Example: a part to show the character of the whole; a pattern to be imitated; an illustration. Have you ever stopped to consider the various examples you have observed in life? We have numerous more these days than ever before, simply because of the intensity of social media. Not every one of these examples are the best, though. Some stand as reminders of the "character" we don't want to become! The tougher question to answer is really if we have ever stopped to examine the character we display which someone else may actually be using as what they will "imitate" in their lives.
14 And the grace (unmerited favor and blessing) of our Lord [actually] flowed out superabundantly and beyond measure for me, accompanied by faith and love that are [to be realized] in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is sure and true and worthy of full and universal acceptance, that Christ Jesus (the Messiah) came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost. 16 But I obtained mercy for the reason that in me, as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might show forth and display all His perfect long-suffering and patience for an example to [encourage] those who would thereafter believe on Him for [the gaining of] eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:14-16 AMP)
Our passage this morning begins with the place of transition in our lives - the connection of grace with the sinfulness of our past. Paul points out that grace has two "traveling companions" - faith and love. Now, take a few moments to ponder that one. Grace (unmerited favor and blessing) are accompanied by faith and love. This suggests if love is present, grace and faith are there, as well; if faith is present, grace and love are also working in your midst - neither operates alone. Grace has a basis in love - God so LOVED the world he GAVE his only begotten son. His overwhelming love for his creation resulted in the ultimate sacrifice - not because we deserved it, but because his love required his unmerited favor and superabundant blessing!
Perhaps we think of grace as some "stand-alone" character trait of God. It is impossible for grace to stand alone - his love moves his heart, his faithfulness extends his hand - no love, no grace! If you don't think this to be true, look at the examples you have been given in your own life. I know my parents extended much grace to me (unmerited favor and blessing) - not because I did anything to deserve it, but because their love for me was intense! If this is possible in the natural sense, what ever makes us think God's love would move in any other way in our lives? Why is it we doubt the work of grace in our lives? Why do we struggle to realize the intensity of his love toward us? I think it may because we have had some imperfect examples by which we now judge how we think love "acts".
Looking again at our passage, we find some hidden treasure - but we have to look a little deeper than just skimming the verses. Paul gives us some insight into why we should not doubt the intensity of God's love toward us - the same love which extends grace beyond measure. It is his love which allows us to receive grace (affording the way for us to receive it) - so we can stand as an example of his awesome long-suffering and patience! Not just to be "okay" in ourselves, but to extend hope to those who yet need to experience this grace. If you doubt God could ever do anything to redeem your life out of the mess of your failures, think again. It is his extreme delight to take the most messed up of us and make us the "loudest" and most "vibrant" of examples for others to see the meaning and result of grace!
Our lives stand as an example - to encourage another. If your example encourages just one person to find grace, you have lived well. If your example encourages one person to see the connection between grace, love and faith - you have fulfilled the purpose God intends. The ability of your example to connect with the life of another is powerful - because where grace, love, and faith make connection, life-change is sure to happen. We sometimes under-appreciate the power of what we have been connected to in Christ Jesus, imagining we can make little impact on the life of another. Think again - because your life has three powerful storehouses of power: God's grace, God's love, and God's faithfulness - all making a statement of "faith" in our lives. Don't sell God short by selling yourself short. You are a book read by many - just sayin!