Summary: God’s preparation for service in the hard place is studied.

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

“To Timothy, my true child in the faith:

“Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” [1]

Biographical studies can be about as exciting as watching paint dry. Nevertheless, the lives of people can prove to be most interesting, especially if they fought battles or successfully met challenges to which we can relate. Through their lives—the victories and even the defeats they experienced—we are instructed. Through them we can learn how to conduct our own lives. Such information is more than merely interesting—it is instructive.

The life of one man who lived almost two thousand years ago may not appear to be all that exciting, at least when viewed superficially. However, Timothy was chosen by the Apostle to the Gentiles to participate in the first missionary journeys. He was with Paul as that great man penetrated to the very heart of the Roman Empire, sending the Imperial eagle screaming from her nest. Timothy was present when the charge was made that the missionaries had “turned the world upside down.” He witnessed God’s incredible power to free people who were demonised and to liberate others from the power of darkness, delivering them into the glorious light of the freedom of Christ the Lord. Ultimately, he would live out his life as a pastor in a hard place, making a difference to the glory of God.

PREPARATION FOR PASTORING THE CHURCH IN EPHESUS — A Jewish girl named Eunice married a Gentile man. They lived in the city of Lystra. The young girl’s mother—Lois, by name—moved in with the young couple. This would not have been so odd in that earlier day, the mother-in-law or mother provided help with the household duties, and later when children were brought into the family she would provide care for them as well. Eunice had at least one child, Timothy, whose name means “Honouring God.”

Eunice and Lois attended the local synagogue, though it is unlikely that Eunice’s husband ever attended with her. The women instructed the lad Timothy in the Scriptures. Though all they had available was the Old Covenant, and likely they did not even have access to a copy of those scriptures for themselves, they had been taught to listen, and they undoubtedly did listen carefully as the Scriptures were read and discussed. They learned through listening and through repeating what they had heard so that the knowledge of the Holy One would be handed down from generation-to-generation. Just as they had learned, so they ensured that the child entrusted to them would learn of God, learn of the need to be righteous, learn of the grace and mercy of the True and Living God. So, from earliest days, the boy was instructed in the Word.

Life for Eunice, Timothy and Lois appears to have been pedestrian, perhaps even prosaic. Nothing out of the ordinary seems to have happened in their lives. Religion for them was quotidian, predictable. However, at some point, perhaps when the boy was a lad of ten or even as old as thirteen, two men came into the region of Derbe, Lystra and Iconium. In the synagogue at Lystra these men were declaring a novel message that had not been heard before.

These two men declared that Messiah had come, that he had been born of a virgin and that He had lived a sinless life. Their message turned from the expected as the men spoke of His death—a death unlike others, though superficially just another death of a Jewish zealot at the hands of Roman occupiers. The preachers were adamant that this One whom they claimed to be Messiah had not been killed, but rather than He offered up His life as a sacrifice. In itself, such a story could not have excited much interest. However, the Good News of their message was that this wonderful man had not stayed dead. He had conquered death, rising from the dead, thus demonstrating that He was indeed the Son of God through that resurrection. He was witnessed by many people as He walked with them before ascending into the heavens.

The most exciting feature of the message the preachers brought was that just as Messiah had conquered death, so the life He now lived was offered to any who would receive it. Almost unbelievably, they insisted that the life offered was extended freely—no effort could secure this life, no merit would coerce that life—the life could only be accepted freely as offered.

I won’t tell you that these preachers of this novel message were accepted without question. They had preached in the synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia. The response of those who heard them was not especially promising. The Jews, especially the Jewish leaders, were jealous when they witnessed the crowds that flocked to hear the message these men declared. The leaders attempted to interject themselves so they could set people straight, hoping that people would still listen to them and their myths, ensuring that they could continue in power.

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