A Few Lessons from the Life of Timothy
By Timothy Gunnells
We are first introduced to Timothy in Acts 16:1-5: “Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe. So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.”
Notice that Timothy was already a disciple, as was his mother. His family background is significant to his usefulness to Paul (and to Christ) in that his father was Greek (a Gentile) and his mother was Jewish. Timothy knew the Scriptures because his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, taught them to him (2 Timothy 1:5). So, Timothy was not only a disciple of Christ, but he had been reared by devout women. At the same time, his father was a Greek who evidently did not believe. This unique mixture of Judaism, Christianity, and Greek culture made Timothy an ideal missionary to the Gentiles.
Timothy is mentioned 26 times in the New Testament (Acts and several of Paul’s letters). Two of Paul’s letters bear his name and are written to him with both personal admonitions and instructions for setting things in order in the churches where Timothy served. The book of Acts makes it clear that he accompanied Paul in his travels but that Paul often trusted him to go on his own to certain locations. In fact, in Acts 17, Silas and Timothy stay in Berea while Paul goes on to Athens where they will later come to him.
In several of Paul’s letters, he invokes Timothy’s name in the greeting as one who also sends his greeting and agrees with Paul’s writings. This seems to imply that Timothy was not only well thought of in his native Lystra, but that all the churches to which he travelled with Paul also held him in very high regard.
Paul wrote this to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:18-19: “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.” Notice three things: 1) Paul addresses him as a “son” and gives him admonitions as a father would; 2) Paul said there were prophecies about Timothy and his faithfulness; and 3) He warns Timothy not to reject faith in Christ.
What are some lessons that we can take away from Timothy’s life?
First, our personal background can often make us more useful in certain circumstances. Timothy's family of origin gave him a unique perspective in working with churches made up of Jews and Gentiles. When I have an understanding of the culture and of history of the people I am teaching then I am more able to speak truth to them more clearly.
Second, devout women of faith carry considerable influence over a child’s spiritual development. My mother, grandmother, and many Sunday school teachers instilled a love of the Lord in me.
Third, a more mature mentor can strengthen us and give us clear direction in serving the Lord. My own father and another older minister mentored me and helped me to grow as a minister and disciple.
Fourth and finally, while spiritual maturity happens over time, it is up to us to serve well, continue to grow, and finish well. Timothy was a disciple when Paul met him. He served faithfully beside him, but Paul knew the trials of life and ministry could derail Timothy's faith. He urged him to fight the good fight of faith and remain faithful.
I urge you to think about your own life. Who have been the powerful influences? Who can you encourage in the faith? Are your practices, choices, and goals insuring that you will continue to grow so that you will keep the faith and finish well?
Note: The image above is an ancient Orthodox icon of Timothy.