The name in Greek, Timotheos, means “one valued by God”. The apostle Paul had a deep love for Timothy, his young friend and student, calling him “my true son in the faith”.
The meaning here is twofold. Timothy was a true believer and a genuine convert of Paul’s ministry. Elsewhere, Paul referred to him as “my son whom I love, who is faithful to the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:17), and said, “Timothy has proven himself, because as a son with his father, he has served with me in the work of the Gospel”. (Phil. 2:22)
Paul met Timothy during his second missionary journey. He was a young Christian living in the Asian City of Lystra, the son of a Jewish Christian mother and a Greek father. Timothy represented the power of the Gospel to reach all peoples, regardless of ethnic, racial or social differences. Paul, so impressed with Timothy, asked him to join his missionary staff, and Timothy became an apprentice to the great apostle.
We know little about Timothy’s life. We do know that he suffered hardship both personally and in his ministry. Paul tells us, for example, that Timothy suffered frail health (1 Tim. 5:23) and that he encountered problems in the city of Ephesus. This helps us to explain Paul’s wish for Timothy, which appears at the beginning of both letters to Timothy: “To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” As a loving father, the apostle realises that Timothy was in great need of God’s help. Timothy became one of Paul’s most trusted helpers, so much so that the apostle could write, “I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare” (Phil. 2:20).
For us in our multicultural world in Toronto, the life of Timothy is an especially powerful statement that the Gospel of Christ is for all, and that all who come to Him are made one. In our individual Christian lives, Timothy’s example provides a constant challenge to imitate his devotion and faithfulness, even in the face, sometimes, of hardship. That Paul could look beyond Timothy’s weak health to see his potential reminds us that regardless of weaknesses and frailties, we can all serve in the great task of preaching the Good News to a world in such great need of hearing it.