Summary: Witnessing the firmness of those who share the Faith brings great gratitude to the people of God.
“I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long 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 as well. 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 God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
“I thank God … as I remember you constantly in my prayers.” Is there someone for whom you constantly give thanks to God? Is there someone whom you mentored, whom you instructed in righteousness, whom you encouraged to walk in the Faith? I am grateful for the Apostle’s words to Timothy; they encourage us to invest ourselves in someone to ensure that the Faith is perpetuated and that God is glorified through the salvation of souls.
This letter is the final missive written by Paul to have been included in the Canon of Scripture. Facing imminent execution, the Apostle appears to have been in a reflective mood. As he begins the letter, he recalls Timothy’s sorrow at their parting, and he remembers the young theologue’s rich and blessed heritage. He treasures a memory of the godly heritage with which Timothy had been blessed. Then, building on that memory, Paul urges Him to act in a conscientious and godly manner to fulfil his ministry.
A PORTRAIT OF TIMOTHY — What do we know of Timothy? Though we could recite some details of where he lived when Paul met him and even draw some tentative conclusions concerning his ministry, we have only a few hints suggesting his character. Yet, those hints reveal more than we might imagine about this young servant of the Lord.
Paul begins this letter with a personal expression of appreciation for Timothy. He speaks of his gratitude to God each time he mentions Timothy before the Lord. Something in the events swirling about Paul during the days of his imprisonment prompted a memory of Timothy’s tears. We don’t know the precise reference, but that shouldn’t stop us from applying what we do know from the Word of God.
Some event made Paul remember Timothy’s tears. I know something of the frustration and fear that comes from inability to resolve conflict in the church. Timothy faced some great problems in the church in Ephesus, and it is possible that he had written Paul about his discouragement arising from his inability to resolve the problems created by opponents to his ministry. Well-meaning people can create some of the greatest disappointments in the ministry. They sometimes are determined to have their way, even if it means harm to the cause of Christ and to His church. Such attitudes tear at the heart of a preacher. I cannot help but wonder if such was the cause for Timothy’s tears.
Perhaps it is more reasonable to think that Timothy’s tears were spilled as the Apostle was carried off to Rome. Paul had been arrested at the instigation of zealous Jewish leaders who were angered at his effective evangelism. We know that the civil authorities were not eager to release him from imprisonment. They gave every indication that they were willing to show favouritism toward the Jewish leadership by sentencing Paul to death, or at least to turn their head should the leaders arrange for his death.
Because of this, Paul was compelled to appeal to Caesar, as was his right as a Roman citizen. He was transported to Rome where he was held under house arrest for at least two years. Whether he was released temporarily and then rearrested is not clear. Multiple sources indicate that Paul was executed in Rome during Nero’s reign.
Paul is writing this letter near the end of his final days of imprisonment in Rome; his execution is imminent as he writes. Timothy must surely have realised that his mentor and friend in the ministry faced considerable jeopardy when he was arrested, and he must have surely known his imprisonment could eventuate in his execution.
There were scant comforts afforded the old man in prison, his memories of service to Christ and the knowledge that God had worked powerfully through him to the salvation of many people being one of the few comforts afforded him. So, it seems reasonable to imagine that as he reviews the compassion and concern he had witnessed in Timothy at their last meeting that he would recall the young man’s tears.
Paul had met Timothy during his second missionary journey. Paul and Silas came to Lystra where they heard of a young man that merited the praise of the brothers. Listen to the account given in ACTS 16:1, 2. “Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium.”