For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God… 2 Timothy 1:6-8
In parts one and two we’ve established that, compared to his mentor, Paul, Timothy was young, sickly, shy. How does that affect his counsel to his protégé? And…
Does God give “a pass” to the timid?
Because his ministry was hard for him, do you get the impression that his mentor let Timothy off the hook? Can you hear Paul say, “You’re not a natural at this, so why don’t you find something easier to do for God? — You’re sick and scared, so maybe you should rethink your ministry and sign up for something safer. Plus, I know it’s especially hard for you since you didn’t have a dad to show you how to be a spiritual man, so why don’t you take the next decade or two to work on your inner healing before you launch out into any sort of spiritual responsibility.”
Alternatively, take a look at this cursory list of Paul’s exhortations to his mentee:
- “Join with me in suffering for gospel by power of God…”
- “Don’t be ashamed to testify about Lord or me…”
- “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young, be an example, be diligent…”
- “Fight the good fight of faith…”
- “Stand guard over what’s been put in your care…”
- “Be strong in grace…”
- “Endure hardship…”
- “Preach the Word…”
- “Reprove, rebuke, and exhort people…”
Does that sound at all like being let off the hook to you? Timothy’s predispositions to lean rather lead were, to Paul, no good reason to lower the bar. If anything, on the verge of his own death, the apostle raised the bar, and dared his disciple to suck it up and overcome his limitations for God’s sake and the sake of the struggling baby church. This – Paul’s final correspondence with his successor – was his “Win this one for the Gipper” speech.
You might’ve come by your tentativeness honestly and through no fault of your own. For all I know you were born with a skittish gene. I’m sure, if you’re frail of frame or sickly like Timothy, it’s not as though you chose your predilections. But still, my question to you is – what does God require of you? That’s always my day-beginning query to God, “What do you want me to do today?” In spite of my incompetence, I really want what he wants to be my wants.
To me, his will is the determining factor. Moses stuttered, but God, even though Aaron took the bulk of his public speaking gigs, often made him speak in front of the nation (Deuteronomy is full of such Moses speeches). Though David was too young, too small, and too inexperienced, he took a deep breath and faced the giant. The boy’s lunch was way too small to feed 5000 hungry picnickers, but because he gave it over to Jesus it swelled into a feast plus doggie bags for the disciples (twelve baskets for twelve disciples).
I like to think of it as “Dedicated Incompetence.” I know I’m incompetent, yet it’s when I dedicate to God what little I have, that he can do something with it. I try not to be held back by my fragilities, but offer them to God. If he feels he can do something with a person like me, he knows I’m at his beck and call. (It’s as simple as ABC – At his Beck and Call).
“He said to me, ‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’ Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” 2 Corinthians 12 (The Message Bible)
[In the next one we’ll talk about how “power, love, and self-discipline” come from God and counter our fears.]