Don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use.
1 Timothy 4:12-14, MSG
Do you wish you had a mentor like Paul? You do in the books of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus. In his letter to Timothy in Ephesus, Paul encourages and guides Timothy’s leadership development. What Paul had learned so thoroughly himself, he was now passing on, and showing Timothy, in turn, how to develop a similar leadership. Paul’s letters provide practical guidance in the way to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
What Do We Know of Timothy?
Timothy was a young man of mixed Jewish-Greek descent whom Paul probably met on his first missionary journey as recorded in Acts 13:4-14:27. While little is said of his Greek father, Timothy’s Jewish mother and grandmother are both described as believers. Paul frequently called Timothy his “son,” which probably means either that he became a Christian under Paul’s ministry or that Paul trained him to be a pastor. When the Apostle saw that the young man had great promise as a leader, he took him along as a younger associate.
Paul often sent Timothy on special assignments to minister in difficult cities—in Thessalonica, in Corinth, in Macedonia, in Philippi, and in Ephesus. While some have taken Paul’s advice to Timothy as evidence that the young man was timid and diffident, it seems more likely that Paul’s instructions are intended to encourage a young man who was facing intense opposition in Ephesus.
Teach with Your Life
In 1 Timothy, Paul likens teaching the Gospel and serving in the church to a race. Like any good coach, he emphasizes the importance of discipline. Paul urges, “exercise daily in God” (1 Timothy 4:8). This exercise includes prayer and reading Scripture. Paul very pointedly outlines several aspects of a leader’s conduct that are especially important in setting a good example for others: speech, life, love, faith, and purity. Here’s some of what he writes:
A leader of the church must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect.
1 Timothy 3:2-6, MSG
To serve in the church: serious, not deceitful, not too free with the bottle, not in it for what they can get out of it. They must be reverent before the mystery of the faith, not using their position to try to run things.
1 Timothy 3:9-10, MSG
How would you grade yourself? What do those grades suggest you should do? Don’t worry if you don’t measure up. Paul encourages Timothy to not lose hope. Similarly, he counsels each of us to press on.
Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation.
1 Timothy 4:15-16, MSG
Paul freely wanders from problem to instruction to encouragement and back again. No doubt Timothy had already received the same instructions earlier when they traveled side by side. Throughout his letters, Paul taught that the best leadership in godly communities is inconspicuous, not calling attention to itself yet not sacrificing anything in the way of conviction and firmness either. He concludes his letter with a very direct push that spurs us all on.
But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith.
1 Timothy 6:11
presents the Bible in stirring clarity, bringing its deep truths into focus. The contemporary typesetting and layout resonates with a new generation of believers. Let it draw you closer to your creator and redeemer, and those like Paul who encourage you to run the race well. Consider also
LifeChange: 1 Timothy
, a Bible study designed to help you develop the skills to draw out Scripture’s life-transforming truths—there’s a
study for every book of the Bible.