“I thank God whom I serve with a clear conscience, as did my fathers, when I remember you constantly in my prayers. As I remember your tears, I long night and day to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you. Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love and self-control” II Timothy 1:3-7
Who is this Timothy to whom Paul writes so tenderly and poignantly? He is Paul’s own spiritual son who has travelled with Paul and served where Paul sent him for a decade or more before this letter was written. At the time of writing, he served as Paul’s emissary in Ephesus where he represented not just Paul but primarily the Lord and the Gospel Paul served. Soon, all too soon, he would, along with others, inherit the ministry that Paul must pass on at his death. It was a high calling, a grave responsibility.
Moreover, it was one which Timothy did not see himself as being up to. Every indication is that he shied away from the calling perhaps because he did not believe in himself. Certainly he was relatively young, perhaps about thirty, and was relatively hesitant on that account. In his first letter, Paul felt it necessary to exhort him: “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (I Timothy 4:12) Even more to the point, Timothy seems to have been reluctant or timid by temperament. Over and over again throughout his letter, Paul calls his beloved son to rise above this tendency for the Gospel’s sake: “God did not give us a spirit of timidity but….”
Of course this tendency is not all that unusual. Many of the great heroes of our faith were equally reluctant. Remember Moses: “But Moses said to God: ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?’” and “Moses said to the Lord, …I am not eloquent … I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (Exodus 4) Remember Jeremiah : “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak for I am only a youth.” (Jeremiah 1) And these two are just the tip of the iceberg.
The point is, though, that God let none of them off the hook. Not Moses, not Jeremiah, and not Timothy A job needed to be done and they were the ones he had chosen to do it. Rather in each case God turned their minds away from their inadequacy and focused them on His ability. God would be the one who made them adequate. To both Moses and Jeremiah God simply said, “But I will be with you.” That is enough to overcome any inadequacy. To Timothy the message was a little more subtle but it was exactly the same: “Stir up the gift that is within you through the laying on of my hands”. That is, Timothy’s adequacy and effectiveness was a gift from God. And “God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and of love and of self- control.” That is, it is the Lord’s Spirit that gives what you need.
To shy away after realizing this can never again be put off as mere timidity, but a dereliction of duty. And, if you will, not humility but an act of faithlessness. No, we are not adequate, but He is more than able and He will be with us. He has gifted us and His spirit indwells us. The task must be undertaken, depending not on ourselves but on Him.
Notice that in the last paragraph I inadvertently switched from talking about Timothy to talking about “us”. But that is as it should be, for just as Paul passed the Gospel from his hands to Timothy’s, so now it has been passed into ours. So now we are the ones who, when called by God often pull back, all too aware of our own inadequacies. So now we are the ones called to take our eyes off of our weakness and put them on His strength, to “stir up the gift that is within us by the laying on of hands” (remember, we have been baptized, confirmed, and received His Spirit) , and to realize that “God has not given us a spirit of timidity but of power, and of love, and of self-control.”
For each of us the call will be different, but each of us has received some gift or gifts for the common good and no personal reticence should hold us back from exercising them. Our Lord is counting on us.
Fred Durham is the President of Alighieri Press and serves as an author and speaker.