This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:15-17)
It sounds strange but true, that our greatest strength can also be our greatest weakness. A leader who is bold and confident risks becoming proud and arrogant. A leader who is humble and sensitive risks becoming easily hurt and discouraged. A leader who is capable and experienced risks rely on what they know and can do, and not on God.
Even stranger than this truth is another truth, and that is that our greatest weakness can be our greatest strength.
In these verses Paul continues his theme of unworthiness. We saw last week how a sense of unworthiness does not disqualify us from serving God. This week we'll go a step further by saying that a sense of unworthiness is indispensable to leadership!
The devil uses our faults and failings to accuse us but God uses them for quite a different purpose.
Firstly God wants to use our faults and failings to reveal His mercy. The longer I've been a Christian the more I've been aware of my own deep-rooted faults - attitudes and thoughts that don't bring glory to God. Rather than cause me to feel like a failure though, I'm reminded that God has known about these faults long before He called me to serve Him. Instead of feeling as though these shortcomings should disqualify me, they actually humble me making me appreciate God's mercy and grace, and making me a more forgiving and merciful leader.
Yes, I'm inadequate, but that just makes me want to praise God even more for his goodness to me. So next time you feel like you're not a very good Christian, let alone a Christian leader, allow those feelings to push you closer to God and thank Him for His mercy to you.
The second thing that God wants to do through our faults and failings is to bring honour and glory to Himself, not because He's on an ego trip but because it's His due. He knows how destructive it can be for us to think that somehow we deserve the credit when our leadership is effective.
Yet when we are at that place of knowing that any success can't be due to us because of our failings and faults, He is able to use us in surprising ways knowing that we'll give Him the credit and not take it for ourselves.
No wonder Paul finishes this section by declaring "He alone is God. Amen."
Take some time to think about and even write down your greatest faults and failures - things that cause you to doubt your ability or worth as a leader. Then for each one think about how God can use these to make you a better leader. What part do will you have to play in making this happen? What's He calling you to do?