Timothy was an uncircumcised son of a Jewish mother and a Gentile father. That sounds like an odd way to introduce someone, I know… but these parts of who he was factored into Timothy’s story. In fact, he was the last person one might have expected Paul – a former Pharisee – to choose to mentor.
The fact that Timothy was the product of a mixed marriage would have been enough to cause a scandal among some of his fellow Jews. It was probably Timothy’s father that caused him to remain uncircumcised as a baby; Gentiles in that day considered circumcision to be mutilation of the human figure, which was considered the highest form of beauty. Timothy’s father was a Gentile… and probably a pagan, as well.
Without the mark of circumcision, Timothy was probably not fully welcomed into the Jewish community in his hometown of Lystra (present-day Turkey). He was probably labeled as a mamzer – seen as an illegitimate child in the eyes of his fellow Jews. But, Timothy devoted himself to God and to the Old Testament Scriptures… aided by his devout mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois.
When Paul – who had once believed circumcision and the law were all that mattered – arrived in Lystra on his 1st Missionary Journey, Timothy caught his attention. Hearing nothing but praise from the Christians already there, Paul decided Timothy should go with him on his 2nd Missionary Journey. In order to not cause unnecessary offense among the local Jews, Paul had Timothy circumcised – as an adult. Maybe the fact Timothy was willing to undergo such a painful procedure as an adult shows the depth of devotion Timothy had for God and His mission.
Paul considered Timothy his “true son in the faith” (1Tim. 1:2). Eunice & Los had done a great job training Timothy in God’s ways. And Paul would pick up where they left off, and would train him to become the best pastor in Paul’s circle of Christian leaders!
As parents, we sometimes have no idea how much influence we have in shaping our children’s spiritual paths.
What intentional thing can you point to in your family that is guiding your child(ren) in the way he/she/they should go?
* The greatest gift any parent can give his/her child is an attractive, authentic faith.
Timothy – though still a young man – was tasked to become the pastor of the Church at Ephesus, about 250-300 miles away from his hometown. It seems Timothy was always placed by Paul in the most difficult situations/churches.
Timothy is one of the more obvious reminders that age is not a barrier to serving God’s kingdom. Paul famously encouraged Timothy, as pastor at Ephesus, not to let anyone “look down” on him because of his youth.
Anyone, no matter how young, can be of great value to God’s plan and purpose.
Timothy is described as having a timid personality… not usually a personality trait that helps pastors or leaders do what God has called them to do. We’re not told why Timothy was timid:
– Maybe his mixed family background had always made Timothy feel he was on the outside of any crowd, looking in.
– Maybe he felt he wasn’t ready for the situations he found himself in because he was considered “too young” by some.
– Maybe he felt small in comparison to the big personality of Paul’s, who was confident and talented.
– Maybe his first mission to Corinth – a VERY difficult church – had not gone well.
Whatever the reason, you’ll notice Paul never scolded Timothy for his timidity. Instead, he challenged him to concentrate on 1) using the positives God had given him, 2) modeling his changed character for others, and 3) doing what God had called him to do in the way God had called him to do it.
Those of us who sometimes struggle with feeling inadequate would be wise to follow Paul’s prescription:
– Don’t be discouraged by your weaknesses. Instead, discover your positives… your spiritual gift(s) and talents… and use them for God. Do you know what your positives are? Are you using your God-given abilities to serve God and others?
– See yourself as a work of God’s grace… just as EVERY Christian is!
Are you transparent enough to let others see the work God has done in you… and is still doing? We do ourselves – and others – a disservice when we give the appearance we’ve got it all together. We should model the incredible change only God can make!
– Remember God has made you His ambassador… a representative of Heaven. God wants to work in you and through you… and He will if you let Him!
* Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do!
This assignment brought its share of challenges, but Timothy had the writings of his mentor, Paul, to guide and encourage him along the way.
You can read Timothy’s story in Acts 16, the 2 letters written by Paul to him – 1 Timothy & 2 Timothy – and in the brief mentions in several others of Paul’s letters.