Timothy is one of those people that we know a little about but not a lot. As Paul began his second letter to him we see more of who he was, but would still like to know more.
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:6-8 NIV)
We learn that through Paul Timothy had received a gift, presumably one of the gifts of the Spirit. We don’t know what this gift was but we do know that Timothy wasn’t using it. Paul told his young friend that he needed to “fan into flame the gift of God” – he needed to get it burning within him again.
It would seem that Timothy had become timid in his life as a Christian. Perhaps it was due to the pressures going on at this time. Nero began persecuting Christians around this time in history, killing Christians simply for following Jesus. Paul was back in prison, we assume for the second time, and from what he wrote later in this letter he did not expect to be released. It wasn’t popular to be a Christian and it was something that could get you arrested, imprisoned and executed.
But God’s Spirit isn’t given to make us timid when the going gets tough. God’s Spirit gives “power, love and self-discipline.” These are what Timothy needed to be showing in his life. When we realise what we have in Jesus, we are not ashamed of speaking about who he is and that we willingly follow him. Nor are we ashamed of those who, because they stand up for Jesus, are imprisoned. Paul encouraged Timothy not to be ashamed but to “join with me in suffering for the gospel”.
“And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” (2 Timothy 1:11-12)
It can be difficult to stand up for Jesus when people and society turn against you. It was because of his speaking out for Jesus that Paul was suffering, but this did not bring him shame. He knew who he believed in; it was Jesus the Messiah. The one who left heaven to become human and live on the earth. He was the one who was betrayed, crucified, buried, but rose again. He was the one who is now at the right hand of God.
Because of all that Jesus has already done through his life, death and resurrection, Paul was convinced that he was the one we can trust. Jesus had already been through suffering and was killed, yet death couldn’t hold him. There was no one better to trust in.
Maybe we can sympathise some with what Timothy was going through. It isn’t popular to be a Christian today. Even though most aren’t threatened with the loss of their lives, many have become timid in speaking up for Jesus because of the pressure from those around us.
Paul’s words to Timothy are just as applicable for us. There is no need to be ashamed of being a Christian. If we know who it is we believe in and if we have a relationship with him, there is no need to be timid. Maybe the better question is: do we really know the one we profess to believe in?
Readings for next week: 1 Timothy 6; 2 Timothy 1-4