The two letters addressed to Timothy were unquestionably written to a young man, for it says in 1 Timothy 4. 12, “Let no man despise thy youth”, that is, his youthfulness. They contain various instructions for him relating to the conduct of the assembly of Christians at Ephesus, where Timothy was living, as well as such counsel as is of permanent value for the assemblies to which we ourselves may belong. They also contain many personal words of advice. Timothy was an exceptional young man. Someone has even suggested that his knowledge of the holy Scriptures, which he had learned from his childhood, 2 Tim. 3. 15, was likely to have earned him the reputation of being a living encyclopaedia of Bible facts. However, while recognizing and in no way belittling his considerable attainments, 1 Tim. 4. 6, his father in the faith, the apostle Paul, wisely counselled him in regard to certain practical matters affecting his personal life. The older man with wider experience no doubt realized more fully how important it was for Timothy, first to take heed to himself, and then to the doctrine, or teaching committed to him, 4. 16. It will serve us equally well today if we take careful note of these things, and let them speak to us personally. How much we all need the wise, spiritual advice of someone who really cares about us, and who wants to see us happy in the Lord and prospering in His things. A short, personal check-list is always useful, and the one which served Timothy is here offered to anyone who is not afraid of what it may reveal.
1. “Let no man despise thy youth”, 1 Tim. 4. 12.
In the ancient world, a person between thirty and forty years of age could still be considered young. We, then, are well within the tipper limit if we have turned to this part of the magazine to get something for ourselves. If we should feel that someone thinks down on us, or under-rates us because we are younger, the Word says, Do not let them, whoever they may be. Why not? Because God has dealings with those who are younger just as much as with those who are older. Witness Samuel, David and Daniel, and F. S. Arnor, too, whom God thrust into service in Central Africa in 1881 when he was only twenty-three.
2. “Take heed to thyself’, 1 Tim. 4. 16.
Do not over-rate yourself. Personal self-esteem, or thinking too highly of ourselves, is not good. It is not good for others or for us. Such an attitude in life is to be avoided. But paying constant, careful attention to our temper, manners, speech, appearance, indeed, to our whole way of life is what we must continually concentrate on. Do not forget the words of the wise man, “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life”, Prov. 4. 23.
3. “Keep thyself pure”, 1 Tim. 5. 22.
How easy it is for some to fall in with those who hide their deceit under a cloak of professed devotion to the Lord. Not everyone who broadcasts his activities for the Lord is to be trusted. If we are too simple, or too hasty, we may be taken in by what seems to be so very good. But the result may be that we become entangled with those dishonouring the Lord, and partners in their unrighteousness. Even Joshua fell for the anful scheme of the crafty Gibeonites, Josh. 9. 3-15. The old serpent is just the same as he was in his youth, Gen. 3. 1, 4, 5.
4. “Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake”, etc., 1 Tim. 5. 23.
This is not a prescription for self-indulgence. Timothy was possibly rather ascetic, known for his abstinence in regard to things quite legitimate. It is possible for the pendulum to swing too far either way. What a blessing if we learn to live balanced lives. We will then recognize our own strengths and weaknesses. And we shall not indulge the one nor run away from the other. Our weakness may help to teach us something about using what the Lord has graciously provided for our need. Drunkenness, which leads to excess, is out at all times. But a certain Samaritan who once supplied oil and wine to a dying man may yet suggest, or even prescribe for our health and well-being, the use of things we would not normally dream of taking.
5. “Stir up the gift of God which is in thee”, 2 Tim. 1. 6.
Having come under the ministry and spiritual influence of the apostle Paul, Timothy had received through him a “gift of God”. This may be true of some of us as well. Having been in the company of godly men and women, and having benefitted from then- lives and teaching, perhaps we also through them have received a “gift of God”. If so, what are we to do about it? We must certainly not let it die down. Dying embers warm no one up, not even ourselves. No, we must see to it that we make the most of the gift by devoting our time and effort to building up the fire so that it burns brightly and continuously. Only in this way shall we ever have a true, spiritual and lasting influence on others.
6. “Be not thou therefore ashamed … “, 2 Tim. 1.8.
Joseph Grigg, who died when he was just forty over two hundred years ago, was obviously moved by these five words when he wrote:
“Ashamed of Jesus, that dear Friend On whom my hopes of heaven depend! No! when I blush, be this my shame, That I no more revere His Name.” Anyone who is ashamed will make it his aim to avoid being noticed, and will seek to hide from others the fact that he belongs to the Lord, and lo a body of believers that owns His Name. How sad! Yet how much easier it seems to go along with the world at school, at college, at work, or wherever we may be, than to witness a good confession, 1 Tim. 6. 13. Someone may say, But why put people’s backs up? Why lose friends who you think may yet be won for Christ by going along with them? Perhaps the time has come for us to ask who our true friends are. If our confessing the Lord Jesus to others turns them against us, then at least both we and they know on whose side we are. Timothy was not one who was ashamed of the gospel, or of the cine who suffered for his preaching of it, but the warning needed to be sounded in his ears, and if in his, how much more in ours.
7. “Consider what I say”, 2 Tim. 2. 7.
We hear what people have to say if we pay attention. Afterwards we may be able to recall what we have heard if our memory is good enough. But it does not follow that we will understand all that we have heard and can recall. How important therefore lo reflect, to think about what we have heard, to allow the Lord to make us “lie down in green pastures”, where we can chew the cud. Even Timothy was reminded of his need for that understanding which is the Lord’s gift to those who “lie down".
8. “Study to show thyself approved unto God”, 2 Tim. 2. 15.
Ambition is a desire for distinction. Diligence is persistent effort. For workmen whom God employs, ambition must give place to that kind of exertion which will gain His certificate of approval. It matters not how much we may impress others if we fail to satisfy our Employer. To be entrusted by God with His Word, and to be responsible to give it to others, calls for faithfulness to that Word above all else; see 1 Cor. 4. 2.
9. “Flee also youthful lusts”, 2 Tim. 2. 22.
An old saying goes: “He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day”. There is a time to stand up and fight, and there is a time to flee. Both occur in 1 Timothy 6. 11-12. At what things ought we to take to our heels and run from as fast as we can? Fornication, 1 Cor. 6. 18; idolatry, 10. 14; the love of money, 1 Tim. 6. 10-11; and the strong, passionate desires of youth which are in conflict with God’s pure will for us.
10. “Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned”, 2 Tim. 3. 14.
It is quite normal for youth to want change and variety. To be set in a rut is to be dull and uninteresting. But when it comes to the truths of Christianity, to “the things which God has prepared (here and now) for them that love him’, 1 Cor. 2. 9, there can be no change for change’s sake. By all means let us be constantly exploring fresh fields of what has been revealed by God’s Spirit, but never let us give up an inch of our God-given heritage.
More items could, of course, be added to this short check-list. They are well worth searching out and applying to ourselves, remembering that “all that will (determine to) live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution”, 2 Tim. 3.12.