Philippians Day Eleven
October 7, 2020, 4:00 AM

A Timothy
Philippians 2:19-22

“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon,
so that I too may be cheered by news of you.
For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.
For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
But you know Timothy's proven worth,
how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.”

“Where can I find my Timothy?” That’s a question I heard from a spiritual mentor as I was coming to faith early on. The question was meant to be a prod, so to speak, to encourage stepping it up, faith-wise. Timothy is the gold standard for disciple-wannabees looking for an exemplar to serve well in the church. I’m not sure I ever succeeded in attaining to that mantle in any of the churches I served before my ordination— but it was certainly worth the effort.

I mentioned Sunday that Timothy dropped his life as he thought he knew it, to follow Paul on his missionary travels. Acts 16:1-3 records the first meeting — “Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” Timothy must have been an exceptional young man, inside and out, to draw Paul’s calling so rapidly. However, to travel with Paul, Timothy had to submit to circumcision, something Paul argued strenuously that Gentiles need not do! Paul, the pragmatist, recognized Timothy’s mixed parentage to be potentially problematic: A Jewish mother and a Greek, Gentile father. Paul did not want any barrier to sharing the Gospel with fellow Jews. Timothy, in addition to leaving home, exacted a high price to attend to this mission.

But there was another barrier of sorts to setting out on this missionary endeavor— the danger it would attract from hostile opponents. Even as Paul sought to allay the concerns of fellow Jews, they still thought him messing meddlesomely much with the Law and Moses. Their wrath was aroused. The atmosphere in Timothy’s hometown of Lystra became dangerous and uncongenial in response to the Gospel. On Paul’s first missionary journey through Lystra, Acts 14:8-20 records that he was stoned by the mobs riled up by the Jews for a healing that accompanied his teaching in that place. Somewhat humorously, it says that Paul got up, dusted himself off, and continued his journey to the next town!

Despite the mostly pagan environment of Lystra, we learn that Timothy was raised in a devout household, under the religious tutelage of his mother and grandmother. In one of Paul’s final letters, he reflects upon this rich heritage in which Timothy was cradled: (2 Timothy 1:5-6) “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God…” His upbringing in the Faith served him well. In Paul’s various epistles, the character of Timothy shines forth— (His likeness to the right, as what he might have looked like as an older man.)

“Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ…” (1 Thess. 3:2)
“Timothy, my true child in the faith…” (1 Tim. 1:2)
“Timothy, my beloved child…” (2 Tim. 1:2)
“Timothy our brother…” (Philemon 1:1)

To the Corinthians, Paul says, “I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.” (1 Cor. 4:16-17)

This is why Paul can say, unequivocally in Philippians 2:20-22— “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy's proven worth.” (Emphasis mine.)

A couple of thoughts, for what they’re worth. We should all be chasing this gold standard of being Timothys. Faithfulness is not beyond the reach of any believer. If a heart truly belongs to God, serving becomes second nature. That exhortational thought repetition of “imitate me, as I imitate Christ” becomes a do-able possibility – even to the most casual of disciples. Because, once again, with mustard - Anything that’s exhorted in Scripture is always within the realm of possibilities for any believer. That’s the way the Kingdom works.

And a final thought here. Count Zinzendorf, the sparkplug of the Moravian movement in the eighteenth century, once famously remarked, “Preach the Gospel; die, and be forgotten.” Sounds brutally blunt. And yet, this is exactly the path of Timothy’s ministry. Eusebius of Caesarea, in his magisterial history of the Church up to the advent of Constantine the Great, notes that Timothy would go on to become the bishop of Ephesus. Years later, when he was the ripe old age of 97, got himself stoned by an angry mob over his pastoral rebuke regarding the rowdy worship celebrations of the goddess Artemis (Diana). But the rich length and breadth of Timothy’s ministry post-Paul is virtually unknown. Timothy served faithfully, in obscurity. And yet, in God’s eyes, he was most Christ-like.

Indeed, we need Timothys in our churches!


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