TIMOTHY strode steadily along the road leading away from home, his eyes eagerly focused on what lay ahead. His companions led the way as they traversed the fields Timothy knew so well. Slowly receding behind them was the city of Lystra, which sat atop a low hill on the valley floor. Timothy smiled as he thought of his mother and grandmother, beaming with pride and hiding their tears as they watched him go. Should he turn and wave—one last time?
Now and again, the apostle Paul would turn to Timothy and smile encouragingly. He knew that Timothy still had a measure of shyness to overcome, but he was pleased to see the young man’s enthusiasm. Timothy was quite young, perhaps still in his late teens or early twenties, and he had tremendous respect and affection for Paul. Now Timothy was following this dynamic and faithful man on a journey that would take him hundreds of miles from home. They would travel on foot and by ship, facing countless dangers on the way. Timothy could not really know whether he would ever see his home again.
What led the young man to pursue such a course of life? What rewards could make such sacrifices worthwhile? And how can Timothy’s faith influence our own?
Let us go back in time two or three years, and let us assume—as seems probable—that Lystra was Timothy’s hometown. It was a small, rustic town in a secluded, well-watered valley. The people may have understood the Greek language, but they still spoke the local tongue, Lycaonian. One day, the quiet town was in an uproar. Two Christian missionaries, the apostle Paul and his traveling companion, Barnabas, arrived from Iconium, a larger city nearby. As they preached in public, Paul caught sight of a crippled man who showed evidence of real faith. So Paul performed a miracle and healed the man!—Acts 14:5-10.
Many of the people of Lystra evidently believed in local legends about gods disguised as humans coming to the region in times past. So the people mistook Paul for Hermes and Barnabas for Zeus! The two humble Christians could barely restrain the people from sacrificing to them.—Acts 14:11-18.
To a few in Lystra, though, that occasion was no visit from mythical pagan gods; it was something real and wonderful. For instance, Eunice, a Jewish woman married to an unbelieving Greek man,* along with her mother, Lois, surely listened to Paul and Barnabas with great eagerness and joy. Here at last was the news that every faithful Jew longed to hear—the Messiah had come and had fulfilled many prophecies written about him in the Scriptures!
Imagine how Timothy was affected by Paul’s visit. Timothy had been trained “from infancy” to love the holy writings of the Hebrew Scriptures. (2 Timothy 3:15) Like his mother and grandmother, he could see that Paul and Barnabas spoke the truth about the Messiah. And think of the crippled man that Paul healed. Why, from boyhood Timothy had probably seen that man countless times on the streets of Lystra. Now Timothy could see the man walking for the first time! No wonder that Eunice and Lois became Christians, as did Timothy. To this day, grandparents and parents can learn much from Lois and Eunice. Can you be an influence for good on the young?
“THROUGH MANY TRIBULATIONS”
Those who became Christian disciples in Lystra must have been thrilled to learn of the hope that was held out to Christ’s followers. But they learned, too, that discipleship would exact a price. Fanatic Jewish opposers from Iconium and Antioch came into town, and they stirred up those volatile people, turning them against Paul and Barnabas. Before long, violent crowds came after Paul, hurling stones at him. Struck repeatedly, he fell to the ground. The mob dragged him outside the city and left him for dead.—Acts 14:19.
However, the disciples in Lystra went out to Paul, surrounding him. How relieved they must have been when he stirred, got up, and then courageously went right back into Lystra! The next day, he and Barnabas left for the town of Derbe to continue their preaching. After making new disciples there as well, they again braved danger and returned to Lystra. To what end? “They strengthened the disciples,” the account tells us, “encouraging them to remain in the faith.” Imagine young Timothy listening, wide-eyed, as Paul and Barnabas taught those Christians that their glorious hope for the future was well worth the present cost. They said: “We must enter into the Kingdom of God through many tribulations.”—Acts 14:20-22.
Timothy had seen Paul live up to those words, facing tribulation bravely in order to share the good news with others. So Timothy knew that if he followed Paul’s example, the people of Lystra would oppose him, and his own father might oppose him as well. But Timothy was not going to allow such pressures to influence his decision about how to serve God. Today, there are many young people like Timothy. Wisely, they seek out friends with strong faith, who will encourage and strengthen them. And they do not let opposition turn them away from serving the true God!
“HE WAS WELL-REPORTED-ON BY THE BROTHERS”
As mentioned earlier, Paul’s next visit probably came two or three years later. Picture the excitement in Timothy’s household when Paul arrived, this time accompanied by Silas. It was surely a joyful time for Paul too. He could see for himself what had come from the seeds of truth that he had sown in Lystra. There were Lois and Eunice, her daughter, now loyal Christian women, full of that “unhypocritical faith” that Paul so admired. (2 Timothy 1:5) And what of young Timothy?
Paul learned that the young man had matured admirably since the previous visit. Timothy was “well-reported-on by the brothers,” not only in Lystra but also in Iconium, about 20 miles (32 km) to the northeast. (Acts 16:2) How had he built up such a reputation?
