Was Paul a born leader or was he made? He was made. That is not to say that Paul’s inherent gifts from birth did not contribute to his leadership. For all I can tell, Paul seems to be a very driven person, the kind of person we like to call, “type A.” And yet, this is not what Paul credits for his drive. As we look at this passage, we find that what drove Paul was the mercy he received. God makes leaders through His mercy.
That may not sound like much, but it is everything. The mercy of God changes everything. It is the key that unlocks the great reversal that Jesus describes like this: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” The making of a godly leader begins when you lose your life for the sake of Christ. And you will never do that unless you’ve been touched by God’s mercy. As we consider Paul’s letter to Timothy, he sets the stage for his instruction on being the kind of leader the church needs by describing what the mercy of God has done to him. In it he has found a new strength, a new identity, and a new purpose.
1 Timothy 1:12-17
12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (ESV)