#351 Timothy: Paying the Price of Leadership

June 14, 2023

Timothy was hungry to learn but he also recognized that growth in leadership comes at a cost. He was willing to pay the price that was required to shape him into the strong leader that he would become. Consider these scriptures about his life:

Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek (Acts 16:3, NIV).

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God (2 Timothy 1:7–8).

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).

These verses, and many others, hint at the price Timothy needed to pay to be the leader we admire today.

Timothy paid the price of surrendering. 

Before he even left home, Timothy learned that leadership is not about him and his comfort but about being ready and willing to serve others. The pain of circumcision was more than physical, it meant that he was willing to surrender his own comfort for the sake of those he wanted to serve. When people would look down on him because of his youth, he would surrender his desire to fight back and declare his position. Timothy was learning an early lesson that all serving leaders eventually learn—at the heart of serving leadership is a heart attitude of surrender.

Some leaders are not willing to give up their own ambitions, dreams, and ego for the sake of those they serve. But serving leaders pay the price of surrender, not once but daily.

Timothy paid the price of stretching.  

When Timothy agreed to join Paul, it was an exciting new adventure but it was also costly. Traveling to new cities was not all exotic, especially when they were chased out of town with stones! This journey would require Timothy to stretch and grow in ways that would not be comfortable. He had to relocate and leave the comfort of his own home and place of his birth. He would need to stretch his “timid” personality to be a bold leader. He would stretch out of his comfort zone with continual new challenges and greater levels of responsibility as he matured under Paul’s guidance. He would pay the price of learning to receive the correction and counsel that Paul continued to give even as a seasoned leader. He needed to stretch his own character to be a model for others.

Some leaders want responsibility and authority without being willing to pay the price of being stretched in their own growth. But serving leaders accept that leadership is a journey of continual growth and development. Serving leaders focus on stretching themselves before directing others.

Timothy paid the price of suffering.  

Timothy paid the price of physical suffering and was likely jailed at least once. (See Hebrews 13:23). But he also suffered along with Paul as they were persecuted on many occasions. He suffered the isolation of separation from his family, the discomfort of continual moves, and the false accusations others made about him.  Apparently, he also suffered physical ailments. (See 1 Timothy 5:23).

Many leaders step back from leadership when they face suffering and decide to take a less costly path. But serving leaders accept that suffering is a price of leadership and will be used to strengthen their character and make them more effective in serving others.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What price have I already paid to lead? Are there other steps I should take as a leader that have seemed too costly for me to take? What will it take for me to be willing to pay the price?  Who can help me take this step?
  • In what way(s) have I surrendered my own ambition, dreams or ego this week? How does this impact my leadership?
  • In what way(s) am I currently stretching my leadership capacity? Are any changes needed?
  • How do I respond to suffering in my leadership and how does this impact my growth?
  • What can I do to help those I lead be willing to pay the price of leadership?      
  • In addition to the verses we used in this issue, consider the following verses: 2 Timothy 2:3, 3:12, and 4:5. What additional insights do you find from these verses about how Timothy paid a price for his leadership?    

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Timothy clarified his calling.