To abide in Jesus and His Word is not always as easy as we make it out to be. There exists a constant spiritual undercurrent in the believer’s life trying to drag us away from an intimate walk with Christ. Sometimes the negative spiritual tide is undetectable, while other times it seems overpowering. Exhaustion is inevitable in this war. Acknowledging his own struggle, Paul praised God; “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord…” (1 Timothy 1:12).
The strength needed is not some mysterious force which carries the believer along in a trance. No, “the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1Ti 1:14). Christ strengthened Paul through “faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” One of the keys to understanding how Paul translated faith and love to strength is found back in verse 12; “appointing me to his service.” At every step of Paul’s spiritual walk, he translated belief into acts of service for Christ. Paul was acutely aware of God’s call upon his life; to “display his (Christ’s) perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1Ti 1:16).
Paul had focus on Christ
As he daily experienced Christ’s faith and love, he displayed it in patient acts of service for the unbelievers who surrounded him. Paul didn’t know which of those unbelievers were later to put faith in Christ, so he displayed the reality of Jesus to everyone. Paul simply lived Christ and waited to see who Christ would bring to salvation through His Christ centred, servant living. Jesus Christ was the reason for every breath Paul inhaled.
Being confronted as an unbeliever with the life changing gospel of Jesus through Paul’s faith and love was normal. It was unavoidable; Paul meant what he said; “For to me, to live is Christ” (Php 1:21). Faith and love in Jesus was all of his life, every relationship, every activity, every value and motivation was energized by Christ for Christ.
A false focus on Religion
By contrast, Jesus, speaking straight-up to a group of would-be Jewish believers, exhorted them; “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). These Jews who had believed in Jesus (:31a), were the same people who were ready to kill Jesus in verse 37. Did you notice the difference between Paul’s belief and the belief of these Jews?
It turns out, this group were more interested in their religious heritage than in Jesus. “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone” (John 8:33). Jesus wanted them to realise their enslavement to the sin of religious dependency, and only He could set them free from that enslavement (Jn 8:36). Jesus confronted them with the liberating power of truth found in God’s Word. Unlike Paul, they wanted to kill Jesus instead of accepting His freedom.
Paul knew how to abide in the Word of Christ. Scripture was His storehouse of strength which activated upon application. Paul’s religious heritage or connections were of no use to him but abiding in Christ Jesus as Lord strengthened him. He was energized, Jesus was glorified, and unbelievers were testified to of the power of the gospel.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:9-10).