A Spiritual Father
Read Philippians 2:19-24 (ESV)
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.
Who do you consider to be a spiritual father or mother figure in your life? Has God placed someone in your life that you can spiritually parent?
Do you remember when you first accepted Christ? Maybe you grew up in a Christian home so God’s teaching was already familiar to you. Or maybe you had never set foot in a church or cracked open a Bible when you heard the Gospel and committed your life to Christ. Regardless of your background, you were a baby believer and baby believers need parents to disciple and teach them so that they can grow and mature in their faith.
In today’s passage, Paul told the Philippians that he hopes to send Timothy to them soon so that he can check on them and update Paul about their welfare. As we read Paul’s description of Timothy, it is easy to see how deeply Paul cared for him. Like a father praising his son, Paul reassured the believers in Philippi that Timothy sincerely cared for them, that Jesus’s mission was his priority, and that he had proven himself faithful to Paul and the Gospel.
Paul was hoping to be released from prison soon and he wanted to visit the Philippians himself. We know that Paul was released from prison but we don’t know for sure if he ever was able to visit Philippi again. But he trusted Timothy enough to send him in his stead.
Timothy was Paul’s pride and joy. We know that Paul began discipling Timothy when he was young. Over the years, Timothy faithfully served alongside Paul and proved his worth. Paul said that he had “no one like him.” They were kindred spirits who were united in their purpose to advance the Gospel.
The relationship between Paul and Timothy models an important concept to us today—discipleship. Jesus called us to “go and make disciples...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). It’s not enough just to convert as many people as possible. Discipleship is about teaching and learning. Just as parents commit to raising their children until maturity, spiritual parents dedicate time to raise up young believers, to strengthen and grow their faith so that they will be able to pass the torch of faith on to the next generation of believers.
Timothy is an exceptional model of what it means to be discipled. He humbly submitted himself to Paul’s authority and the Word of God. He was genuine, compassionate, teachable, faithful, and trustworthy.
Friends, we are all called to discipleship but we are all at different places in our spiritual journey. Maybe like Paul, you are in a place of spiritual maturity and can pour into newer believers. Who can you be a spiritual parent to? Or maybe you are a young or new believer. If so, I’d encourage you to do as Timothy did. Find someone in your faith community who is willing to take you under their wing and disciple you. Like a father with a son or a mother with her daughter, we are called to serve, learn, and grow together.
Lord, I want to be both a learner and a teacher. Show me who I can continue to learn from and who I can teach about You. Amen.