Ephesus – a 25,000-seat-theater, the Temple of Diana with 127 gigantic pillars, the Library of Celsus packed with the greatest literature of its time, all dwarfed the little assembly that met in that important city. Yet, God had established the little assembly as “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1Tim 3:15). The Temple of Diana was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, but the assembly in Ephesus was one of God’s great wonders from heaven.
In Acts 16 the apostle Paul invites a young man called Timothy to join him on a missionary trip. Timothy was likely born and raised in Lystra. His father was not saved, but his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice, were believers. While having Christian parents is a priceless blessing, being raised in a divided or non-Christian home does not make a young person less qualified to become a man or woman of God.
As a little boy, the teaching duo of grandmother and mother consistently instilled in him the Old Testament Scriptures. One day, while listening to the great apostle Paul preach, Timothy understood salvation and he trusted Christ. From then on, Paul affectionately referred to Timothy as “son,” “my own son,” and even “my dearly beloved son” (2Tim 1:2).
His mother and grandmother also taught Timothy the Bible to prepare him for a life of service in the assembly. What an investment! Perhaps you, too, as a young person, have the privilege of working with children. Never forget that you are also planting truth in students that will serve them after salvation to become strong members of a local assembly.
As he grew through his teen years, Timothy took great care to develop his testimony. Timothy clearly decided what kind of character he wanted to have and worked to establish a good reputation. Eventually, his good name rippled out until others in the region held him in high esteem as well. When Paul came to the area, Timothy “was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:2). The Lord Jesus became known for His focus even at the age of 12 and Timothy followed the same path. Timothy was to realize that rather than his stirring sermons, it would be his sterling character that would make an impact on the assembly in Ephesus. And nothing has changed. The greatest contribution you will ever make to a local church will not be your evangelism, your gifts, or your service, but your Christ-like character.
Timothy also learned the value of reading, memorizing, and studying the Scriptures. Paul exhorted him, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2Tim 2:15). In addition, Timothy had to learn, especially as a younger man, that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2Tim 3:16-17). The Word of God would mold him to become a most useful and important man of God in the assembly which is the “pillar and ground of truth” (1Tim 3:15). Timothy had to prayerfully form his own convictions based on revealed truth from God. Paul wrote often about “the doctrine” and “the faith” referring to the body of Biblical beliefs that form the basis of the core practices of an assembly. Truth was so important that Paul exhorted him, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine … for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1Tim 4:16).
Timothy achieved spiritual success in part, as well, because of the excellent role models he followed, choosing to work with the apostle Paul for 15 years. The wise man said, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise” (Prov 13:10). Therefore, Timothy selected who he would like to imitate and then also chose friends who supported and lived out the character and spiritual exercises that he desired for himself. If Timothy had had a Facebook page his friends would have been limited to Silas, Philemon, Apphia, Archipus, Onesimus, Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, Epaphroditus, and others like them. So, take a look at your “friends” lists. Who are your role models and do your friends share in the same spiritual values, interests, and goals that you have?
This outstanding young servant of God was to be clear on the issue of spiritual gifts and abilities as well. Paul wrote to remind him, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee” (1Tim 4:14). At salvation, God had fitted Timothy for the work God wanted him to do. Timothy did not have to pray for spiritual gifts. He only had to recognize what abilities God had already given him and seek opportunities to use them to help others. When an opportunity or need presented itself, he was to be ready and willing to “do the work of an evangelist” (2Tim 4:5) and let God mark out for all to see the gift that was in him. Likewise today, look for needs and opportunities to help others. At the same time, if God has given you abilities that others recognize, be humble and thankful for them and seek to prayerfully use them to serve others.
What happens when a young person develops an “others” focused mentality rather than being self-centered? Timothy valued every member of the assembly and he would show this by his treatment of them. Paul encouraged him in this when he guided him to treat older believers as fathers and mothers, and younger believers as brothers and sisters and to honor widows (1Tim 5:1-3). Timothy committed himself to treat others with dignity and to help them in any way he could. No wonder that later Paul wrote about Timothy, “I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state” (Phil 2:20). You would be an outstanding young person, if you too were to make the needs of others your burden rather than focusing on your own needs, wants, and happiness.
Timothy was to realize that the assembly is the house of God: God must be consulted on every issue relative to assembly life and practice. Therefore, before counseling, confronting, or correcting others, Timothy had to personally know how to behave himself in the house of God (1Tim 3:15). Timothy loved the assembly and God’s order in it so much that he gave his life to living and teaching the truths of the assembly. Even though you may be young, you should ask yourself, honestly, how much do you appreciate and love the assembly? The Lord Jesus gave His life for it (Acts 20:28), so Timothy was willing to sacrifice himself to see assemblies established, preserved, and growing for the glory of God’s name. May God make you “Timothyesque,” a man or woman of God in His assembly.