Timothy’s life was shaped by the godly influence of the people who invested in him—namely, his grandmother Lois, mother Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5), and Paul, who called Timothy “my dearly loved son” (v. 2). Examining the relationship of Paul and Timothy, we discover a model for ways we can invest in the lives of other people.
“I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day” (2 Tim. 1:3).
“No man can do me a truer kindness in this world than to pray for me,” said Spurgeon. In the eyes of the Old Testament prophet Samuel, not praying for the people the Lord put under his influence was sin: “I vow that I will not sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23).
Paul’s words, “constantly … night and day,” reveal the intentionality and urgency of his prayers for Timothy. Even when separated, the apostle invested himself in Timothy by interceding for him.
“I long to see you” (2 Tim. 1:4).
Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy while “hoping to come to you soon” (1 Tim. 3:14). Twice in his second letter, Paul appealed to him: “Make every effort to come to me soon … make every effort to come before winter” (2 Tim. 4:9,21).
Over a period of perhaps twenty years, the apostle personally invested himself in Timothy as mentor, coworker (Rom. 16:21), brother (1 Thess. 3:2), and father in the ministry (2 Tim. 1:2). From the earliest stages of their relationship, Paul took Timothy under his wing. Wanting young Timothy to travel with him on his missionary journeys, the apostle “took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:3). How’s that for involvement in someone’s life?
Paul and Timothy preached the gospel together (2 Cor 1:9). Paul included Timothy’s name with his own as writer of six of his letters (2 Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1; Philem. 1). He involved Timothy in care of the churches by sending him to places like Corinth (1 Cor. 4:17), Philippi (Phil. 2:19), Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:2), and of course Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3). Paul and Timothy were connected.
“I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1:6).
Paul had put Timothy in a place of ministry in Ephesus then wrote letters to give instructions regarding how to carry out that ministry: “Timothy, my son, I am giving you this instruction …” (1 Tim. 1:18). “Instruct certain people not to teach false doctrine (1 Tim. 1:3); “command and teach these things (1 Tim. 4:11); “give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13); “man of God, flee … pursue … fight” (1 Tim. 6:11-12); “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2); “exercise self-control …, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5). These are the words of instruction and exhortation.
“So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord” (2 Tim. 1:8).
Paul viewed Timothy not only as his assistant in ministry but affirmed Timothy’s own calling and gifts. His letters to Timothy are filled with words meant to encourage: “Don’t let anyone despise your youth” (1 Tim. 4:12), “don’t neglect the gift that is in you” (1 Tim. 4:14), “be strong” (2 Tim. 2:1).
“So don’t be ashamed … I am not ashamed” (2 Tim. 1:8,12).
Paul didn’t only tell Timothy what needed to be done, he set the example: “Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me” (2 Tim. 1:13). “But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me” (2 Tim. 3:10-11).
It wasn’t by chance Paul made a difference in Timothy’s life. There was intentional investment: intentional prayer, intentional involvement, intentional exhortation, intentional encouragement, and intentional modeling.
Like Timothy, I am who I am because of the people who invested in me. For me, it was godly parents and grandparents, teachers, youth ministers, pastors, co-workers and friends. Who was your Paul? Who is your Timothy? In whom are you investing yourself?
Mike Livingstone works at Lifeway Christian Resources as content editor for Explore the Bible materials.