I hope you’ve had the experience of working in a high challenge, high nurture environment. That’s what Tim had with Paul. He spent the first decade or so of his ministry with the indomitable apostle. He hiked mountains, sailed the seas, argued on the Areopagus, preached in parts unknown, and learned the heights and depths of God’s love at the feet of the author of Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians. Tim did all of that – but always in a supporting role – never on the point. His mentor and friend, Paul, was always there to encourage, and comfort, and most of all lead. The benefits of that kind of coaching can’t be counted, but it’s hard to leave it behind.
All of a sudden you’re out there solo. All the decisions are yours to make, yours to fly or die with. That’s where Timothy was and he was finding it hard, so hard it seems he wanted to bail out.
Thus Paul’s exhortation: Stay there. Be content where you are Tim. Fight the good fight (1 Timothy 1:18). Hold on to faith and a good conscience.
What does it mean to stay there? I suggest it means two things: being content with what we have–our possessions, and trusting God with where we are–our position.
Timothy’s position had changed. He was no longer in the high-nurture environment he once shared with Paul. He was enduring scrutiny he’d never known, making supervisory decisions without back-up (he couldn’t email Paul for help), while simultaneously trying to train the next generation of leaders. That’s a tough position for a young man.
Timothy’s “possessions,” his gifting, and temperament, and stamina were also different from Paul’s. The Apostle to the Gentiles was old – old enough to call Timothy “my son” – tough, and ambitious. Timothy wasn’t wired that way. He comes across in the text as a bit timid, eager to please, and physically handicapped by “frequent ailments.” (1 Timothy 5:23).
It would be easy for Tim, and for us, to think that with all those limits, God couldn’t use him; to bail out because of inadequacies, wimp out because of weakness, lay low because of limits. But Paul wouldn’t let him off the hook. Instead, he exhorted Tim to:
“Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use.” (1 Timothy 4:11-14 The Message).
Paul is telling his young friend: Tim you have powerful gifts! You don’t have to have mine to be effective! Use what you have! Use them and watch God work!
Staying there means giving yourself permission to be happy with where you are: your position, and working with what you have: your possessions.
Staying there means doing what you can, with what you have, right where you are for the glory of God.
It’s Joseph, content to interpret the dreams of fellow prisoners until it was God’s time to interpret Pharaoh’s.
It’s Moses, content to tend sheep for forty years in the desert until God called him to lead a nation out of bondage.
It’s David, content to use a sling to slay a Giant until God made him a King and gave him an army.
And it’s you and it’s me doing what we can, with what we have, right where we are for the glory of God.