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Paul’s Partners (4): Timothy (2)

David Williamson, Newtownabbey

This second article on Timothy goes under the surface. In the previous article we considered some of the external influences on his life and some landmarks in the course of his life. Now we learn what kind of person he was.

His Imitation

In Paul’s first letter to Corinth he exhorts the believers to imitate him (1 Cor 4.16; 11.1). In chapter 4 he states: "Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers [imitators] of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church" (vv.16-17). Paul sent Timothy to the assembly at Corinth in order that he might remind them of "his ways in Christ". Paul had complete confidence that Timothy would act as he himself would act among the Corinthian believers.

Some imitation is good and some is bad! Young believers sometimes model themselves on well-known preachers. We are not exhorted to practice the arm-movements, voice modulation, and mannerisms of certain evangelists. On the contrary, God wants us to be ourselves. On the other hand, when saved just a few months, I was given a book called Through Gates of Splendour – the story of five young Christian men who were martyred while bringing the gospel to an unevangelised tribe in Ecuador. After finishing it I had a deep longing within me. I wanted to be like those men. I wanted to know God as they did and to serve Him as faithfully! So, the imitation that is beneficial is moral and spiritual. Timothy had spent time in the company of the Apostle Paul and had become more and more like his spiritual father.

There is a very practical point here for young believers. The role models of earth should not be the role models for Christians! Present day celebrities, football players, and singers are not to be emulated; in fact they are to be avoided. Down through Christian history there have been men and women who have sought to live for God. These people are among those "Of whom the world was not worthy" (Heb 11.38). Christian biographies are worth the read. The ultimate role model for every believer is the Lord Himself and any person you seek to emulate should lead you into closer conformity to Him.

His Compassion

In the background of Paul’s encouraging letter to the Philippians there is some hint of division within the assembly. The cause was not doctrinal, but personal. Paul, to correct this problem, sought to inculcate in the Philippian believers an interest in others. To put it bluntly, he wanted them to be less selfish.

In Philippians 2 he uses some illustrations to show the mindset that every believer should have. The ultimate example is the Lord Himself, so he writes, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil 2.5) and then shows the mindset of the Saviour in Philippians 2.6-8. The great point is this: at great cost to Himself, the Lord came down and went to Calvary. He did so for the benefit of others. Thus, He manifested an unselfish attitude of heart.

Paul then refers to himself, Timothy, and Epaphroditus – each is an example of a person who desired the benefit of others. What does he say of Timothy? "I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state" (Phil 2.20). Notice how he singles out Timothy from all others. We could paraphrase Paul’s words like this: "I have not even one person of like-mind to Timothy, who will sincerely be anxious about your welfare"! Paul had many helpers but none stood out like Timothy for compassion!

This is where many of us fail. We are naturally selfish. Our first thought when asked to do something for someone is, "How will it impact upon me?". Timothy is an example of a Christian who got beyond the selfishness of a depraved nature and put others before himself. The lesson for us is simple. Are we compassionate? Do we care for others? Do we serve the Lord for self-glory or for the blessing of others? We will never be anything for God if we do not care for others (1 Cor 13).

His Disposition

It may be concluded by some that Timothy was a unique kind of man. A personal companion of the great apostle to the Gentiles must (we would think) have had very few fears or anxieties! Certainly, he would not be shy or retiring, timid or fearful! However, there are some facts we must never forget about Timothy.

Timothy was a young man. He was either a teenager or in his early twenties when he started out with Paul. He was no veteran of many battles! These came through acquaintance with Paul. His youthfulness meant that he was, at times, under-appreciated. Paul exhorts him in 1 Timothy 4.12: "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity".

Timothy was a timid man. That this was the case is brought out by Paul when he reminds Timothy that "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Tim 1.7). Naturally speaking Timothy was not bold and brave. Paul wrote to Corinth to instruct that assembly that "If Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. Let no man therefore despise him" (1 Cor 16.10-11). Timothy, it would appear, was shy! He was of a quiet disposition and did not seek the limelight, for he had to be encouraged to "stir up" his gift (2 Tim 1.6).

Timothy was a sickly man. Paul confirms this to us in 1 Timothy 5.23. He advises Timothy: "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities". Timothy, although suffering illness, was refusing to drink anything but water that was often contaminated. Why? He was of such sterling Christian character that he did not want to lead others astray by resorting to wine – even as a means of maintaining his health. Now Paul, seeing his degeneration in health, gives some fatherly advice. He advises Timothy to "use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake". Notice how carefully this is worded by the Spirit of God. Timothy was advised to use a little wine for the good of his health. He was not advised to drink wine for his own enjoyment!

Never let us forget that Timothy was no robust, courageous adventurer. He was a normal young man with many fears and trials. God’s heroes are not the natural heroes of earth. Most men who have been useful for God have been nobodies in this world. Our weaknesses should not be used as an excuse not to serve the Lord; they should rather be the means of keeping us dependent upon Him. God delights to manifest His own power through choosing weak vessels.

His Appreciation

By many Timothy was not appreciated. In fact, as noted above, he was despised! Paul appreciated him and, more importantly, the Spirit of God appreciated him! Timothy is marked out as unique in the New Testament by being called a "man of God" (1 Tim 6.11). Thus, he is associated with such Old Testament worthies as Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, and David.

Is there a possibility that we could be men and women of God? The answer is given in 2 Timothy 3.16-17: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works". We have the same resource as Timothy – the Word of God. Every man of God in the Bible is associated in some way with the Word of God. If we want to be mature believers, men and women of God, then we must get to our Bibles! Let our desire be as the Godly man in Psalm 1 whose "delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night" (Ps 1.2).

His Persecution

Our last reference to Timothy is in Hebrews 13.23. There we read that he has been "set at liberty". He had been imprisoned, but was now released. He became, as Paul wrote elsewhere, a "partaker of the afflictions of the gospel" (2 Tim 1.8). And so, for those of us who would aspire to be like Timothy, let us not forget the words of Paul: "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim 3.12)!

To be continued.

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