From Timidity to Boldness: The Making of a Christian Servant

We continue to study Timothy’s salvation history and character in preparation for understanding two pastoral letters written to him. Timothy’s life shows that we have no Gospel unless we have a changed lifestyle. Even when it becomes scary to serve the Lord, we step out in faith into the unfamiliar.

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Timidity

Several texts show that Timothy was timid. Paul warns the church in 1 Corinthians 16:10 not to give him any undue cause for fear. He exhorts him to “be strong” in 2 Timothy 1:7 and 2:1, and reveals the source of ministry strength: “the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” It is by Someone Else’s strength that we are able to obey. If His grace was capable to miraculously save us, it is certainly capable to sustain us in lesser matters of obedience.

Timothy may also have had a chronic illness that affected his stomach (1 Timothy 5:23). This made consistent public ministry difficult, yet he was called to serve as the overseer of pastors in Ephesus. He may have been a ball of nerves, but he did it because he knew it was the right thing to do.

We all have issues. But if we couple our weaknesses with a surrendered heart, God will use them in amazing ways (see 1 Corinthians 1:27).

Background of Lystra

Lystra was a frontier post of the Roman Empire, populated by rugged explorers and risk-takers. Most of its inhabitants were not very educated. They were the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of people and embraced mysticism and emotionalism. Most outsiders called them “barbarians.” The town’s trade was governed by the Greeks, and there was no Jewish temple. These details give us a picture of the town in which Timothy grew up. Even in these circumstances, saints can thrive.

Three events happened during Paul’s first visit to the city. A lame man was healed, the crowds tried to worship the missionaries, then some Jews turned the people’s opinion and stoned Paul. He revived and returned to the city to give the first virtue we looked at last week: the coupling of pain and Gospel progress. Timothy, his mother Eunice, and grandmother Lois all witnessed these events and embraced the reality of Christian suffering.

Virtue #2: Embracing the Miraculous Power of God to Do what Only God Can Do.

Despite the religious traditions of his town, Timothy did not embrace mysticism or his father’s Judaism. His father was likely unsaved, but Timothy followed his mother and grandmother’s example and believed in Jesus as his Savior and Lord.

Virtue #3: Realizing the Praise of People Is Often Empty.

Timothy learned that true Christianity would never be popular. Barnabas and Paul were instantly popular after the lame man’s healing, but the crowd’s opinion was quickly swayed. Timothy watched these men tear their clothes, a Jewish way to express faithful disagreement with what was going on. They did not desire quick popularity.

Misplaced praise can keep the Gospel from being fully understood and fully preached. Today, many preachers water down the Gospel message, saying people must “just believe” in Jesus and not repent.

Sometimes people just want God on their own terms. The people of Lystra embraced gods that they themselves defined. One author has said, “Misguided souls love to keep truth-speakers inside the boundary of their own assumptions. Today, Christ is often made a captive of misguided assumptions.”

Lloyd Ogilvie summed up broad evangelicalism well in the following quote:

When Jesus was born, there was no room at the inn. Today we not only have room at our inn, but a penthouse suite away from reality. Jesus is a VIP to be honored but not believed or followed. In America, He is a custom but not the true Christ, a captured hero of a casual civil religion, but never Lord of our lives.

Only God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s persuading power can cause people to embrace these virtues – and not only embrace them, but excitedly proclaim the Gospel message in a faithful and God-honoring way. May we be like Timothy in this regard!

Application Points

  • What are your weaknesses? Maybe you’re timid like Timothy. Be encouraged that God loves to use the apparently weak to bring glory to Himself.
  • What challenge are you presently facing? Remember that God’s grace is just as sufficient to sustain you in obedience as it was to miraculously save you.
  • Are you “moved by the sound of man’s empty praise”? Seek to imitate Paul and Barbabas’ response to the crowd’s praise. Seeking the high opinion of others can often lead to compromising the message of the Gospel.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore:
  • John 6, Matthew 21:1-11, Matthew 27:35-44 – Compare passages of Jesus’ popularity.
A Hymn to Encourage: “Be Strong in the Lord”

Be strong in the Lord, and be of good courage;
your mighty Defender is always the same.
Mount up with wings, as the eagle ascending;
victory is sure when you call on his name.

Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord,
and be of good courage for he is your guide.
Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord,
and rejoice for the victory is yours.

So put on the armor the Lord has provided,
and place your defense in his unfailing care.
Trust him for he will be with you in battle,
lighting your path to avoid every snare.

Be strong in the Lord, and be of good courage,
your mighty Commander will vanquish the foe.
Fear not the battle for the victory is always his;
he will protect you wherever you go.