Who is helping you find and follow Jesus? Who are you investing in regularly?
September 9-10, 2017
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Lessons from Paul and Timothy: Part 1
Introduction and offering:
ILL: I became a youth pastor at the tender age of 19. I inherited a group of about 25 high school and middle school students and a Thursday night meeting misnamed “The Hour of Power.” It was anything but that—I was basically a glorified baby sitter. It took 3 weeks of this and I’d had enough. At the end of week 3, I sat the students down and said, “Next week, I’m going to teach you how to pray. If you want to learn how to pray and follow Jesus, come back. If you just want to fart around, do me and yourself a favor and stay home.” One of our adult advisors rushed up afterwards and said, “You’ve just killed our youth group. No one will come back.” But the next week, we didn’t have 25 students; we had 40. And six weeks later, we had 100. They were just waiting for someone to challenge them, to raise the bar and treat them like young adults. They were learning and growing and loving it, and bringing their friends.
As a new youth pastor, one of my guiding assumptions was that middle school and high school students are capable of a fairly sophisticated response to Jesus. I know some of you think I’m delusional—I knew they were young teens and still suffering spasms of maturity! But we often underestimate what young people are capable of, and I didn’t want to do that. I told them that they weren’t the church of tomorrow; they were the church right now, called and gifted by God and capable of doing great things. And they did.
I still have that assumption about young people—and I hope you have it too. There is a relationship in the Bible that illustrates this kind of confidence in young people—it’s the relationship between Paul and Timothy. This weekend and next, I want to tell you their story, explore their friendship, and see what we can learn about Think 3 from older Paul and younger Timothy.
Our big deal this year has been Think 3. We want everyone to think 3 generations ahead and one on either side. A healthy church is a multi-generational church, where young and old and everyone in between works together for Jesus. The temptation for all of us is to think only in terms of our generation. But I want us to be a church that not only I (and my cronies) love, but that my kids love, and my grandkids love, and one day, my great-grandkids love. Did I just mention my grandkids—because on Tuesday, #9 arrived. Michael and Sara welcomed baby Capri Noelle. Think 3 baby! So this weekend and next, we’re going to learn about Think 3 from Paul and Timothy.
I’ve listed on your outline every place in the NT where Timothy’s name shows up. If you want to do some research on your own this week, read these passages slowly and thoughtfully. I did that this week, and came up with 8 things that we can learn about investing in those coming up behind us. We’ll cover four this week, and four next. But let’s start by telling the story of Paul and Timothy.
The story begins in Acts 16. Paul is on his second missionary journey, traveling through what is modern Turkey, visiting the churches he started on his first journey.
Acts 16:1–5 Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
Paul comes to Lystra where Timothy lives. We know that Timothy was young—years later, when Timothy was pastor of the church in Ephesus, Paul said, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young.” That word “young” was a Greek word that referred to someone between military age (late teens) and 40—basically 18-40. Scholars think that Timothy was around 30 when he pastored in Ephesus, which would have made him a teenager when Paul first met him. And Paul would have been a generation older—20-30 years older than Timothy.
The believers in Timothy’s hometown spoke well of him, and Paul wanted to take him along on his mission. Paul obviously saw something in the young man. Paul didn’t take deadweight on his missions—you pulled your weight, you pitched in and did the work. And young Timothy did that. As you follow Paul and Timothy through their travels in the book of Acts, you will find Paul entrusting Timothy with more and more responsibility and authority. Paul often sends Timothy to represent him; he entrusts him to lead and pastor churches in Paul’s absence; he has confidence to send Timothy to troubled churches to straighten out the mess—all while Timothy was in his teens and 20’s. Timothy became Paul’s protege, his right hand man, and Paul invested heavily in Timothy. Paul mentions Timothy in 10 of his 13 letters in the New Testament, and two of those letters are written to Timothy, advice from an older pastor to a younger.
