#353 Timothy: Learning the Word

July 12, 2023

One of the many things Timothy needed to learn as a church leader was how to understand, apply and teach the scriptures. As a follower of Jesus, this was his essential textbook for life and leadership.

Consider these exhortations from Paul:

15and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:15–16, NIV).

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

We might hear Paul’s words as instructions to us and rightly so. But underneath his admonitions Paul reveals what Timothy had done over a lifetime of exposure to the ancient Jewish scriptures.

Timothy learned to know the Word.  

Paul reminded Timothy that “from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures…” Paul observed a discipline that Timothy had developed for years. Without the luxury of pulling a book off the shelf at his home, Timothy invested time to learn the Word. He had to take time to go somewhere, listen, study, memorize and ponder the meaning of this book. He likely discussed with his teachers the meaning and application of the ancient texts. In the Word he observed the lives of successful and unsuccessful leaders. He learned that some leaders focus on themselves while others focus on those they lead. As he learned to know the Word his character, thinking, and leadership actions were slowly but deliberately shaped. His leadership was grounded in ultimate realities far beyond himself.  

Some leaders don’t give careful thought to what model of leadership they will follow. Instead, they seek to do whatever seems right and most likely to produce the outcomes they desire. But serving leaders recognize that what they read, study, and ponder shapes their thinking and their actions. They seek the truth of the Word as the foundation for their leadership journey.   

Timothy learned to live the Word.  

Paul also noted that the scriptures “make you wise for salvation..” and are useful for “training in righteousness.” Timothy not only learned to know the word; he learned to put into practice what he was learning. He transferred knowledge from his head to his hands, living out what he learned. He realized that before he could tell others how to lead, he had to model what he wanted them to do.

Some leaders pursue knowledge for the sake of knowing and impressing others. But serving leaders seek knowledge that shapes their actions. They show the way before they teach the way.

Timothy learned to teach the Word.  

Paul was not satisfied for Timothy to know the Word and to live it out, he wanted so see multiplication! So, he told Timothy that the Word is “useful for teaching…” Timothy was to use his own life and leadership to raise up other leaders, sharing with them the truths he had learned and practiced. While some leaders focus only on their own growth and development, serving leaders always look for others to develop. They invest their lives in passing on to the younger leaders what they have learned as Paul did with Timothy. Serving leaders shape the lives of others as they teach a different way to live. Where this is done effectively, leadership gets better with each generation!

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How can I more deliberately see the Word as my primary source of leadership training? Am I taking the time to know it well? Do I ponder what the instructions, stories and examples teach me about leadership?
  • Reflect on those you lead. What can I do to encourage them to use the Word as a source of their growth and development? If I am leading persons who do not share my faith, how can I point them to this source without being offensive?
  • Can I say with confidence that my life is a model for others to follow? If not, what do I need to change to practice the Word?
  • In what ways am I deliberately teaching younger leaders how to live and lead? How can I do this more effectively?
  • In addition to the verses we used in this issue, consider the following: 1 Timothy 4:12; 15–16;  2 Timothy 2:25–26; 4:2 What additional insights do you find from these verses about how Timothy learned the Word?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Timothy learned to think and reflect.