Timothy’s Noble Example

Posted on April 9, 2022

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By David Ettinger

Not Fair
Some Bible personalities have been unfairly uncharacterized over the centuries.

Thomas, for instance, is too often described as “doubting” when that’s not the case at all. And Job’s wife is too often lambasted as being faithless when, like her husband, she too lost 10 children.

Timothy is another individual who falls into this category. Though not criticized harshly, he is often labeled as shy, timid, and sickly. In truth, Timothy was a decidedly honorable man of God, highly esteemed by his mentor, and one we should strive to emulate.

The Bad Rap
Timothy’s bad rap comes from 3 verses.

1. His supposed shyness stems from 1 Corinthians 16:10, where Paul urges the Corinthians: “Now if Timothy comes, see that he has no reason to be afraid while among you, for he is doing the Lord’s work, as I also am.”

The young man was still getting his evangelistic “feet” under him and was apparently not so comfortable in the role. Paul knew this and asked the Corinthians to treat Timothy gently.

2. Timothy’s possible timidity is rooted in 2 Timothy 1:7, where Paul instructs him: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

It’s possible Timothy was a rather subdued individual, not inclined to confrontation. But, as lead pastor of the church at Ephesus, how timid could he have been? In the verse above, Paul reminds Timothy that when it comes to the Gospel, there can be no restraint, the message must be boldly communicated – politely and civilly, perhaps, but with boldness.

3. Timothy’s sickliness is derived from 1 Timothy 5:23 where Paul counsels him: “Do not go on drinking only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”

In Timothy’s day, fermented drink was often used medicinally, and judiciously consuming alcohol was beneficial. Remember, Jesus Himself turned water into wine. But perhaps Timothy, not wanting to give the impression of drunkenness, spurned alcohol altogether, which may have led to gastric issues. Paul assured his young charge that a modicum of wine was just fine.

The True Timothy
The above “weaknesses” in Timothy’s nature have been made more of an issue than necessary. They do not characterize the true Timothy.

What then does characterize the true Timothy? How about this soaring appraisal of Timothy by his mentor, the apostle Paul, perhaps the most influential man in all of Christendom besides the Lord Jesus:

For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven character, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father (Philippians 2:20-22).

From Paul’s lofty praise, we learn that Timothy:

  • Was more like Paul in spirit than anyone else.
  • Cared deeply about his fellow Christians.
  • Had admirable character.
  • Devoted his life to sharing the Gospel.
  • Was a loyal and faithful servant of the Lord (and Paul).

Now that’s a character reference!

Something to Strive For
Think of a godly believer you admire. How would he or she evaluate you if asked? How much of the above attributes would you share with Timothy? How highly regarded would you be as a brother or sister in Christ?

Though we don’t seek the praise of people or to glorify ourselves, if we view Paul’s favorable regard for Timothy as commendable, should we not strive to emulate Timothy’s noble example? Should we not strive to be the “best” servants of God as possible?

May God fill His children with the desire to serve, esteem, and glorify our Lord with all of our hearts, souls, and minds!