Imagine how it feels to send your college student off to a faraway place; then you know how Paul felt when he sent Timothy to Ephesus. Timothy was contemplating giving up when Paul told him to stay (1 Tim 1:3). Ephesus had been no picnic; Timothy avoided confrontation because it was in his nature. Some of the older men were looking down their noses at young Timothy. Paul sent him five building blocks for a fruitful ministry in his first letter. The way would be through personal godliness, through the Word, through giftedness, through diligence, and through balance.
Paul urged Timothy to pursue godliness in his life, and the apostle detailed five aspects of how that picture would look: speech, life, love, faith, and purity. Our speech no doubt is the most challenging aspect of our self-discipline. Solomon said, “The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse” (Prov 10:32). That kind of control is what Timothy needed in his work in his own life. Secondly, Timothy needed to work on his day-to-day life. There was to be no secular versus sacred. All of life was to be sacred. His life was to bear witness to his faith. Thirdly, his love was to be the kind of love Paul described in his letter to the Corinthians: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor 13:4-5). Fourthly, his faith was to be real—the kind that Jesus described in his parable of the faithful servants: “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty'” (Luke 17:10). Faith was to be responsive without expecting some reward. It was to be real and from the heart. Lastly, purity has to be the kind that comes from God. If it is self-generated, it will be like this: “For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin” (Ps 32:2). When it comes from God, it will be like this: “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep” (Ps 36:5-6).
The second building block was the importance of God’s Word in Timothy’s ministry and work. It was to be center of what he did. God’s Word has to be front and center, or we will get lost in the maze of voices in this world.
The third building block is giftedness. We all have been given gifts, and we are to use them for the benefit of God’s glory and others. Our gifts were given to be used and not to be kept hidden.
The fourth building block is diligence. Diligence is staying at it and doing the best we know how. There is no place for laziness in God’s work. We are to persevere without giving up.
The fifth building block is balance. Life has to have a balance to work right—a balance between our biblical doctrine and beliefs and the application of those beliefs. That balance works when we live in the grace that allows us to forgive and be forgiven.