“The holy writings” that Timothy had been taught “from infancy” by his mother and grandmother included sound, practical counsel for young people. (2 Timothy 3:15) Here is one example: “Remember, then, your Grand Creator in the days of your youth.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) Those words took on a deeper meaning after Timothy embraced Christianity. He saw that the best way for him to remember his Grand Creator included sharing the good news about God’s Son, the Christ. Timothy gradually learned to overcome any natural shyness that held him back and to be bold in telling others the good news about Jesus Christ.
The men taking the lead in the congregations noticed Timothy’s progress. No doubt they were touched to see how the youth built up and encouraged everyone around him. More important, though, is that Jehovah noticed Timothy. God inspired some prophecies to be made about him—perhaps relating to the kind of service he would one day render to many congregations. When Paul visited, he saw that Timothy could be a helpful traveling companion on missionary journeys. The brothers in Lystra agreed. They laid their hands on the young man, a gesture that signified that he was appointed to a special post of service to Jehovah God.—1 Timothy 1:18; 4:14.
Timothy, we may well imagine, was awed and humbled by this great trust and responsibility. He was prepared to go.* How, though, did Timothy’s unbelieving father react to his son’s new calling to be a traveling Christian minister? He probably had very different things in mind for his son’s future. What about Timothy’s mother and grandmother? Did they glow with pride while trying to hide their concerns for the young man’s safety? That would only be natural.
What is certain is that Timothy went. On the morning described at the outset of this article, he took up a life of traveling with the apostle Paul. As he left Lystra behind, every crunch of the pebbles under his sandals, every rustle of the grass he trampled, meant another step toward the unknown and away from his home. After a long day of walking, the three men reached Iconium. Timothy then began to observe how Paul and Silas passed on the latest directions from the governing body in Jerusalem and worked to build up the faith of the believers in Iconium. (Acts 16:4, 5) But that was only the beginning.
After visiting the congregations in Galatia, the missionaries left the broad, paved Roman roads and walked hundreds of miles across the vast tablelands of Phrygia, heading north and then west. Ever following the direction of God’s holy spirit, they made their way to Troas, boarded a ship, and sailed to Macedonia. (Acts 16:6-12) By then, Paul saw just how useful Timothy was. Paul was able to leave Timothy in Beroea with Silas. (Acts 17:14) He even sent the young man alone to Thessalonica. There Timothy imitated the examples he had observed so keenly, and he built up the faithful Christians there.—1 Thessalonians 3:1-3.
Paul later wrote about Timothy: “I have no one else of a disposition like his who will genuinely care for your concerns.” (Philippians 2:20) That reputation did not come about by accident. Timothy earned it through hard work, humble service, and faithful endurance under difficult challenges. What a remarkable example for young people today! Never forget that your reputation is largely in your own hands. If you are young, you have a marvelous opportunity to make a name for yourself by putting Jehovah God first in your life and treating others with kindness and respect.
“DO YOUR UTMOST TO COME TO ME”
Over a period of about 14 years, Timothy spent a great deal of time working with the apostle Paul, his friend. He shared many of the dangers of Paul’s work and many of the joys as well. (2 Corinthians 11:24-27) At some point, Timothy was even imprisoned for his faith. (Hebrews 13:23) He also shared Paul’s deep and heartfelt love and concern for his Christian brothers and sisters. Paul thus wrote to him: “I remember your tears.” (2 Timothy 1:4) Like Paul, it seems that Timothy learned to “weep with those who weep,” empathizing with them so that he could better encourage and comfort them. (Romans 12:15) May each of us learn to do the same!
Not surprisingly, Timothy in time became an outstanding Christian overseer. Paul entrusted him with the responsibility not only to visit congregations to strengthen and encourage them but also to appoint men who qualified to serve as congregation elders and ministerial servants.—1 Timothy 5:22.
Paul was very fond of Timothy, giving much helpful counsel and fatherly advice to the younger man. He urged Timothy to nurture his spiritual gifts and to keep growing, making advancement. (1 Timothy 4:15, 16) He encouraged Timothy never to let his youth—and perhaps some natural diffidence—hold him back when it was time to take a firm stand for what is right. (1 Timothy 1:3; 4:6, 7, 11, 12) Paul even offered him advice on how to deal with the frequent cases of sickness that beset the young man, possibly a recurring stomach ailment.—1 Timothy 5:23.
The time came when Paul knew that the end of his life was near; evidently a death by execution lay just ahead of him. He sent one final inspired letter to Timothy. It included the touching words: “Do your utmost to come to me shortly.” (2 Timothy 4:9) Paul dearly loved Timothy; he called him “my beloved and faithful child in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 4:17) No wonder that he wanted his friend by his side as the end approached! Each of us may well ask, ‘Do people seek me out as a source of comfort when they face trouble?’
Was Timothy able to reach Paul in time? We do not know. We do know that he always did his utmost to give Paul and many others comfort and encouragement. He lived up to the meaning of the name Timothy, “One Who Honors God.” And he left an outstanding example of faith for all of us, young and old, to imitate.
See “Did You Know?” in this issue.
Timothy was even willing to submit to circumcision at Paul’s request—not because that was a requirement for Christians but because Paul did not want to give the Jews to whom they would preach any reasons to object to the presence of this young man whose father was a Gentile.—Acts 16:3.