"Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him..." (Acts 16:1-3)
You know that good feeling you get when you just click with someone? When you "get" them and they "get" you? Me too.
I have it whenever I read about Timothy. Once he joined Paul's second missions trip team, the kid never looked back. God had a bright future in store for him. Good thing he said "yes" to Paul's invitation.
But I love Timothy and feel a connection to him, not so much for his successes, but his weaknesses. Funny how that goes, right? We love hearing of inadequacies, fears, and limitations in others, especially in people we admire, and I look up to Timothy. He served Christ with his whole life. He became a solid pastor. The guy could handle leading the church at Ephesus, which was no small task. He was a good man.
1. Timothy Battled Fear
As I said, though, he had his limitations. First, he struggled with fear. Paul had to write to him about it. "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control," Paul said (2 Timothy 1:7). From a distance, Paul could tell Timothy needed to stir up the gift inside him. Timidity held Timothy back. So Paul told him to get moving.
2. Timothy Was Young
Second, he felt hindered by his age. He was young, after all. Some people are young and dumb; they don't know any better, so they're bold. Not Timothy. His age felt like a hindrance in his work for Christ, so Paul had to tell him to live his life in an exemplary way where no one could despise his youth. "Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12, NIV).
3. Timothy Was Physically Weak
Third, Timothy was beset by a physical ailment. At one point, Paul had to tell him to drink some wine for his stomach's sake (1 Timothy 5:23). The water in Ephesus didn't sit well with him. Wine would have to do. Some even wonder if stress-induced ulcers caused Timothy's stomach-aches. But, though he was fearful, young, and physically weak, God used Timothy's life in powerful ways.
What made Timothy, despite such obvious natural weakness, so effective? It's an excellent question. Paul didn't shy away from recruiting Timothy. Key people in my life didn't shy away from recruiting me. I try not to shy away from inviting people with natural weaknesses to serve Christ. God picked David, the youngest in his family, when no one else would. Paul saw Timothy, a young man, and realized he was the right fit for their team. If all we look at is the outward appearance, we will miss seeing many people God has called. We cannot be afraid of natural weakness. In fact, weakness can be an asset, for when we are weak we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). Understanding all this, what did Timothy have going for him?
1. Timothy Was Sacrificial and Willing
When Paul came to Timothy's town, he learned rather quickly how the young man was highly esteemed. People loved him. Already a believer, he displayed a maturity Paul admired. So Paul recruited Timothy. But first, before he could join the team, there was an issue. Timothy's mom was Jewish, but his father was Greek, which presented a problem, for Paul's method of ministry was "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16). Paul knew some people would wonder if Timothy had been circumcised. He hadn't, so Paul asked Timothy to, as a grown man, lay down his rights and submit himself to the outward Jewish ceremony of circumcision.
Biblically, he didn't have to. He was well within his rights to refuse. But Timothy realized it was better, for the cause of Christ, to surrender his rights so others might have life. In doing this, Timothy demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice himself for the betterment of others. This, of course, is a Christlike attitude, for Jesus laid down his life and rights so others could live. In fact, when Paul dealt with areas of liberty in Romans 14-15, he used Jesus as the ultimate example. He served the Jewish world first "in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy" (Romans 15:8-9). The same sacrificial spirit of Christ was in Timothy.
2. Timothy Loved the Word
Timothy was also a man who loved the word of God, having been raised up in it from childhood. Paul said to Timothy, "I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well" (2 Timothy 1:5). Additionally, Paul said, "From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:15).
Before joining Paul's team, before even hearing the gospel, Timothy, from his Jewish mother and grandmother, learned the Bible. He fell in love with Scripture. Then, when the gospel rolled through his town, and he placed his faith in Christ and was born again, his passion for the word continued to grow. He became a force because of his devotion to the word of God.
This love was important because God was going to ask Timothy to teach the Bible a lot. Paul told Timothy, "Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13). Paul also said, "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16). If Timothy didn't love the word, he'd never have been up for God's task.
3. Timothy Was Gifted and Called
Timothy was also gifted and called by God. At some point, perhaps early on, someone prophesied about Timothy. Paul said, "This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare" (1 Timothy 1:18). So God had confirmed his will and calling for Timothy's life through prophetic utterances. Timothy was well aware of God's plans for his life. Additionally, he was gifted by God. Paul wrote, "I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Timothy 1:6).
Church leadership, Paul, and others all felt Timothy was called and gifted by God. Timothy, for his part, came to agree with the assessment. When he spoke, people listened. When he taught, the word was clear. The guy was the right man for the job of pastoral teaching.
So what we have in Timothy is a sacrificial person who loved the word and had gifts which accompanied that love. In modern times, we ought to look for all three. God still calls and commissions people. God still looks for people willing to sacrifice. He still searches for those who love his word. He still gifts and calls people into his work. And when this happens to people who, like Timothy, have some natural weakness, we ought not to be afraid. We can't afford to be; there's too much work to do.