We are starting in on the book of 1 Timothy… Old man Paul connects with young man Timothy in a heartfelt way. What title does Paul give Timothy in the opening verses? (1 Tim. 1:(son). Paul is not literally his father. In all likelihood, Paul first met Timothy when he was a missionary traveling around the Mediteranean, and he went to Timothy’s small hometown of Lystra. Acts 14:3-21 tells the first time Paul and Barnabus went to Lystra. Maybe Paul even stayed in Timothy’s home, and Timothy would have been just a child. The impression that was made. When I was a child growing up in Sumas, times were different. Advent Christian missionaries were sent more regularly to all the churches. On many occasions, I was the one to give up my bed for the traveling guests. What an honor. Imagine if Paul was in Timothy’s home, and the impression which certainly was made on the mind of the Timothy of a most remarkable guest. Read the amazing story in Acts for yourself in which the locals hailed Paul and Barnabus as Zeus and Hermes, the Greek Gods. Later, when Paul returned to Lystra, Timothy’s life was forever changed. (read Acts 16:1-3). How old was Timothy? Best guess: late teens.
Paul adopts Timothy as a son. What is remarkable is how different the two are, yet there is a connection. I was amazed this week, It started 3-4 weeks ago, I was introduced to a young man, middle school. He was polite and wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. Then I happened to run into him a few weeks later and remembered his name and forced answers out of him. Then last week, I was at a public event. Lots of people. The same young man came out of his way to find me, greeted me, chattered for five minutes about what was going on in his life, and then excused himself and went on his way. What happened? I paid a little bit of attention and something connected. I now know his plans for the next year, a bit of his likes and dislikes, what he admires in life and gets him excited, and maybe nothing else will happen, but we connected even if for only a brief time.
Some people have a need to be mentored, others need to mentor. to grow in my faith, I need others so that I can check in on them. I need somebody that I innately know will not abandon me when I fail. I like this definition of what it means to be a mentor to somebody else, from the world of art and artists, but a larger application: More than mere teachers, mentors are often emancipators, freeing artists from poor technique, clouded vision and personal uncertainty. More than mere teachers, mentors are often emancipators, freeing young Christians, freeing struggling people, freeing searching people from poor judgments, bad choices, clouded futures, personal uncertainty, to gain a rich vision of life in Christ, wholeness, health, joy, peace.
Some of you need to be mentors, like Paul, to invest yourself, to be available, to give people freedom, to give another affirmation, to love them no matter what, to give permission. Without mentors, Christianity is reduced to a good idea, a theory. Mentors bring the richness of experience. To believe in others. Esther gave me this quotation from the world of art: We live to discover beauty, all else is a form of waiting. To believe that about others qualifies to be a mentor. Paul saw the beauty of Timothy. Not else is much more satisfying when somebody says to me, “thank you for believing in me.”
One of the joys of being the pastor of SACC is meeting people that have a connection with our church. Kids that grew up here, moved away, temporary home, and over and over I hear about how meaningful some of the wonderful saints of past and present.
Let’s look at what qualifies one to need mentoring, the character of Timothy.
Then take a look at what qualifies one to be a mentor, the example of Paul.
Timothy…most people identify with Timothy. Young, if he was in the late teens when he first ventured forth with Paul, he is perhaps about mid thirties when 1 Tim is penned, but still a young man. John Stott describes Timothy this way: “He was very far from being a stain glassed saint. A halo would not have fitted comfortably on his head. No, the evidence is plain that he was a real human being like us, with all the infirmity and vulnerability which that entails.”
Later in this book, 1 Tim. 4:12, Paul says to Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because of his youth. A few years later, when 2 Tim is written, Paul says “flee the evil desires of youth” (1 Tim. 2:22). Timothy felt immature and inexperienced and was weighted down by the responsibilities place upon him.
Timothy was shy. He need affirmation. When I was a young pastor wannabee back in 1983, I had two mentors that year, Pastor George Teshera and Pastor Frank Jewett. The book they had me read that year: 1 Timothy. I could see myself. When I was growing up in this church, just a baby, my mother tells the story of me being in the nursery, and I’d just sit in the corner, and the ladies would come in and say, “what’s wrong with him, is he sick?” “No, just quiet.” Timothy was reserved. If Paul and Barnabas was around in the book of Acts, Timothy was not the decision maker. He went along while others decided. When Paul sent Timothy to the Corinthians, he instructed them, “Put him at ease.” In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul says the Lord has not given us a spirit of timidity, evidently the mentor urging the young Timothy to be more bold.
