follow Christ. In fact, Paul said that it was offered “before time began” (verse 9).
Like Timothy, I experienced God’s grace long before I heard a call to ministry. Authentic faith lived in my parents (married for 49 years, their wedding was on this day in 1956), and in other adults in my childhood church, including my first-grade teacher and 11th-grade Math Analysis teacher. I always assumed that I would be a scientist, so I never gave any thought to the ministry, but then in college God “brought life and immortality into clear focus through the good news” (verse 10). Although this was not based on any good works on my part, I was happy to respond to the opportunity to devote my life to being a pastor.
Now that I have moved closer to the end of my ministry, I want to assure my younger colleagues that God is continuing to work in the church and in their lives. God’s prevenient grace continues to set the stage for vital ministry and mission. God’s enabling grace still works in the lives of men and women and children, lovingly guiding them to follow Christ. I have no worries about the future of the church, because I know that it is in the hands of a powerful and gracious God, just as it has always been.
I thank you, God, for the grace that enables me to follow Jesus. Amen.