What is your secret to success? I sometimes think my small successes come from my patience or my skill, or my grand intellect. The world applauds us and tells us that the road to personal success starts with our own bootstraps. But it just doesn’t ring true. While we certainly ought to be industrious and wise, genuine success isn’t rooted in ourselves. The only path to true and lasting success is found in the person of Christ.
Timothy struggled with the issues of being a young minister in the church. Did he face parishioners who did not respect him because of his youth? Did he doubt his own calling and capability to fulfill it? Either way, Scripture clearly reveals that Timothy did not fix his hopes on his own talents, nor did Paul, his mentor and friend.
Paul doesn’t comfort Timothy by saying “You’ve got this! You are worthy! You can do it!” His appeal isn’t to Timothy’s own abilities or personality at all. Rather, he simply calls Timothy to remain steadfast in faith, to commit himself to the faithful teaching of the Word, to hold on to the gospel. When the Word of truth is at the center, our age and confidence don’t matter. How others perceive us does not matter. We are called to preach only one thing: Christ, and Him crucified (1Corinthians 2:2). This is the true mark of ministry. It isn’t charisma, a nice personality, slick programs, or an impressive resumé. It is simply devotion to the gospel, to the Word, to Christ. And this comes only by the work of the Spirit.
Indeed, Paul’s commendation of Timothy is always on this ground. He recognizes in Timothy the work of the Spirit, because he sees the genuineness of Timothy’s faith, which he has maintained since his youth. Furthermore, Timothy had proven himself a faithful minister as he served with Paul in the mission field. Timothy serves as a reminder of undistracted devotion to Christ.
A second feature of Timothy’s ministry with Paul is its deeply personal nature. Note how often Paul addresses Timothy in familial and affectionate terms: he calls Timothy a “dearly loved” and “faithful child in the Lord” (2Timothy 1:2; 1Corinthians 4:17), a “brother” and “God’s co-worker” in the faith (1Thessalonians 3:2). His relationship to Timothy is one that fills him with thanksgiving and great joy (2Timothy 1:3–4), and has the quality of intimate kinship (Philippians 2:22). This, too, is a mark of the impact of the gospel. While it is true that “all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (v.21), we see that Timothy, shaped by the gospel, has become like-minded with Paul, genuinely caring about the interests of the flock (v.20).
Timothy’s life and ministry are a reminder of what it looks like to serve the gospel and what it means to be a child of God. Just as Timothy devoted himself to the Word and ministry and a heartfelt faith, serving with Paul “like a son with a father,” so should we walk before Christ, walking with the ministers of the gospel in our own time. Christ has accomplished for us the work of salvation, that we might be fellow heirs with Him, children of God (Romans 8:17). So then, brothers, let us walk as children of God, in sincere devotion to the faith.
Written by Caleb Faires