Paul's second letter to Timothy opens with an outpouring of encouragement and Timothy certainly needs it! Paul's first and second letters are challenging to Timothy in and of themselves. Timothy is challenged to "stir up the gift" (2 Timothy 1:6), to "be not ashamed" (2 Timothy 1:8) and to "be strong" (2 Timothy 2:1) amongst other challenges and exhortations. We decidedly get the impression that Timothy is being challenged if not a little corrected at times by these two epistles. Far greater than the challenge that comes form the epistles themselves are the problems and opposition Timothy faces at Ephesus. 1 Timothy details doctrinal problems in the church at Ephesus (1 Timothy chapter 1) including some basic errors in the Gospel (1 Timothy chapter 1) and a fundamental error in the understanding of some relative to the truth of justification by faith. Some have erred and denied the resurrection (2 Timothy 2:18) and others seem to have lost the importance and centrality of the Lord Jesus in the church and in their lives (1 Timothy 3:16). Moral problems afflict the church at Ephesus (1 Timothy 3:1ff; 4:1ff and chapter 5); materialism affects some (1 Timothy 6:9-10); asceticism (1 Timothy 4:3ff) afflicts others and paradoxically libertinism has made it's inroads in the hearts of a few at least (1 Timothy 4:2). One thing Timothy is not short of is problems and opposition.
Before the apostle Paul brings his ministry of challenge and at times gentle correction he begins with the perhaps forgotten and neglected gift and ministry of encouragement. Chapter 1 of 2 Timothy is a glorious example of this forgotten gift of encouragement. Paul's encouragement is only truly effective because it is powerfully personal. Paul has taken time to draw along side Timothy in days and years gone by (2 Timothy 1:2) to mentor and disciple the young Timothy. The path of that discipleship is traced through Paul's missionary journeys in the Acts of the apostles eg chapter 16, chapter 18 and chapter 19, as Paul and Timothy together visit and evangelise at Philippi, Ephesus and Corinth. The ministry of encouragement, is the ministry of one who takes the time to care, who sacrifices self to love. Paul has drawn alongside Timothy to encourage. This ministry is after the pattern of the Holy Spirit Himself, our paraclete; the one who draws alongside to comfort and encourage.
Building on the foundation of self sacrificial relationship and mentoring, time invested in the well being of another, Paul furthermore assures Timothy of his prayers for him (2 Timothy 1:3). Paul not only prays for Timothy but Paul tells Timothy that he is praying for Him. This is encouragement poured out from the altar of intercessory prayer!
Despite at times a shadow cast over the courage and determination of Timothy, Paul assures Timothy that he has the apostles confidence (2 Timothy 1:5). The challenges and corrections of Paul to Timothy spring from the confidence rather than the doubts that Paul has in Timothy. Paul knows who he is and what he is. Paul is certain that because of who Timothy belongs to, he is able to meet the challenges.
Paul reminds Timothy of his personal endorsement and recognition of the unique gifts given to Timothy by God (2 Timothy 1:6), uniquely fitting Timothy for the challenges he faces.
Before the apostle puts pen to paper to challenge or correct Timothy he pours out encouragement upon encouragement to Timothy in his ministry so far in the service of the Lord Jesus. Perhaps we can all learn a lesson here from the apostle Paul in the forgotten and at times neglected gift of encouragement.
Yours by Grace in Christ
Dr J Stewart Gillespie
An excerpt from our systematic series of bible studies and ministry from our studies in 2 Timothy