The Famous Unknown Identity. Radical Grace from the Book of Romans (7:5-6)

Gracious sunset

"For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code." (Rom 7:5-6, NIV2)

Matthew Talbot, born May 2nd, 1856, was an ordinary Irish laborer. He had no education, hardly any possessions, and no outstanding accomplishments. He lived in poverty and died alone on a lonely street in Dublin, with no one to encourage him.

Hardly anyone knew anything about Matthew. He was a complete unknown to society. Nonetheless, six months after his death, his brief biography sold over a hundred twenty thousand copies, and a year later, his biography was published in twelve languages. Five years after his death, the Vatican considered him for sainthood, and in the end, they bestowed him with the title "Venerable".

How could such an unknown and lonely individual ever become so famous? Let us turn back in time and discover what attracted so many people to him after his death.

When Matthew turned twelve years of age, he began to drink alcohol. It wasn't a new thing for him, for his father and most of his brothers were all alcoholics, and it wasn't long before alcohol became his obsession too. He spent all his earnings on this liquid, and when he was drunk, which was more often than not, he became extremely hot-tempered, swore constantly, and engaged himself in many fights. In all, he was a vicious little lad.

Because all his earnings went to alcohol, he had to start taking out credit to keep himself supplied with his obsession. He even sold his boots to buy the drink, and it wasn't long before he began to steal to support his habit.

One day, when completely broke, he waited for his "friends", who were just leaving work. It was pay day, and he hoped they would invite him to join them on their drinking binge. Unfortunately, they passed him by as if he weren't even there. He went back home, but his sense of rejection made him begin to analyze his life. Was that truly a worthwhile life he was leading? Was there any purpose in what he was doing?

He came to his senses then, and he tuned to God for guidance. Convinced that alcohol was not his friend, Matthew gave himself fully to God and begged Him for freedom from this alluring drink. He discovered the truth in Jesus' promise: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8, NIV)

Instead of becoming absorbed in himself, Matthew experienced God like never before. Alcohol was no longer his master, and his life changed in other ways as well. He stopped swearing, and he began to wear a permanent and genuine smile. After all, how could he do anything but smile when God had shown him so much mercy and grace?

He continued to work, and to the complete amazement of his creditors, he used his earnings to pay back his debts. He lived modestly in a spartan home. His focus now was geared on the One who saved him, the One who was his only true friend.

When Matthew died on that lonely street in Dublin, he found himself surrounded by angels, leading him to his real home in heaven. How he rejoiced that he would soon see His Heavenly Father personally.

Where are you heading?

You, too, can become famous in heaven!

Rob Chaffart

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