That’s a quick summary of their story. Here’s a big Think 3 idea I want you to write down: Who is my Paul? Who is my Timothy? Each of us would benefit from having someone who mentors or invests in us, and someone in whom we invest. Who is your Paul? Who is your Timothy? That’s the big idea. What can we learn from these 2? Four this week; four next.
- The church is multi-generational.
Did you notice in Acts 16 that Paul meets Timothy and his mother who is also a believer—2 generations? There were actually 3 generations of Timothy’s family in that church.
2 Timothy 1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
While Grandma Lois isn’t mentioned in Acts 16, she was there—three generations of one family in this church. There wasn’t a hymns church for grandma’s generation, a Hosanna church for mom’s generation, and a Hillsong church for Timothy’s generation. There was one multi-generational church. I think that’s how God intends it because He knows we need each other. We’re better together.
Paul writes to Timothy about the church Timothy is pastoring and tells him:
1 Timothy 5:1–2 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
Paul gives Timothy some Think 3 advice—how to relate to the generations older and younger than him. As pastor, Timothy had to lead everyone in his church, not just those his age, but those older and younger as well. It can be tricky.
ILL: I was 26 when I became pastor here, and one of the biggest challenges for me was pastoring people old enough to be my parents or grandparents. One time I was with an older man, and he gently told me, “Joe, you’re trying too hard to be my buddy. I have lots of friends, but I only have one pastor—you. I need you to be my pastor. Don’t be afraid to say what I need to hear.” I was honored that this wise older man called me his pastor and encouraged by his permission to speak up.
Timothy had a multi-generational church—and that’s how God intends the church to be.
But here’s the deal: being multi-generational can be difficult. It’s easier to be with people like you: people your age, who like what you like. Let’s be honest. How many of you older folks have ever said, “Kids these days…?” And how many of you younger ones have ever dismissed older people as out-of-touch, “what-do-you-know” grumps who don’t know how to use their own phones?
ILL: The day I got my first smartphone—a Motorola Droid—I had an evening class for my masters degree up at Whitworth. When I got a text message, my phone would say, “Droid,” and all during my professor’s lecture, it kept going off: “Droid, Droid, Droid.” Finally, he looked at me and said, “Joe, turn that thing off.” I had to say, “I’ve tried; but it’s a new phone and I don’t know how to silence it.” My professor said, “Give it to a young person,” so I handed it to the student in front of me, who hit one button and handed it back to me, silenced—while everyone laughed! I’m proud to say that I know how to silence my phone now. (Have someone from the booth call me—220-4214.)
When I was in my teens and 20’s, you know what I heard all the time? Don’t trust anyone over 30. Now I’m over 30…barely. And you know what I hear from my peers? “Kids these days…what is wrong with them?” Some things never change. I want to tell you, I love kids these days. I hang out whenever I can with our high school and college students on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and I love it. They love Jesus, and are serious about following Him. I love their energy and passion! When I’m with them, I feel really good about the future of our church!
The church is multi-generational—that’s how God intended it. We’re better together. So don’t avoid each other; enjoy each other!
- We all need spiritual fathers and mothers.
Did you notice in Acts 16 and 2 Timothy 1 that Timothy’s mom and grandma are named, but there is no mention of Timothy’s father, other than to say he was Greek. Scholars believe there are two possible explanations. First, Timothy’s father may have been deceased. Second, Timothy’s father was not a believer. Either way, Timothy needed a spiritual father, and Paul became that. In the verses listed on your outline, Paul refers to Timothy as his son.
- “my son whom I love” 1 Corinthians 4:17
- “as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel” Philippians 2:22
- “my true son in the faith” 1 Timothy 1:2
- “my dear son” 2 Timothy 1:2
Paul was a spiritual father to Timothy, and not just Timothy, but others too.
1 Corinthians 4:14–17 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
Paul brought the gospel to Corinth. He was their spiritual father—he led them to Christ, started the church, and was their pastor for a while. He points out that while they may have many guardians, they only have one father in the faith—his relationship with them is unique. The word “guardian” translates the Greek word paidagogos—we get the word “pedagogue” from it. It was used of an adult slave who escorted minor children to and from school, and were in charge of their general conduct. Think of a nanny—or in this case, a manny. Paul said that they might have many mannies but they only had one father. Then the punchline: 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. Paul offered himself as their example. Later in this same letter he wrote:
1 Corinthians 11:1 Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.
Or “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” It’s the same word in both places: mimetes —we get the English words “mimic” and “mime” from it. It means “to imitate, emulate, follow.”
So Paul offers himself as a model to be followed and imitated. “Want to know what it looks like to follow Jesus? Watch me. Follow me. Do what I do.”
I think this is discipleship 101. What is the best way to help someone become a better follower of Jesus? It is for you to show them how: “follow me as I follow Christ.” We tend to equate discipleship with a program, a workbook, or a class. Paul doesn’t offer them any of that—he offers himself as a model. “Follow me.” Don’t misunderstand me—the program, the workbook, the class are all great tools—we use them and I love them. In fact, Rooted is firing up later this month, and what I love about this 10 week small group experience is not just the content (which is excellent) but the connection—you will be connected with people who can be that brother or sister, or spiritual father or mother. Simply put, we all need people who will show us how to follow Jesus. We need spiritual fathers and mothers.
ILL: My spiritual father was my father-in-law, Noel.
I was 19 when I became the youth pastor at Westside Church of Christ, and Noel was my advisor. He was 42 years old, a recently widowed father of six children, ages 7-19. He not only showed up for youth group every Thursday night, but hosted a Bible study for teenagers at his home every Tuesday night. That Bible study started because he was doing devotions with his kids, and sometimes they asked friends over for dinner and they stayed for the family devotions—then asked if they could come every week. Noel became my biggest cheerleader—in fact, within a month, he turned the Tuesday night Bible study in his home over to me. This man who was so much wiser, so much more mature and godly than I was, believed in me. He quickly became my mentor. Most of what I know about following Jesus and ministry, I learned from Noel.
He continued to pour his life into others, especially the next generations, right up until he died two years ago. I want to be like Noel.
“Follow me as I follow Christ.” I think this is a worthy goal for every follower of Jesus. I want my life to be follow-able. I want to be someone others can imitate. I want to be able to say to someone, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Can you say that?
You might be thinking, “I’m not that good.” But remember, we’re not talking about perfection. Paul wasn’t perfect. Noel wasn’t perfect. No one is. But he was authentic. Part of being a model for someone else is showing them how to handle your sins, your failures, your imperfections.
ILL: One of the best things I did with my children was admit my failures—and I had plenty. When I lost my temper, I’d apologize to my kids. When I said something stupid or insensitive, I’d apologize and ask their forgiveness. I apologized a lot. While I didn’t want them to imitate my temper or the dumb things I said, I did want them to imitate my apology—owning my failures and seeking forgiveness. That’s part of following Jesus too.
Back to our text: Paul was a spiritual father, a model, an example for the Corinthians. But he wasn’t there. So what did he do? He sent Timothy.
17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
Paul sent Timothy, his son, who would remind them of his way of life. Paul couldn’t be there, so he did the next best thing: he sent Timothy, his spiritual son, who would show them how to follow Jesus.
I think everyone needs a spiritual father or mother. Everyone needs someone who is farther along in following Jesus, someone who is an example, a model. Someone who can say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” I have two questions for you.
Do you have someone like that?
Are you someone like that?
Or said another way, Who is your Paul? Who is your Timothy?
I’m praying that if you don’t have someone like that, you’ll find someone. Our church is filled with wise, godly, spiritual men and women who could help you follow Jesus. And I’m praying that you will become someone like that—someone who invests in those coming up behind you.
One quick word about that: you don’t have to be old to be a spiritual mentor to someone. My friend, Nat Stock, was a mentor to me when we were both in the 8th grade! He was farther along with Jesus, and he invested in me and helped me grow. A college student could help another college student, or a high schooler. A high school student could help another high schooler or a junior higher…and so on. If you see someone coming up behind you, offer to help them along.
Which leads me to the next lesson:
- Young leaders can be trusted.
I didn’t put a verse here because the whole story of Paul and Timothy shouts this! Paul trusted young Timothy to represent him to distant churches, to lead those churches, and even to straighten out churches gone sideways. One verse in particular really emphasizes this.
1 Timothy 4:12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
Paul wrote this to Timothy when he was the pastor at Ephesus, a large and influential church. He expected this young pastor to set an example for all the believers! Paul had a lot of confidence in Timothy.
I used to quote this verse often to my high school students when I was a youth pastor. I told them that Paul expected Timothy to set an example for all the believers, including those who were older—old enough to be his parents or grandparents—and I expected them to do the same! “I expect you to set an example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity! I expect you to show our church what it looks like to follow Jesus with a fully surrendered heart! All in!” And they did—they were remarkable. Paul had a lot of confidence in this young leader. And I’ve learned to have a lot of confidence in our young leaders.
I hear so many older believers worrying about the next generation, but I’m telling you that our future is bright. I’m spending a good deal of my time hanging out with and investing in our young leaders. And I’m telling you that they are awesome! When our young people meet Jesus, when Jesus gets ahold of them, they’re awesome young leaders.
I meet each month with young church planters in our town, and I’m telling you that the future of the church in Spokane is in good hands. I love these young leaders, and I’m confident God is using and leading them.
And there are no better leaders anywhere than the young leaders right here in our own church. In the last couple years, we’ve hired a bunch of young leaders in their 20’s and 30’s and 40’s (I consider that young). I’m so impressed with their passion for Jesus, their smarts, their energy, their hard work, their willingness to sacrifice. For example, I heard someone describe our student ministry staff as a dream team, possibly the best student ministry team anywhere in the country! They weren’t exaggerating—they’re that good—and they’re all in their 20’s and early 30’s. This is true of our young leaders across the board—we’ve got a dream team! One more time look at…
1 Timothy 4:12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
So here’s my challenge for all the older folks—that includes me—all you high mileage units. Don’t look down on someone because they’re young! Instead, cheer them on. You have to be their cheerleader before you can be their coach. If you come at them like this (finger pointing) you will get this (hands up). But if you come at them like this (clapping) you will get this (hands open). Be their cheerleader first. Believe in them, encourage them, cheer them on—then they will be eager to hear your wisdom. Find a young Timothy and start pouring your life into him or her. Make your last lap your best lap! You have a lot to give, so find some eager young believers and give them your best investment.
And here’s my challenge for all you young stallions and fillies. Be an example for all the believers. You are not the church of tomorrow—you are the church of today. You can love Jesus with all your heart—right now. You can use your gifts and serve people—right now. You can lead—right now. We believe in you. Find a Paul, a spiritual mother or father who will invest in you, and be sponge. We’re better together. Your young best and their old best will make the very best! Let’s do it together!
And that leads to the final thing—very quickly.
- We must pray for each other.
2 Timothy 1:3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.
Paul told Timothy, his protege, his Think 3 guy, “I pray for you constantly.”
ILL: When Noel died, I got a phone call from one of his kids, and she asked, “Who will pray for us now?” Noel invested in us in so many ways, and one of them was he prayed every day for us.
This verse made me think about my Timothys, about the people for whom I am a spiritual father, and investing in regularly. I made the list—it was a big list!
- My children and grandchildren.
- You: our church.
- Our staff.
- Our students.
- My mentor g
- Our church plants and their pastors.
- My church planters reading group.
And it hit me how much I need to pray.
Who is your Paul? Who is your Timothy? Who are you investing in, helping to find and follow Jesus? Would you pray for your Timothy?