The church at Ephesus had problems. False teachers had sprung up within the church and were preaching with such conviction that the believers in Ephesus were dividing into factions and undermining the gospel. Into this cauldron of dysfunction Paul sent the young and timid Timothy. (See Acts 20: 23)
Here are a few things we know about Timothy. First he was timid, “If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. No one, then, should refuse to accept him. Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers.” 1 Corinthians 16: 10 And then again in 2 Timothy 1: 7 Paul writes regarding Timothy, “God has not given you a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and a sound mind.”
We also know that Timothy was young, some commentators think he was probably in his late teens. Paul writes, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for them in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4: 12 On top of being young and timid, two severe drawbacks for someone about to be cast into the dragon’s den of Ephesian politics and church dissension, but he also suffered from stomach ailments. It seems he either suffered from ulcers or from some sort of parasites picked up from drinking the local water. (See 1 Timothy 5: 23)
There are a couple of more things we need to remember about the selection of Timothy for the ministry to the Ephesians. He was from a different part of the region and had no roots in the community. He was considered an outsider, a snoop with no authority to intervene in their jurisdiction. Being young, he also had to stand up to the mature, hardened leaders of the church who were ready to pounce on his inexperience.
So, with these drawbacks why did Paul select this young man to face such formable foes as the divided church and angry mobs? To the church at Corinth Paul wrote, “For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” 1 Corinthians 4: 17 To the church at Philippi Paul writes again, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like Timothy, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 2: 19-21
If it is true that Timothy was only nineteen or twenty, then Paul’s reliance and trust in him is remarkable. Paul had taken Timothy under his wing and instructed him not only in the gospel, but the application of the gospel to the life of the Christian community. (For any of you following along on our study in Galatians this idea of the gospel permeating the life experience of a Christian is a major theme of the book.) Let’s take a look at why Paul recommends Timothy to the Corinthians and the Philippians. Paul tells us that Timothy is as a beloved son to him. He is also faithful in the Lord and has the spiritual know how to not only teach, but also reflect the grace of God, through his life. Paul makes it clear in writing to the Philippians that he has, “no one else like Timothy, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.” Reflect upon these qualities for a moment and something becomes very clear. Timothy is an exceptional leader, and regardless of his age, he has a deep love for God and compassion for his fellow believers in Christ.
So, here’s the question, once again, where have all the youth gone in our churches? Let me ask another question, did Timothy become a spiritual giant by sitting through long sermons or by being mentored by Paul? It would seem from these texts that Paul (could anyone be busier) took the time to invest in the life of this young man. What investment in young men and women does the leadership of the local church put into the life of these young people? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I do know that God is not waiting on a youth department at some conference level to come up with clever ways to engage youth in ministry and spiritual growth. God expects us as church members to have the compassion and love for the young people in our churches and to make an effort to aid them in their growth. Young people will bring their friends with them if they believe that someone is making the effort to include them in the life of their church community. We either invest in Timothy’s or we become a resting place for the aged.