Young, reserved, and sickly. Paul refers to a stomach problem, even prescribing for Timothy “Don’t drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach, because you are sick so often.” Young, reserved, sickly. Put that on a resume and send it into a church to be the pastor. What qualifies you to be a pastor? I have no experience, I don’t like talking in front of people, I get really nervous if I have to make any decisions, and I’m sick a lot.
Some of you need a mentor. I’m sure not saying you have to be exactly like Timothy, rather, the example of Timothy shows that everyone qualifies. Timothy was all those things, but evidently he also connected with Paul, he desired to learn, he was willing. Are you ready to take those next steps of maturity in your Christian walk? Pray, look, watch, ask, search…. We’re not going to start some sort of formal mentoring program, but we are small enough that we can be available, listen to each other… From the world of art, here is what a beginning artist said of a master artist: “I would love to peek over your shoulder, taking notes, watching intently, like a little mouse, just to learn.” Find Christians whom you admire and respect, and see if you can take a peek over their shoulder. I love large churches, the large church can do wonderful things, but, in my opinion, one area stands out for what a small church does so well. In large churches people typically are divided by groups, ages, categories. In a small church, it is easier to connect across generations.
Let’s look at Paul, Paul has a very personal statement in the scripture I read at the beginning. What he says about himself in 1 Timothy 1:12-17. It’s a remarkable statement as Paul relives his own conversion in between two statements of praise.
Some of you NEED to be a mentor. This is the next step of your own spiritual maturity, invest yourself in others, only it is NOT you that is being poured into others, it is Christ Jesus that you are passing on, helping others to find the same freedom in Christ you so much appreciate and believe. Think of 1 Timothy 1:12-17 as a sandwich. The two slices of bread are found in 1 Timothy 1:12: READ. And then 1 Timothy 1:17 READ. To be the most effective mentor you must give all the credit to God for who you are, his mercy, his gift to you, to be amazed by Christ in you. Mentors are humble, have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, they understand the true nature of their own sin, and the slices of the bread, and incredible attitude of thanksgiving.
How does Paul see himself? What he used to be is found in 13: A blasphemer, or as another translation puts it, “I used to scoff at the name of Christ.” a violent man. a persecutor. The full story is in Acts how Paul once hunted down Christians and literally murdered them. Your story is different, odds are not as dramatic, but the same story of sin and alienation from God.
Paul goes on to describe himself as the recipient of mercy. V. 13 he says, but God had mercy on me. I.e. I did not deserve, I deserved punishment for my sins, but I was ignorant, I was not a believer in the true God. Again in verse 14. Again in v. 16, the idea of mercy is so important of him, he repeats the Lord’s great mercy, describing how patient God was with him. When we lose patience, God never gives up on us.
To qualify as a mentor, be amazed by God’s mercy in your life. That’s what you want to pass on to others. To understand the incredible nature of God’s grace in your own life. Paul does not promote himself to Timothy, he promotes the transforming power of Jesus Christ, who is forever to be praised. Amen.
Finally, Paul describes himself as the worst of sinners in v. 15. How’s that for a qualification. The temptation for many of you when I suggest you be a mentor is to say to yourself, I have nothing to offer, I am not good enough. Are you kidding. Paul says not only does he have nothing to offer, but he is a horrible sinful man. What qualifies Paul to be a mentor is not Paul, but it is the power of the gospel of God in him. He underscores the truth of the gospel: A true saying. A trustworthy saying. Christ came into the world to save sinners. It is a universal offer for all. Salvation is for sinners. And Paul says, this salvation has transformed my life. The salvation is personal. What qualifies you to be a mentor: confidence in the personal salvation of Jesus Christ who has transformed your life and set you free. Those are the mentors we want. And our church is richly blessed with so many wonderful folks who know the Lord Jesus Christ. You have a great opportunity to make a difference, to help others, to share your own life with others, walk beside them, to be a mentor. We may be tempted to think Paul is exaggerating when he says I am the chief sinner, but he means it, and in my humble opinion, as you come to know Christ with more depth, you also come to understand your own nature.
Isn’t God amazing. Some of you need to have mentors. Some of you need to be mentors. What great opportunities on both sides. Paul was a mentor to Timothy, they connected. Pray for a relationship, be available, be looking, be open. Timothy was young, reserved and shy, so whatever your problems are, don’t tell me you don’t qualify. Paul was incredibly thankful, knew his own character with a shady background, embraced the mercy of God, was overwhelmed by the gift of salvation – change the details and that describes a lot of you.