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Pointers along the way #392

The challenge to be an example
- Jacob Ninan

We know we Christians ought to be examples to the others in every part of our life. But honesty compels us to acknowledge many mistakes, failures and sins which we are ashamed about. But should that stop us from going forward? The devil points out our failures and warns us that we have no right to tell others what to do. Many people are also quick to point out our faults and try to shut us up. But the example we want to show others is not about our perfection but how we run towards perfection.

The perfect example that Jesus gave is not intimidating because that is what we expect from Him anyway. The fact that He did not sin even once even though He was tempted in everything just as we are tempted now (He.4:15) (and we can be sure that Satan would have tried his worst to trip up Jesus) helps us to persevere with hope even when we have failed (He.12:3,4). We are encouraged to go to Him after we have failed because we know He understands our struggles, weakness and feelings (He.4:15,16) and He Himself went through struggles against temptations and overcame (He.5:7,8).

But the example of Paul encourages us in a different way which is perhaps closer to our lives. Here was a man who experienced real failures just like we have but who didn't give up. He knew he hadn't become perfect (Php.3:12), but he pressed on towards perfection. He did not forget that he used to be a blasphemer and a persecutor (1Ti.1:12,13), and considering his failures in spite of the grace and gifts God had given him he sincerely felt that he was the chief of sinners (1Ti.1:15). This recognition protected and preserved him so that God could use him as the mightiest of all apostles.

Paul's secret was his honest assessment of himself (Ro.12:3). He didn't live in a world of theological abstractions but he recognised his existence in this 'real' world with a flesh in which dwelt no good thing (Ro.7:18). He called sins, mistakes and failures by those same names. And yet--this is my point--he had the audacity to tell others to follow his example!

Paul didn't call us to follow his example of success after success! He called us to follow Jesus as he himself followed Him (1Co.11:1). It was not an example of an unbroken chain of success. But he wouldn't give up even when he had been knocked down but he continued to fight till he achieved great things for the Lord. Paul is exhorting us to follow Christ in the same way.

When we confess our sins to God He forgives us, wipes our record clean as if there was never any blot there (1Jn.1:9). We don't carry a sense of guilt into our future but we go forward with a greater desire and mindset not to fail again.


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