What has been your longest friendship? Has this friendship forced you to change and to grow? Has it forced you to become more than you thought you could become? Have you allowed it to be transformative? Many friendships just hit the surface and many times never get passed the superficial issues of life. Many times when friendships face adversity they can crumble. Today we will look at the friendship of Paul and Timothy, and we will see what happens when humility and perseverance are applied to friendship.
Paul has just received a report on whatâs going on in Philippi and is now writing back to make sure a few areas are covered, but he isnât just trying to pacify them. He wants them to know how important they are to him. Paul has had a deep love for the Philippians, and so the Philippians also have a deep love for Paul. Paul is telling them he will be sending Timothy soon to check on their welfare.
Timothy can be overlooked in the Bible but is very much an unsung hero. He is Paulâs right-hand man. Paul even refers to him as âmy true child in the faithâ in 1 Timothy 1:2 and again in 1 Corinthians 4:17 âTimothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord.â We first see Paul and Timothyâs relationship in Acts 16 when Timothy accompanies Paul on his second missionary journey when he stops in Lystra. This wasnât Paulâs first visit to Lystra. Timothy had been observing Paul for some time, but we will get to that in a minute.
Who is Timothy?
Timothy was born from a Jewish mother and Greek father. He was considered to be a âmamzer.â This is a child born from a forbidden relationship. This means he was not circumcised, nor could he study in the synagogue. Timothy was an outsider and an outcast.
In contrast, Paul was trained by one of the most famous rabbis of Jewish history, Gamalielâand now he is discipling a mamzer?
Lystra is a small village that sits atop a five-acre hill or in Jewish terms, a tell. What do we know about small communities? Nothing goes unnoticed, and everyone knows about the latest news.
What would cause a mamzer to feel as though he could or would want to follow a Jewish rabbi? Paul had quite the impact on Timothy in Acts 14:19 as Paul comes through Lystra on his first visit.
Timothy was just a young man when he became aware of Paul. For an outsider, like Timothy, this kind of preaching and zeal must have been very intriguing. (Remember, Paul had a very special call to the Gentiles.)
By Paulâs second missionary trip Timothy was acquainted enough with them to accompany Paul. Timothy was by Paulâs side for many years. The relationship grew from a teacher to a disciple, and finally to a peer relationship. Their relationship was very special, as you hear Paul regularly refer to him as a âson in Christ.â Because of Paulâs faithfulness to Timothy we see a young man who had been summed up in one word, âmamzer,â by his community, become a man who coauthored six books with Paul himself, as well as become the pastor of the church of Ephesus, the largest church of its time.
How in the world did such a dramatic transformation take place in this young man? What qualities made Timothy so special? The transformation of Timothy happened, I believe, because of these two traits: humility and perseverance.
The simple definition of humility is the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people, the quality or state of being humble.
Timothyâs humility was, in part, to him never forgetting what he had felt as a mamzer. Iâm sure many times in his outsider state he felt like others were better than him. However as he grew in his relationship with the Lord he began to understand his eternal value. Timothy was a humble servant that had a long lasting friendship with Paul. At any time he could have packed up his stuff and done his own thing, but time and time again he allowed God to mold him through Paul. It takes real humility to be willing to take the back seat to another personâs leadership.
The simple definition of perseverance is steadfastness in doing something, despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
Timothy had everything stacked against him. He was a mamzer in the Jewish culture. He was entitled to nothing and was an outcast. Yet through adversity he persevered and would not allow what people thought or said of him to define who he was. He set his gaze on Jesus and allowed Jesus to use Paul to mold him and push him through these adversities. Timothy did not allow his past to dictate his future. He allowed God to dictate his future.
The two sides of Paul and Timothyâs long-lasting friendship
1: Timothy submitted himself to Paul.
2: Paul forged the character and quiet strength of Timothy.
When we are in a long-lasting relationship we must work through difficulties. It is not easy. In fact, we have been promised trials and tribulations. Yet greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world. But we must understand that there is more at stake than just our momentary feelings. There are relational wounds that can be healed or inflicted, and we must allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit, even in our passion. One of the reasons Paul did such a great job in this area is because he was in tune to the Spirit and operated in the Spirit, often. Proverbs 27:17 says, âIron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.â
As we observe Paul and Timothyâs long-lasting friendship we are given tools to create the same meaningful, long-lasting friendships in our own lives. This first starts with us examining our own heart. We have to make a commitment to be humble. This means being willing to allow those God has placed in our lives to speak truth, even when it stings. We also allow them to hold us accountable when it is needed. We must commit to an attitude of perseverance. This means we are willing to weather the storms that come in all relationships. We donât give up when our shoe falls off in the first 100 meters of the race. No, we run until God says, âGood job my faithful servant.â Paul and Timothy have shown us how to run the race. Now you and I must complete our own missionary journeys.
As we look at the life of Timothy, we see that through his humility and perseverance the Lord used him to overcome what the world had deemed as an outcast, and because of humility and perseverance Timothy positioned himself to allow God to use him beyond what he ever thought would be possible. If we look at long-lasting relationships in our own lives and apply these same principles, what would we be capable of doing? God uses people like Paul and Timothy, and you and me to change the world.