His mother and grandmother gave young Timothy the best they could—good solid Bible teaching and training to walk in God’s paths. As an older teenager, his church family commended him to Paul as a missionary apprentice. Timothy rose to the occasion, and in Asia Minor and throughout much of the Empire we see his footsteps alongside Paul’s everywhere. Even as a young adult, Timothy earned the Pauline epithet, “my true son” and “I have no one else like him….” He represented Paul in many crises, even at Corinth. He was a witness to Paul’s sufferings and persecutions, and probably had his own share of them with Paul.
Timothy’s hardest assignment was at the church of Ephesus. Paul had heard of trouble brewing there, so he sent Timothy as his personal representative to fix the problems. Arriving there, Timothy had the authority of the Apostle Paul himself, but the church did not recognize Timothy’s authority. Instead, the fallen church leaders circumvented his authority and undermined his leadership in every way. These fallen church leaders even manipulated new converts to disrupt worship services to thwart Timothy’s leadership.
Paul excommunicated two of the ringleaders (Hymenaeus and Alexander), but they continued unabated. Timothy became heart-sick and traveled to meet up with Paul to report on the problem. Timothy’s great grief over the wayward church may be implied in 2 Tim 1:4, where Paul recalls Timothy’s “many tears.” Paul assured him of his prayers and, steeling Timothy’s resolve, he wrote, “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power….” Instead of relieving Timothy, Paul sent him back, saying, “stay there in Ephesus,” so that he could stop them from teaching false doctrine (1 Tim 1:3).
As experienced and mature as Timothy was, even he found ministry very difficult. Our church leaders often face the same kinds of conflict and grief. We can hardly bear such heavy burdens on our own. Because we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil, ministry is hard, heavy, burdensome, with much discouragement. No one in church leadership goes long without shedding many tears.
Pray for your church leaders. The apostle wrote, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you (Heb 13: 17). Those words ring ever true for today's church.