One of the traits of people who are successful is that they all seem to have a mentor. They have someone in their life that helps teach them to be good at whatever it is they are hoping to do. It is someone who you can bounce ideas off of and get feedback. A mentor is someone who will share their knowledge and experiences with the person (mentee) they are mentoring.
As the person who is getting this mentoring gains wisdom and experience, they will reach the point where they should be a mentor to someone else and pass on what they have learned to the next generation. So the cycle continues on from generation to generation.
If we look back in time about 2,000 years ago, we see a great example of a mentor/mentee relationship. Paul was the mentor and Timothy was the mentee. In this blog series, I would like to focus on Timothy, who was the one being mentored.
So who was Timothy and what was God calling him to do?
Timothy grew up in the town of Lystra. He was a Jew/Greek mix and had solid training in the Scriptures from his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois. His father was a Greek. It is thought that Timothy probably became a Christian after Paul’s first missionary trip to Lystra. By the time Paul made a second trip to the region, Timothy had grown into a respected disciple of Jesus. Timothy had shown his commitment to his faith by getting circumcised as an adult as a demonstration of his commitment to God. Paul recruited Timothy, around that time, to become an assistant to him. Paul invited Timothy to join Silas and him on their journey of building churches throughout the area of the Middle East.
It was not all easy-going. There was some tension created by Timothy’s mixed racial background. Their audiences were made up of Jews who would have wanted strict adherence to Jewish tradition and since Timothy was not 100% Jewish, it went against that. Timothy also seemed to struggle with a naturally timid nature and was very sensitive to the fact that he was so young. People had problems seeing Timothy as a leader because he was so young.
Paul, who became the first missionary and first church planter, wrote 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament. Paul described Timothy as his “son in the faith.” Despite Timothy’s shortcomings, Paul saw great potential in Timothy. Paul demonstrated this confidence in Timothy by entrusting Timothy with important responsibilities. Paul sent Timothy as his personal representative to Corinth during a particularly tense time. We see this in the book of 1 Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 4:14-17 (NIV)
14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
Paul was trying to teach Timothy everything that he knew so that Timothy could pass the faith on to future generations. Paul was training Timothy to be his replacement. Paul would continue to tell Timothy that he would become a great leader someday. Timothy is the first “second generation” Christian to be mentioned in the New Testament.
Paul had started many churches and the church in Ephesus was one of those churches. The city of Ephesus was a port city and because of that it had a clash of different world views. It was very similar to what a university city would be like today. Ephesus was full of different religions and the people worshiped many different gods. Paul knew that establishing a solid church foundation in the city of Ephesus was vital because there were a lot of dark things going on in that city and they needed to fight those things with the gospel message. If people could hear the gospel message in Ephesus, because it was a port city and many people from all over the area visited there, there was a great potential to be able to spread the gospel to many areas from one central area.
One of the big problems that had sprung up since Paul first established the church in Ephesus is that there were many false teachings being taught that were simply not the truth about the gospel. Paul needed to get this straightened out, but Paul did not have time to do this himself because he had to move on to other regions and continue building churches there. Paul decided to place Timothy in Ephesus and have him become the head of the church there so that he could get a clear, truthful message out of the church in Ephesus.
As a young pastor, Timothy faced all sorts of pressures, conflicts, and challenges from the church at Ephesus and the surrounding culture. To counsel Timothy, Paul wrote and sent a very personal letter to Timothy. This letter was what later became 1 Timothy in the New Testament. It was written right around 64 AD, probably just prior to Paul’s final Roman imprisonment. Paul advised Timothy on such practical topics as qualifications for church leaders, public worship, confronting false teaching, and how to treat various groups within the church. Right belief and right behavior are critical to anyone who desires to lead or serve effectively in the church. We should all believe the truth, participate actively in the church, and minister to each other in a loving manner.
Paul thought the world of Timothy and loved him as though he was his real son. This is clearly shown through what Paul wrote in the book of Philippians:
Philippians 2:20-22 (NIV)
20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.
We need to really see this amazing relationship that Paul and Timothy shared. We need to see how much Timothy gained by his relationship with Paul and how much Paul gained by passing his knowledge on to Timothy. If you have never had a mentor, then you really need to think about finding one. They can teach you so much. If you have never been a mentor to someone, then you should also consider doing that as well. It can enrich your life so much. For the record, you can be both a mentor and a mentee at the same time.