Excerpt from Life with God Spiritual Formation Bible

Oh, that we might all have a part­ner in the faith like the apos­tle Paul had in Tim­o­thy. They met dur­ing Paul’s sec­ond mis­sion­ary jour­ney and worked togeth­er for some sev­en­teen years. It is hard to imag­ine Paul’s min­istry with­out the pres­ence of his faith­ful part­ner, Timothy.

Although Tim­o­thy was young and prob­a­bly fair­ly new to the Chris­t­ian faith, he pos­sessed a spir­i­tu­al matu­ri­ty beyond his years. Raised by a devout Jew­ish moth­er and grand­moth­er, Tim­o­thy like­ly had a strong com­mit­ment to God and a good knowl­edge of Old Tes­ta­ment Scrip­tures before meet­ing Christ. After he became a Chris­t­ian, his com­mu­ni­ty soon real­ized his lead­er­ship poten­tial, and Paul took him on as a com­pan­ion, act­ing as a spir­i­tu­al father to the young man. 

Paul refers often to Tim­o­thy as my child” and calls him loy­al,” beloved,” and my co-work­er.” He had good rea­son to care so deeply for his part­ner; Tim­o­thy trav­eled with Paul to near­ly every city on his jour­neys and some­times stayed behind to lead a church after Paul’s depar­ture. He was with Paul at the writ­ing of six of the Let­ters and often took these and oth­er mes­sages to the con­gre­ga­tions. Few were as loy­al in sup­port­ing and assist­ing Paul’s work. 

Paul wrote to the Philip­pi­ans: I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Tim­o­thy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you. I have no one like him who will be gen­uine­ly con­cerned for your wel­fare. All of them are seek­ing their own inter­ests, not those of Jesus Christ. But Timothy’s worth you know, how like a son with a father he has served with me in the work of the gospel” (Phil 2:19 – 22). Here we find the core of Paul’s love for Tim­o­thy. Although many had joined Paul in his min­istry, some were ulti­mate­ly more con­cerned with them­selves and their own lives than they were with the wel­fare of the church­es and the work of the gospel — the inter­ests of Jesus Christ. Tim­o­thy demon­strat­ed again and again that tru­ly he did love those he served with the love of Christ. He loved Paul and shared Paul’s sense of com­mit­ment to serv­ing God. Even in Paul’s days while in prison in Rome, Tim­o­thy was among the few who remained loy­al, not desert­ing Paul as the oth­ers did when their con­nec­tion with him became risky. 

As we con­sid­er Timothy’s unfail­ing devo­tion, what can we take from him to help us grow in a devot­ed and self­less spir­it? Three atti­tudes stand out. 

First, Tim­o­thy had a hum­ble spir­it. So hum­ble was he that he often appeared reserved and timid, prompt­ing Paul to encour­age bold­ness in his lead­er­ship. I remind you to rekin­dle the gift of God that is with­in you through the lay­ing on of my hands; for God did not give us a Spir­it of cow­ardice, but rather a spir­it of pow­er and of love and of self-dis­ci­pline” (2 Tim 1:6 – 7). Spir­it-empow­ered lead­er­ship nev­er los­es its humil­i­ty, Paul seemed to remind, for it remains lov­ing and disciplined. 

Madame Jeanne Guy­on, in her sev­en­teenth-cen­tu­ry clas­sic Expe­ri­enc­ing the Depths of Jesus Christ, explained an impor­tant out­growth of humil­i­ty: If the Lord should be so mer­ci­ful as to give you a true spir­it of His humil­i­ty, you will not be sur­prised at your faults, or even your own basic nature. The more clear­ly you see your true self, the dear­er you also see how mis­er­able your self-nature real­ly is; and the more you will aban­don your whole being to God. See­ing that you have such a des­per­ate need of Him, you will press toward a more inti­mate rela­tion­ship with Him.” 

This desire for an inti­mate rela­tion­ship with Christ was Timothy’s sec­ond atti­tude. He had been trans­formed through the com­ing of Jesus into his life. Although he was a long­time wor­shiper of God, his meet­ing Christ had made him new, form­ing in him the mind and heart of Jesus. No longer car­ing pri­mar­i­ly for his own inter­ests, Tim­o­thy began to care most for the con­cerns of God. 

William Tem­ple, a leader of mod­ern Protes­tantism, wrote: The only way to deliv­er me from my self-cen­tered­ness is by win­ning my entire heart’s devo­tion, the total alle­giance of my will to God — and this can only be done by the Divine Love of God dis­closed by Christ in his life and death.” This love for God in Christ sparked an undy­ing pas­sion in Timothy. 

His pas­sion, along with his humil­i­ty, engen­dered a third atti­tude. Tim­o­thy sensed his own need for guid­ance. In Paul he found some­one who could train him in his faith, some­one who could love him and guide his growth while mod­el­ing for him a life lived in whole­heart­ed ser­vice to Christ. We might call it men­tor­ing or spir­i­tu­al direc­tion or holy friend­ship — whichev­er term we use, Tim­o­thy sub­mit­ted to the dis­ci­pline of guid­ance by open­ing his life to Paul and seek­ing growth through Paul’s influ­ence as they worked together. 

Richard Fos­ter writes: If we have the humil­i­ty to believe that we can learn from our broth­ers and sis­ters and the under­stand­ing that some have gone fur­ther into the divine Cen­ter than oth­ers, then we can see the neces­si­ty of spir­i­tu­al direc­tion. As Vir­gil Vogt of Reba Place Fel­low­ship says, If you can­not lis­ten to your broth­er, you can­not lis­ten to the Holy Spirit.’” 

Tim­o­thy viewed him­self right­ly, and because he did­n’t focus on him­self, demand­ing com­fort and con­trol of his life, God used him to do great works of min­istry. The fourth-cen­tu­ry his­to­ri­an Euse­bius records Timothy’s appoint­ment as the first bish­op of Eph­esus. Anoth­er writ­ing from the same peri­od details his mar­tyr­dom in Eph­esus some thir­ty years after Paul’s death. Tim­o­thy remained devot­ed to the cause of Christ until his death. Oh, that we might show the same devo­tion to our Lord. 

Per­son­al Reflection 

  • Timothy’s humil­i­ty made it pos­si­ble for him to work so well along­side Paul. Whom do you work along­side? Do you strug­gle in remain­ing hum­ble? What part of your rela­tion­ship or work might be helped by greater humil­i­ty on your part? 
  • Have you ever prac­ticed the Spir­i­tu­al Dis­ci­pline of guid­ance on a one-on- one basis? Who has served as a guide (or men­tor or spir­i­tu­al direc­tor) for you? Do you see ways God might use such a per­son in your life now? Ask God to lead you to an indi­vid­ual who could serve you in this way.

Excerpt­ed from the Life with God Bible, edit­ed by Richard Fos­ter, Gayle Beebe, Lyn­da Gray­beal, Thomas Oden, Dal­las Willard, Wal­ter Bruegge­mann, and Eugene Peter­son (New York: Harper­One, 2005). Char­ac­ter pro­file writ­ten by Bren­da Quinn.

Text First Published January 2005 · Last Featured on Renovare.org January 2022

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