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You, Man of God–Part 1

May 5, 2011

But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.  1 Timothy 6:11

I don’t think of myself as a man of God. When I think of someone who might fit the bill, it’s a wild donkey of a man wearing animal skins and eating honey out of a beehive with his bare hands. Or a tall Charlton Heston-like figure with piercing blue eyes holding up the Ten Commandments with his bony fingers. Or perhaps a brooding Anthony Hopkins portraying Paul in the mini-series Peter and Paul, speaking, of course, in an English accent.

Seriously, it’s hard not to see Paul as a “man of God,” given his resume in 2 Corinthians 11:23-26:

Are they servants of Christ?–I speak as if insane–I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.

This is Timothy’s mentor, and he was actually present when Paul wrote many of his letters. Check out 2 Corinthians 1:1 for example:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are through out Achaia. 2 Corinthians 1:1

Truth is, Timothy was by Paul’s side and an eye-witness to much of his heroics. Further, Paul had a habit of leaving Timothy behind or sending him as his representative to ministry hot spots (Thessalonica, Ephesus). Timothy was Paul’s “go to” guy, and affectionately called a “son” or “child” in the faith.

We—I—can’t help but to freeze Timothy permanently at the whippersnapper age of 20-something. Well, by now he’s pushing 40, about the age Paul began his barnstorm tour. Surely by this time he’s free to improvise as he troubleshoots in Ephesus. But things aren’t going as smoothly as hoped in the city that sported one of the “Seven Wonders of the World,” the Temple of Artemis, a major highway, and cruise ships in the harbor.

Who were the main antagonists there? Well the charlatans trying to steal the pulpit, and the detractors proposing “rabbit trails” disguised as genealogies to start with. Then there were the usual “under-performers.” Timothy’s was genuinely feeling the stress Paul mentioned—that of the “daily pressure” of concern for the church. Plus he’s got to appoint the right elders and deacons (not any new believers), and don’t forget the widows!

Who wouldn’t have stomach problems with wise guys in the gallery taking pot shots at you all the time? Rich know-it-alls too. You feel obligated to reply in kind.

Was Timothy flagging? No, I don’t think so. I think he was holding his own. But Paul, catching wind of his struggles from somewhere in Macedonia, we are told, is taking no chances. Was Timothy a man of God? Paul thinks so. Absolutely. He says, in the original language, that is, “You, man of God, flee from these things…”

You don’t go through the episodes Timothy went through as Paul’s “co-worker” and not get your hands dirty. Even at the beginning Timothy was highly regarded.  That is why he was chosen by Paul in the first place. Some say he was to be John Mark’s replacement. Imagine following that act! I am thinking “the last guy was fired (so to speak) who did this!”So I feel comfortable in stating he was definitely a man of God, but with feet of clay, like all of us.

I try to put myself in Timothy’s sandals, unraveling the dusty scroll from Paul, dealing with the rush of anxiety that comes from anticipating a stern lecture. But despite all the exhortations and commands in it, Paul still believes in him, and he’s just called him a “man of God.”

Relief.

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