Timothy is a unique person in Paul’s life. As Paul’s young protégé Timothy is sent into some very difficult situations in the early church. Timothy is a bit worried about how he will be accepted within the communities he is supposed to lead. As someone younger, he is concerned about how he will be viewed and how people might listen to him.
When I started in ordained ministry I read the letter to Timothy often. Starting as a solo pastor, having to deal with situations beyond my knowledge or experience, there were often times I felt as Timothy might have. I once took this to a fellow pastor and he laughed and said “I felt that way too, it continued until I was 50 and overnight I was too old!” The point he later made was to recognize as Paul had to that God calls us for many reasons, but when God calls us he gives us what we need and though it may feel overwhelming at times, when we keep the faith, God always shows us the way.
This is seen strongly in the opening epitaph of Paul’s letter. After a very brief introduction he jumps right into what we talked about last week, being wary of false teachers. He then goes into a standard “faith statement” of thanksgiving, then a pep-talk and warning to keep the faith. In reality, what is going on is pretty straight forward, rooting the faith and ministry in Jesus Christ.
It is interesting to think that this was a problem as much for the early church as it is today. But it was; in fact, this goes back to the earliest times where people used God to further their own cause rather than God’s, and it is easy to do. We see many examples in churches where people have used God or religion to make money, gain power, or harm others to mention a few abuses.
The problem is that often we let ourselves get in the way of the message of Christ. Whether it is our insecurity, not allowing us to be bold in faith, or our lack of connecting to Christ, we often become the biggest stumbling block to God because we do not trust that God will provide.
What God wants, according to Paul, is to fight the good fight of faith, trusting that God will use us and bring about what is good and right. Interestingly, this is not supposed to be militant fight, though many might take it that way. The fights that Paul talks about is the struggle to change the thoughts of those around us to become counter cultural in a sense and accept the new paradigm of the Christian life. This means that God’s call to us is to try and do the best we can do, trusting that God will do the rest.
This ultimately is what God calls Timothy to do and, though he is young and probably scared, to go forward in faith trusting that God will provide.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen