Be a Timothy, Pursue a Paul

Be a Timothy, Pursue a Paul

Feb 22, 2013

“Be a Timothy, Pursue a Paul”

by Dusty Mackintosh

Thornton, Colorado


Feat 2 back to back

God gave me an incredible gift. I am writing to make you jealous. More about that later.

I was studying 2 Timothy (you know, the Bible) and I was struck by something odd. The advice, the encouragement and the teaching were all familiar to me, but my image of Timothy suddenly shifted.

Timothy was not a young teenager. If church tradition is accurate in relating his death in 97 AD (around 80 years old), Timothy would be somewhere in his 40s at the time of the writing of 1st and 2nd Timothy. Further, he is a church leader, possibly already the bishop of Ephesus. In short, he is a mature and successful leader in the church.

He still had a mentor

Yet, Paul clearly continues his role of mentor—passing on advice, wisdom and expertise to Timothy, counseling him through the challenges of life and ministry. The word mentor is something of a buzzword this last decade, but the apprenticeship model it describes is ancient. I encountered this word constantly as a youth, young adult, youth minister and seminarian, always with the image of the young up-and-comer being brought along by the sage who has traveled the road before. This is certainly mentoring.

The picture presented by Paul and Timothy is that of an ongoing, long-term mentoring relationship. Timothy did not stop needing mentoring once he had achieved success in church leadership. Indeed, Timothy apparently had the wisdom to realize he needed a mentor more than ever.

Standing on two pillars

Paul writes to remind Timothy that he can persevere in terrible times among terrible people because he stands on two pillars. Timothy can persevere because he knew the Holy Scriptures from infancy, and because he knew those from whom he learned it (2 Tim 3:14-15).

Far from least among those “from whom he learned it” was his mentor, Paul. Timothy knew “all about [Paul’s] teaching, way of life, purpose, faith, patience, love endurance, persecutions, sufferings…” (2 Tim. 3:10-11)

It was like Paul was saying, “You, Timothy, know all about my teaching, my conduct, my purpose, faith…” This is what Timothy knows. The word here is also “you followed” or “you have investigated and examined thoroughly.” I love this definition: “following a teaching which has been grasped.”

Paul, in essence, tells Timothy, “You learned the things I said, the way I lived, my purpose, the things I believed, the ways I behaved (patience, love, endurance), the things I endured (persecutions, sufferings), and you really got it. You understood, and you followed me in those things.”

The content and context

So the content of what Timothy learned was Christian doctrine and Christ-like living. The context of what Timothy learned was in the footsteps of Paul’s life and ministry. This was a pillar of Timothy’s life and faith, and yet the mentoring was not over. The books of 1 and 2 Timothy are an act of ongoing mentoring. What an incredible gift Timothy had in Paul.

Here’s my question: What was it about Timothy that allowed Paul to speak these words of encouragement, even when he could have considered himself “graduated” from Paul’s tutelage? More personally, will anyone be able to write a letter like that to me?

Tradition has Timothy mid-40s or so at the time of this letter. In 15 years, when I am bishop of Ephesus, who will write me and say: “Dusty, you have watched me, you know what I have taught, the way I have lived, what I believe, how I have treated other people… You have watched my own godly life in action. I know you are in terrible times—keep going! Why? Because you have known those who have taught you (like me), and of course you know the power and wisdom of the Scriptures to lead you to salvation in Christ.”

My mentors

Do I know those who have taught me? Do I know their teaching, their conduct, faith, and purpose? My answer—and this is the incredible gift God has given me—is YES! I am presently learning and grasping. Who will write me that letter? My mentors: Ralph Mackintosh (my Dad), Pastor Rod Henry, Bryan McPherson, and Damian Robles.

These godly men have tons to teach me about godly living in Christ. I get to watch their lives closely in ministry together and in their own stories, and I get to follow in their footsteps. I get to hear God speak words of truth and wisdom into my life through them. That’s a powerful thing, I’ll tell you.

You need an outside voice

Who is mentoring you? Do you, as Timothy did, “know those from whom you have learned?” Have you followed and studied their teaching, way of life, purpose, faith, love, patience? The ever-present danger is deciding that you have “arrived.” You are already successful in church leadership, church life, or feel you have learned all you can. That is crazy talk.

There are areas of sin in your life and you need help breaking out of that bondage or those patterns. There are areas of stupid in your life, and you simply need wise, godly counsel to point and say “Stop being stupid!”

Perhaps you are so caught up in the business and busy-ness of life that you need an outside voice to give some perspective. Likely you are doing some good things in life, but you don’t know how to discern or step from good to great. Remember, Timothy was already a great leader in the church, but Paul continued to mentor him towards excellence!

Others can teach you…

Allow me to quote my own mentor, Pastor Rod: “Mentoring moves us from mediocrity to excellence because someone who knows us and loves us is speaking hard things into our lives.”

Proverbs 27:17 puts it this way: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Who is mentoring you? Whose life are you studying? 99% of the time, this is not going to just “happen” to you. The perfect mentor won’t stop by and say, “I will now mentor you.” It certainly didn’t go down that way for me. You are responsible to pursue and learn from godly people. God has placed those people in your life.

No matter where you are in life, there are others in the Body of Christ who have things to teach you. You may be incredibly gifted and mature in Christian ministry, for example, but you need to learn humility or patience or compassion.

…and even get personal

There is much more that could be said about mentoring. How do you actually follow a mentor? With ready feet, learning the disciplines and practices that shape their own lives and ministry. How do you listen to a mentor? By giving them permission to speak hard truth into your life, and then listening with HUGE ears.

Paul gave Timothy advice on every aspect of his ministry, but he even got into personal stuff. Timothy apparently had some bad gas…trointestinal issues, probably from the water in Ephesus, and Paul recommended a bit of wine. This was pre-Pepto-Bismol.

As Timothy did, you have to follow and study not only the explicit teaching of your mentor, but also the way of life, faith, purpose, love, patience… all of these.

There is much more to mentoring, but it all starts with two things: You have to see the need, and you have to see the mentor.

You have to see the need

News flash: You have not yet arrived! You have not yet achieved Christian maturity, Christ-like perfection. None of us has. In this world, perfection is a direction we are moving, not a destination we achieve.

Here is another News Flash: You aren’t going to get there alone. God doesn’t call us to walk alone.

Yes, we have the Bible. Yes, we have the Holy Spirit. But we also have the fellowship of the saints, the Body of Christ. Without inviting godly men and women to see and speak into your life, you will get stuck. You will get distracted. Worst of all, you might get satisfied with mediocrity. That is tragic. You have to see the need. Then, knowing you need help to take a next step in Christian maturity—from mediocrity into excellence—you need to see the mentor.

You have to see the mentor

You may look around your church, your community, your family, and see no potential mentors.There was a time in my life when I “knew everything” and no one could teach me. I knew it all at about 14 years old. I can tell you the date I decided I had nothing more to learn in the church sermons, for example: June 3, 1995. I took notes on every sermon in this Bible since I got it when I was baptized until 6/3/95. That’s the date of my last notes on a sermon, and I remember deciding it wasn’t worth taking notes anymore because I knew it all.

Fortunately, God taught me better a few years later. I was humbled, and the most valuable lesson I have learned over the last 10 years is how little I know, and how much the people around me have to teach me. My official “mentors” are just the start. I even learned something from my little brother, Jono, once. Once.

Each of us needs wide-open, humble, discerning eyes to see how much the godly people in our lives have to teach us.

A mentor doesn’t have to be ahead of us or better than us in every aspect of life. A mentor is one who has wisdom or insight to offer in one or more aspects of life. A mentor is one who asks the question that makes you stop, and reflect, and reconsider. A mentor is one who will speak the word that you hated and so needed to hear.

Look around you with humble eyes. I pray, over the course of today, that you will come up with a name. The name of a Paul. The name of a mentor.

You see the need. See the mentor. Be a Timothy, pursue a Paul.


       Dusty Mackintosh serves as Assistant Pastor at the Next Step SDB Church in Thornton, Colo.

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