Timothy grew up spiritually under the hand of the Apostle Paul. He learned to minister and preach by Paul's side. He sailed with him on his missionary journeys, planted churches with him in far off places, and became a messenger on Paul's behalf. Ultimately, Timothy became a church planter under Paul's tutelage. These letters to Timothy are evidence that God's leadership often doesn't come put together perfectly as spiritual superheroes ready to save the day. Instead, like everyone else, godly leadership requires seasoning, guidance, wisdom, and huge amounts of grace.
In many ways, I often feel at times that my ministry life has mirrored Timothy in many ways. (I most certainly have never identified much with Paul's personality or struggles!) The picture Paul paints of Timothy as he writes to him is a gifted and talented brother in Christ who doesn't entirely recognize it. He seems meek and timid in a manner that sometimes sounds like it borders on a self-preoccupation with what he's incapable of. Whether it's purely a mental block or what some scholars point to as his regular physical ailments, what Timothy doesn't come across as is a spiritual lion. I've often feel a lack of confidence, a fear of others, and a personal inability to do what I'm called to do.
I've taken cues from how Paul loves Timothy through these perceived weaknesses in learning to grow in these areas of my own ministry life. Here are a couple of thoughts:
1 Timothy 4:8, "Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." As a seminary professor once told my pastoral theology class once, "What the congregation needs most from their pastor is their holiness," meaning stay the course. Pursue Christ, know Him in every way, every day, and do not allow yourself to get spiritually lazy and out of shape. Put in the sweat and feel the soreness of spiritual discipline and exercise. A dependence on spiritual gifting only serves to make one unwilling to persevere and fight when talent no runs out.
1 Timothy 4:10, "For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe." Ministry isn't about me. It's not about Timothy. It's about God in Christ and making Him known to all. It's about trusting and hoping that in my own inability and failure, God will make much of Jesus. It's through my stumbled and jumbled counsel that God brings gospel healing to broken people. It's through Timothy's timidity that the power of God is manifest.
1 Timothy 4:12, "Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." This doesn't exactly mean, "Forget the haters." What it does mean is be faithful in that which God has called you to be faithful in and let no judgment fall upon you in things only God has control over. Fear no man but God, delight in no other opinion but only in the Lord's opinion of you in Christ. Live in light of His grace for you.
1 Timothy 4:16, "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." Remain in the Word and let God's truth light your path. Even if those you serve do not desire your leadership, continue to bring them the Word. This is your calling, where God has placed you, where He wants you. Rejoice and recognize the privilege you have to declare His glories to the world.
Weakness is strength in the economy of God. Our timidity shines light on God's boldness. This certainly was the case for Timothy. I pray that whenever I'm called home, it will be the case for me too.