When we know we have been called by God, we can have the assurance that, no matter what we may experience or the weaknesses we see in ourselves, He will equip us with everything we need to fulfill that call.
The youthful Timothy was one called by the Lord, even though Scripture reveals that by the world’s standards he did not seem like an adequate candidate to take on the responsibility of the ministry. Timothy was a young man, weak in body and shy by nature—not exactly the qualities we would particularly look for in one who was to take the place of the great apostle Paul.
One of the verses that reveals this is 1 Timothy 4:12, in which Paul encourages Timothy to not “let anyone look down on you because you are young.” Paul was aware that Timothy might feel inadequate for the ministry because of his age and lack of experience. But nonetheless, God had called Timothy to this task. The knowledge of his calling must be enough for him to rise up and take heart.
You, too, may feel inadequate for the job you have been given. You may struggle just to maintain even the image of someone called by God. When the Lord called me, I was just 16 years old. When I first became a team leader, I was barely 19. If God could use me—fragile, weak and insecure—to lead others in the ministry, there is hope for every young person called by God, no matter what they lack.
If you feel discouraged because of a lack of experience or other things, please remember that if you know you are inexperienced, you are in good shape. Only when you think you are able and mature and can succeed on your own are you really in trouble. God gives grace to those who are weak and humble, using them in the mightiest of ways. But He opposes the proud who think they have it all together and can do the work on their own.
Not only was Timothy young, but he was also prone to illness. He lived continually with the problem of physical infirmity. We know this because Paul said to him in 1 Timothy 5:23, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”
You, too, may be living with physical deficiencies. Are you called to do something huge and significant but feel like saying, “My God, I am not able to handle it; I am tired and sick”? Well, Timothy was like that, and Paul encouraged him to press on to do the job God called him to do despite his illnesses.
Add to his young age and constant illnesses, Timothy was also timid and shy, an introvert. Many verses (such as 2 Timothy 1:7–8; 2:1; 3:14–15; 4:5) reveal that even after more than 15 years of training, Paul still had to tell him, “Get up! Don’t be shy! Don’t be timid! Don’t be afraid.”
Timothy was not, by makeup and temperament, a natural leader. If you had called him to lead, he would have said, “Please, not me. Let someone else do it. I will follow.” He didn’t want to be in the limelight. How different from so many today! People murmur and grumble and fight for position, saying, “I’ve been in the ministry for 10 years and I’m not yet promoted!” “I’m better able to teach than this fellow. Why has he been made a leader and I haven’t?” “Look at her! She’s teaching, but I have a better degree!” We live with all kinds of such imaginations about ourselves. May we learn from Timothy!
In his book Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders quotes A.W. Tozer, perfectly stating why Timothy was a good candidate to take on the ministry after Paul:
A true and safe leader is likely to be the one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the press of external situation. Such were Moses and David and the Old Testament prophets. I think there was hardly a great leader from Paul to the present day but was drafted by the Holy Spirit for the task, and commissioned by the Lord of the Church to fill a position he had little heart for. I believe it might be accepted as a fairly reliable rule of thumb that the man who is ambitious to lead is disqualified as a leader. The true leader will have no desire to lord it over God’s heritage, but will be humble, gentle, self-sacrificing and altogether as ready to follow as to lead, when the Spirit makes it clear that a wiser and more gifted man than himself has appeared.
God had called Timothy, and he must now step out in faith and be bold in the work of the Lord.
It may sound as if the odds are stacked against Timothy, but please see how his age, weakness and even his personality did not qualify or disqualify him for being a servant of God. The one determining and sustaining factor was the fact that he had been called by God for the work of the ministry. It was this that qualified him before God and man, and the reason Paul entrusted the church at Ephesus to him during his first arrest. In Philippians 2:20–22, Paul wrote of him:
I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 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.
Are you called? Take courage in the truth of that call, and let it be your assurance. Despite the weaknesses you see in yourself or the difficulty that may come in the work, you can fulfill the purposes of God. For “God, who has called you . . . is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:9, emphasis mine).