Let me tell about this boy before giving his name. He grew up in a small town. His dad was a Greek and his mother a Jew. His grandmother lived with the family as he was growing up. His dad didn’t believe all the things about God that his mother and grandmother kept telling him. He was always a sensitive young man, perhaps because in his culture a person from a mixed racial background had trouble fitting in with anyone. As a half Jew and half Greek he never was circumcised as a child and that added to the lack of acceptance in the Jewish crowd. The local synagogue didn’t want him there and certainly wouldn’t accept him as a Jewish boy who might be a valuable worker at some point.
I wonder how he must have felt in growing up. Rejection is hard at any age. It is especially hard as a young boy. It may well have been the rejection that led to him spending lots of time with his mom and grandmother with them teaching him the Old Testament Scriptures.
One day when he was in his early teens two men came to the little town where he grew up. They were preachers. They preached the gospel of Christ to the people and said things that he had never heard. They talked of how Christ had died for all people, not just the Jews and that he wants all people everywhere to come to him. They said God didn’t care about your race or who your parents were but that in Christ it was what is inside that counts. I don’t know if it was during the time the preachers were there that he gave his life to God or not. It may have shocked his whole belief system when the more outspoken of the two preachers so angered the people of the town that they stoned him and left him for dead. It sure would have been amazing for him when the preacher got up and came back to the town.
The two men left the town but the people who had believed the good news about Christ continued to meet each Sunday and the boy was accepted among them completely. There were both Jews and Greeks in the congregation and they all seemed to accept each other. His mother and grandmother had both become members of that little church.
Between two and three years later one of those preachers along with another man came back to his town. It was a surprise to the people that they returned after what had happened the first time, but there they were and they didn’t talk about the rejection and stoning from the last time but continued to tell about Jesus and how he wants all people to come to him for salvation.
While they were there preaching different members of the church told the preachers about this young man. They said he was a special young man and had great potential to be a preacher himself. They actually encouraged the preachers to take him with them and train him as a preacher. The leader of the two took him and circumcised him so that he would have more acceptance among the Jews that they might work with. He became one of the preachers closest friends and companions. As a matter of fact the preacher wrote a letter to some of his friends in which he said of the boy, “I don’t have anyone else like him who will naturally care about your situation. Everyone else is concerned about their own problems.
He did become an outstanding preacher of the good news of Christ. There were some struggles that went with him through life. He had problems with his stomach and often felt sick at his stomach. He was so conscientious that he wouldn’t drink even a little wine to help the problems and the older preacher had to tell him to go ahead and take a little wine for his stomach and his constant illness. He also struggled a lot with being timid. He wasn’t by nature an assertive person. Sometimes that hindered him in standing up for what was right.
When the older preacher was near the time of his death he sent the young man a letter pleading with him to come to him quickly. He asked him to bring the books he had left behind and a coat for him along with some other writings that he had. I don’t know if he got there in time to be with the older preacher when he died. I hope so.
Who is this young man? His name is Timothy. The older preacher is Paul. His mother and grandmother were Lois and Eunice. His life stands out for all parents and young people to see as one that demonstrates the problems our children go through may work out to be a tremendous blessing in their life. One has to wonder if some of the rejection he suffered as a child didn’t affect his whole personality and how he cared so much about people and their problems. He went from being on the outside looking in to one that was an example for all believers in Christ of the kind of life they ought to live.
Through the years I’ve known many people who grew up in pretty awful situations who not only overcame the struggles they went through but they made their life’s work that of helping others who grew up in the same kind of situation. I wonder how much of the whole life of Timothy and his coming in contact with Paul was planned by God and directed by him. If you look at a map of Paul’s journeys it never makes much sense for him to travel to the little town of Lystra. It isn’t on the way. There were no good roads to get there. It was a long way from the cities Paul usually traveled to. Paul almost always went to the larger cities that were the center of a region from which the gospel could spread. Lystra wasn’t anything like that. Yet we find Paul and Barnabas traveling about a hundred miles by foot on rugged ground to get there. I wonder if even Paul knew what was God’s reason for sending him here. Whatever was behind it, Paul and Silas would return to the same place. I believe God saw from the beginning what this boy could be and he carefully walked him through bad days of hurt and rejection to prepare him for the work of being an evangelist for Christ.
The next time you watch one of your children or grandchildren struggle with rejection and not fitting in at school or in the neighborhood, think of Timothy. Maybe God is working to raise up another boy that will make a huge difference for good and lead many to the Lord. What we go through often determines what we become.