Long before it became a push in our denomination, I heard the President of Olivet Nazarene University, Dr. John Bowling ask the question, “Who are you discipling, and who is discipling you?” This question not only communicates the necessity for discipleship, but it also paints an important picture regarding our position in the discipleship model. Simply put, you should always be in the middle.
(Who is discipling you?) → (You) → (Who are you discipling?)
Up to this point in 1 Thessalonians we have learned a lot about the church in Thessalonica and the role Paul played in helping the church advance God’s kingdom. Now in Chapter 3, we start to get a picture of not just Paul and the church, but the apostle Timothy.
Where in the World is Timothy?
No, seriously, where in the world is Timothy? If there was one person that traveled nearly as much as Paul it’s Timothy. When you look at the breakdown of what Timothy did and where he went, you can tell very quickly that he was a trusted “co-worker,” as mentioned in 1 Thess. 3:1, with Paul.
- Timothy submitted to being circumcised by Paul (Acts 16:3)
- Silas and Timothy remain behind in Berea to teach (Acts 17:10-15)
- Joined up with Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:1,5)
- Timothy was with Paul when he wrote his letter to the Romans (Romans 16:21)
- Timothy and Erastus were sent ahead to Macedonia to teach (Acts 19:22)
- Paul sent Timothy to Corinth (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10)
- Timothy was with Paul when he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 1:1)
- Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:2)
- Timothy was with Paul when he wrote his letter to the Philippians (Philippians 1:1)
- Timothy was with Paul when he wrote his letter to the Colossians and Philemon
(Paul) → (Timothy) → (Faithful Men)
What did Timothy Do?
We’ve learned so far that Paul trusted Timothy, but I want to look at what exactly Paul trusted Timothy to do.
1 Thessalonians 3:2-3 (NLT) 2 and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, 3 and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles.
1 Thessalonians 3:5 (NLT) 5 That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong.
So we learn here that Timothy is sent to…
- Strengthen the believers (Strengthen)
- Encourage the believers in their faith (Encourage)
- Keep the believers from being shaken by their troubles (Warning)
- Find out whether the believers faith was still strong (Accountability)
To help us better understand what Timothy was sent to do, lets examine for time sake the first two: “Strengthen” and “Encourage”
Strengthen and Encourage
Strengthen (στηρίζω: stērizō) in the Greek literally means “to make stable, place firmly, set fast, or fix.” Have you ever been to a cafe or a coffee shop and sit down at the table only to find that it teeter-totters? What do you do? Depending on the totter, you grab something to place under one of the legs to set it firmly on the ground. This illustration is not far off what Timothy did in Thessalonica. There were many believers who were being oppressed and persecuted for their faith. Timothy came in to place the truth under their feet and to keep them from wobbling.
Encourage (παρακαλέω: parakaleō) is translated, “to call near, i.e. invite, invoke: beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire, intreat, pray.” The usage here in the Greek is indicative of a person standing alongside another person to put courage into him or her. My dad is a hugger, not a big from the front hugger, but he is the master of the side hug. There were times when my dad would side hug me so hard it felt like my shoulders where going to crumble. This is exactly what Timothy was sent to do. He was sent to stand next to the Thessalonian believers, put his arms of encouragement around them, and build confidence into their faith.
Lets go back to the original question: “Who are you discipling, and who is discipling you?” Let me put it this way: “Who are you a Timothy to, and who is your Paul?
You need to stop and consider this question at a deeper level. Who are the people in your life that consider YOU their Timothy? Those people need you to strengthen and encourage their faith; they need you to help them to not be shaken by their troubles, and lastly they need you to help keep them accountable.
Take a page out of Timothy’s book; Timothy didn’t just come to say, “buck-up buttercup,” he came to strengthen and encourage the believers in their faith. He also came because Paul told him to: 1 when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, 2and we sent Timothy to visit you.
Paul hadn’t heard word from the believers in Thessalonica and he couldn’t take not knowing how they were doing. So as Chuck Swindoll said, “He picked up the phone, sent a friend, wrote a letter. He took time from his busy schedule to check up on how they were doing.”
Who are the people in your life that consider YOU their Timothy? How good of a Timothy have you been?