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Considered Worthy
September 14, 1980

St. Paul's United Methodist Church

1 TIMOTHY 1:12-17

All those of you who always feel confident, competent, adequate, perfect, please stand up. No one? It reminds me of the old story about the preacher who asked all those who wanted to go to heaven to stand up. Everyone stood up except the guy who was sleeping, but the commotion aroused him so when the preacher asked how many wanted to go to hell, he stood up. He looked around the church and said, “Well, preacher, I don't know what we're voting on but you and I are in the minority.” 

No one stood up. Remember that and look around you when you feel inadequate. You’re not alone when you feel incompetent, inferior, unworthy. These are universal feelings. We all experience the tugging at us that says, “Hey, you can't make it. You’re not good enough, you're not worthy, you’ll flub it up, you'll fail.” We all have those feelings. Especially do they come to us when we're trying out for a new job, being interviewed, the first day of school, or trying for a team, or for a play, or asked to be a chairperson or lead a discussion or speak in a group or speak to a group. All of us have those feelings. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and think about all I have to do the next day, like give sermons. I feel, “I don't know how I got into this. I don't think I can do it.” So I go back to sleep and wake up the next day and do it. 

We're in the middle of recruiting persons this fall for Sunday School, youth work, the finance campaign and soon upon us, 1981 officers to be nominated and elected. Some people say when they're asked, “Oh, I'm too busy.” But some are really saying underneath, “I am too nervous or I'm scared. I don't think I can do that.” They just don't want to respond to the challenge of the task. I've seen so many people in our church over these past few years who have done things they never knew they could do. Some have blossomed as speakers or leading groups or chairing things. To see such growth in people is exciting and challenging. They had to overcome feelings of inferiority. We all have them. 

Many people deal with inferiority feelings in different ways. One way of dealing with this universal feeling of inadequacy is to withdraw, pull back, stay in bed, pull a blanket over your head, be shy and retiring and  say “No, no, no.” 

Some people on the other hand go to the opposite end of the spectrum, go to the other extreme and respond to their feelings of inferiority by becoming very aggressive, even obnoxious. Some children act out these feelings of unworthiness by misbehaving almost as if to say, “Some recognition is better than no recognition at all.” You know people who brag a lot, are obnoxious, loud and egotistical. They're probably overcompensating for the feelings inside them that say, “Hey, you're not good enough.” 

Another way of dealing with these feelings is to learn from Paul and reflect on his experiences. The New Testament lesson from 1 Timothy tells of Paul's own personal experience. As he looks back on his life and reflects, he is writing to young Timothy and telling him about his life. Paul looks at his present life as a missionary, a leader of the church. He writes letters to the churches that are so well thought of that they're read in public and are rapidly becoming part of Holy Scripture. He is an honored man, He looks at his life now in Christ and all that he's able to do. Then he looks back on his life and comes to this conclusion in 1 Timothy 1:12, “I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, who considered me worthy.” That's the Good News translation. The Revised Standard Version says,  “who judged me faithful, who trusted me.” I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, who trusted me, and who considered me worthy. 

The first step in the salvation process is to realize God reaches out to you in grace and love and says to you, “You are a worthy person, you are worthwhile. You are a beautiful person and I see in you so much more than you see in yourself.” God reaches out to all of you and considers you worthy. Paul, on the other hand, considered himself the chief of sinners. He said in this passage that he looked at himself and saw a sinner. Christ looked at him and saw a worthwhile person. Paul described some of his sinfulness. He said he was a blasphemer. He insulted the church and insulted Christ. In the early days of Paul's life, he was a persecutor of the church, a sinner. He even pushed that to the point of enjoying the persecution. The Greek word used is “hubris”. And hubris is translated almost being sadistic, enjoying the pain, people that inflict pain and suffering on others. The sadistic person enjoys the pain and the suffering. It is said when Steven was killed by stoning for being a Christian, Paul stood by and watched. 

Paul looked at his life and called himself the chief of sinners. And then in verse 15, he writes, “Here is the saying you can rely on and no one should doubt. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Paul considered himself a sinner. Whatever your sin, whatever you are, whatever you've done, whatever hurt you've caused others or to yourself, whatever makes you feel ashamed or embarrassed or cheap or useless, Christ came to save you from that. Christ came to break down all those walls around you that inhibit and hold you down. Christ came to break you out and to set you free, for you to be the worthy person God made you to be. Christ came to save you out of all that, and set you free. Christ considers you not an inferior person, but worthy. 

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners to what purpose.? Paul tells us in verse 12, “I thank Christ Jesus for considering me worthy and appointing me to serve.” Christ saw Paul as worthy and called him not to prestige, not to honor, not to glory, but to serve. And Christ sees you as a worthy person and calls you not necessarily to be recognized and acclaimed, not necessarily to be popular, not necessarily to be wealthy and famous, but Christ calls you to serve. There is a task and a challenge, and you are just the person for it. God made you for it and God calls you. God trusts you and sees in you the great potential that lies within you. 

And then Paul adds a beautiful phrase, “I consider myself as evidence of God's inexhaustible patience.” Inexhaustible patience, no ending. God never gives up. Isn't that beautiful and comforting? When God works with you to bring you into a beautiful person, the servant, he never gives up. He is patient. It’s okay to flop and fail. It's okay to feel worthless and useless at times. It's okay not to be perfect for God's patience is inexhaustible. God in all tenderness, in all patience, loves you, calls you, creates you—inexhaustible patience .

I remember this story, and I hope I have it right.  Bob Richards, Gold Medal Olympic Winter in the 1950s, was a Sunday School teacher. One day he was talking to the class and the lesson was on faith. Very glibly he was going over the lesson, “ Faith can move mountains. Faith overcomes all problems. Faith is the victory that overcomes.” And he said, “You can do anything, you can be anything you want if you have faith, if you trust and believe.” One student interrupted—a girl. She said, “Do you really believe that?” Imagine asking a Sunday School teacher or a preacher if they really believe it. She said, “Do you really believe that I could be anything I want to be?” He did a double take. She was 12 years old, overweight, even fat, with thick glasses she had to squint through to see, clumsy, awkward, not very popular. probably didn't think too much of herself. She said, “Can I be anything I want to be?” He said, “What do you want to be?” She said, “I'd like to be a tennis champion.” Overweight, poor eyesight. He said, “Well, if you have the faith.” And he worked with her. He took her to the doctor.  He helped her lose weight. She was determined with an inexhaustible patience. Do you know her name? Billie Jean King! 

When you look at you, what do you see? Do you see a person who has been pronounced worthy? Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, to save you and to call you into his service.

© 1980 Douglas I. Norris