Words of Personal Encouragement
3 I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, 4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, 5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. 6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:3-7)
Paul’s personal letter to his spiritual son begins with some very personal words of encouragement that only Paul could give. Perhaps, no one knew Timothy as well as this apostle of Christ. They had been intimately associated in the spread of the Gospel for about twenty years. Paul knew Timothy’s weaknesses and this strengths. Although this paragraph appears to be about Paul with several first person pronouns, it is in fact Paul’s concern that he give encouragement to the one he has been mentoring. He may never see Timothy again. Timothy may not arrive in Rome in time to see Paul before the execution. The apostle knew he had one last chance to put the courage into him. He does so with several very personal affirmations of encouragement.
3 I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did,
“I Am Grateful to God For You”
When Paul thought of Timothy the first thing he did was thank God for putting this young man in his life. Timothy went with Paul on his second and third missionary journey’s and unlike Mark, he was dependable. Paul could leave him behind to help establish a young congregation. Timothy could be trusted to go to a congregation which was in need of encouragement and edification like that of Ephesus.
Paul mentions his service or worship unto God from a pure conscience. Paul did not mean to say he was perfect. In fact he had to buffet his body daily to remain faithful (1 Cor. 9:27). His pure conscience may be to a reference to his current status of being a condemned criminal of Rome. Although he is about to be decapitated he dies with a pure conscience knowing he has done nothing worthy of death. Perhaps, he is contrasting himself with false teachers and those who have betrayed him and the faith. Most likely, he is comparing his faith with that of Timothy’s which came from a faithful mother and grandmother who taught him the truth. Paul’s ancestors were true Israelites who looked faithfully for the coming Messiah and His kingdom. Paul found such while on the road to Damascus. Since that day Paul could say, “I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16).
3b as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day,
“I Constantly Pray for You”
Preaching the Good News to the lost would have been quite limited in a Roman prison. However, no prison or set of chains could keep Paul from praying for Timothy. Paul often prayed for congregations such as those in Rome, Corinth, Philippi, Colossae, etc. (Rom. 1:8; 1 Cor. 1:4; Phil. 1:3; Col. 1:3) and for individuals (Phile. 4) and the lost (Rom. 10:1). As Paul commanded the church at Thessalonica to “pray without ceasing” (1 Th. 5:17), he continually prays for all men. What an encouragement to know that someone is praying for you more than once a day with not only gratitude but interceding on your behalf. Praying for and being prayed for is one of the great privileges and blessings given to God’s children. “And pray for one another, …the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).
4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy,
“I Miss Spending Time With You”
How encouraging to know that someone misses being with you and having you around! Paul was not just lonely for anyone. He earnestly longed to be with Timothy because he knew that Timothy greatly cared for him. The tears of Paul’s son was a reminder of how close they had become. Perhaps while chained in the Roman dungeon he remembered the last time they saw each other and parted with tears. The same was expressed by the elders of Ephesus when Paul was about to leave for Jerusalem, “They all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him” (Acts 20:37).
Paul gives his personal motive for wanting to see Timothy again: “that I may be filled with joy.” To know that our presence gives joy to another can be a powerful motivator. Although the eyes were filled with tears when they last parted, their hearts can both be filled with joy when they are reunited.
5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.
“I Am Confident in Your Genuine Faith”
During Paul’s first missionary journey he may have taught the gospel to Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice. By the time he returned on the second missionary journey, Timothy had been taught the gospel. After all, Paul found that Timothy “was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:2). When Paul thought of Timothy it was his genuine faith that made him most thankful. Paul had been plagued by brethren who had a fake faith. He had seen those who made shipwreck of their faith. There were false teachers whose faith was in gold and not God. Timothy was the exception to these. His faith was the real deal. Paul’s words do not express any doubt as to the quality of Timothy’s faith, the apostle knows of its genuineness with great certainty.
6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
“I Want You to Keep Firing Up Your God-Given Abilities”
Paul has remembered several positive things about Timothy, now he wants to remind Timothy about the gift God has given him. This gift could be the commission by the elders to preach the Gospel at Ephesus (1 Tim. 4:14) which came about due to a prophecy of God. It most likely is in reference to a spiritual gift of a miraculous nature than could only come to him from God by the laying on of an apostles hands (Acts 8:14-18). What gift he was given (healing, prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, etc.) is anyone’s guess.
The phrase “stir up” according to A. T. Robertson means “to rekindle, to stir into flame, to keep blazing (continuous action, present time).” Timothy had not failed to use this spiritual gift for God’s work. Paul is merely encouraging him to keep the flame alive and burning bright. After all, it is possible to grieve the Spirit (Eph. 4:30) and quench the Spirit (1 Th. 5:19). Although preachers do not have spiritual gifts like this today, they do have blessings from God that need to be kept active. Today, Paul might advise us to keep on studying the Holy Spirit revealed Word. It is common for servants of God to suffer burnout. Words of encouragement are needed for them to keep on fanning the flames.
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
“I Believe God Can Turn You Into a Bold Servant”
The term “spirit” here must refer to the human spirit of fear or timid disposition. Timothy may have not have the boldness of the apostle Paul. If he did not have a problem with being timid it is very unlikely that Paul would have brought it up. This reminder was essential since Paul was in prison under the sentence of death and Timothy had faced opposition from within by false teachers who would abuse and criticize his sound preaching.
Timothy is reminded of several God-given gifts which can counteract this timid nature. These gifts are not supernatural, but natural blessings and attributes gained by working with the supernatural God. First, God gave him “power.” This is from the same Greek word from which is derived the English terms “dynamic” or “dynamite.” Paul speaks of the Gospel being the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). He also says in 1 Cor. 2:4,5: “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Also note Eph. 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” God has never required of His servants task to perform without making available the energy to carry them out. Next, God gives “love.” This is agape in the Greek. It is the type of love that does what is best no matter who, what, when, where or why. A selfless love that is God’s love for the lost world for whom He sent His Son (Jn. 3:16). This gift can help timid Timothy because “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). God is the source of this gift of love because “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). The final gift from God is “a sound mind.” This is the self-control which is needed to counteract the flight and/or fight reaction of fear. A mastery over the emotions because he has control of his mind. Since God has given him power, love, and a sound mind, he will be well-equipped to handle the situation with boldness.
– Daniel R. Vess