#356 Timothy: Learning Self-Control

August 23, 2023

As he developed his leadership capacity one of the areas that Timothy needed to learn was the discipline of self-control. Consider these instructions from Paul to the young leader:  

I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy (2 Timothy 1:3–4, NIV).

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:25–26).

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly (2 Timothy 2:16).

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives tales; rather, train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7).

These passages reveal three areas in which Timothy learned self-control.

Timothy learned to control his temper.  

Paul remembers Timothy’s tears and urges him to instruct “gently” when he would be tempted to lash out in anger.  Sorrow and anger are two of the many emotions that every leader faces. Paul does not rebuke Timothy for these emotions, but tenderly encourages self-control, one of the fruits of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). Anger is perhaps one of the most potentially destructive emotions for leaders. No one wants to follow a leader who cannot control their temper and a lack of self-control in this area has hindered the effectiveness of many leaders.   A temper out of control is a leadership nightmare.

But serving leaders both acknowledge and control their emotions. They are not afraid to reveal their tears and they learn to keep their anger from being destructive.  They acknowledge that they can’t serve others when they lose their temper.  

Timothy learned to control his tongue.   

We have already observed Paul’s instruction for Timothy to instruct his opponents “gently”. Paul recognized that it requires great self-control to speak gently when there is direct opposition! The tongue often verbally expresses the anger in the heart and will not lead to the repentance encouraged by a gentle tongue. Paul also warns Timothy against “godless chatter….godless myths and old wives tales..” He is referring broadly to speech that is not helpful. While words spoken in anger are obviously harmful, other speech is simply not helpful and Paul cautions Timothy to control his tongue so as to avoid this kind of speech. Many leaders have tongues that are as unpredictable as the weather and are more harmful than helpful. But serving leaders seek to control what comes out of their mouths so that it is never harmful and always helpful.

Timothy learned to control his time.   

Part of Paul’s instruction to Timothy to “avoid godless chatter” and “old wives tales” is a direct challenge for him to use his time well. Here and in other places Paul urged Timothy to be diligent in focusing his time and attention to the things that matter and to avoid distractions. In some cases Paul urged Timothy to “Come quickly” while at other times not to be “hasty” (see 1 Timothy 5:22 and 2 Timothy 4:9). Timothy had to learn to manage his time well. If these instructions were given today we might hear Paul say, “Don’t waste your time on useless conversations and following the latest controversies on social media!” Many leaders allow the tyranny of the urgent to keep them from the most effective use of their time. Serving leaders learn to control their schedule so that they are doing the things that best bring value to those they serve.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Which of these three areas (temper, tongue and time) are most difficult for me to control right now? Reflect on the question below for that area:

*Temper. When have I lost my temper in leadership and how did it impact my influence with others?

*Tongue. In what way do I use my tongue in ways that are not helpful for those I lead? What do I need to do to more fully allow God to help me develop self-control in this area?

*Time. What are my greatest time wasters? What do I need to do to develop greater self-control in this area?

  • Reflect on those you lead. How do I encourage them to develop control of themselves that goes far beyond obeying external instructions? Which of these three areas should I be talking about with my key leaders?        
  • In addition to the verses we used in this issue, consider the following: 1 Timothy 5:22; 2 Timothy 2:4; 4:2, 9-12, 21. What additional insights do you find from these verses about how Timothy learned self-control?           

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how Timothy became a role model to others.

#355 Timothy: Leaving Baggage Behind

August 9, 2023

Timothy, like all of us, became a leader with all his life experiences, memories and circumstances. While many of these were good and beneficial; others were not helpful and could have been hinderances to his ability to lead. Metaphorically we can refer to unresolved issues, disappointments, wrongs, and trauma from the past as “baggage”, a heavy load that weighs us down. Timothy had to leave some of his own baggage behind to become an effective serving leader. Consider these verses which we will examine to discover what could have been baggage for Timothy and how he left it behind:

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek (Acts 16:1, NIV).

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).

When Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am (1 Corinthians 16:10).

Timothy released the baggage of family.

Timothy came from a culturally, religiously, and ethnically mixed family line, his mother was Jewish and a Christian while his father was Greek and not a believer. Timothy could have struggled with his ethnic identity and felt unworthy to work among Jews and side by side with Paul, a full-blooded Jew. At the same time the Gentiles might see him as an outsider! Yet Timothy left this behind and became an effective leader with Paul and to the Gentiles he was called to lead. Family history and heritage can become baggage for everyone, either leading to inferiority or pride. Family systems can shape the way we respond to conflict and how we deal with emotions, etc. Many leaders are unaware of the baggage they carry from their family of origin. Serving leaders learn to identify and acknowledge where they came from and work through issues that need resolution so they can lead others in a healthy way.   

Timothy released the baggage of age.  

Paul had to remind Timothy that even though he was young, he could be an example and lead well.  Timothy was young and had to overcome the mental challenge of leading people who were older than he was. They would naturally have looked down on him and if he allowed himself to dwell on his youthfulness and inexperience he would have become insecure in his leadership. Some leaders may allow their young age to keep them from growing and leading well. Others may be middle aged and look back with longing to days that they had more energy and youthfulness. Those who are older may be tempted to relax and not continue growing in their leadership capacity or to be proud of their accomplishments. No one can change their age but serving leaders release the emotional baggage of focusing on how old they are and choose to focus on serving others in the present.

Timothy released the baggage of personality.

Paul instructed those where Timothy would visit to see that he had “nothing to fear” with them or to “put him at ease” (ESV). In other places he admonishes Timothy to not have a spirit of fear. These seem to indicate that by nature Timothy had a fearful and perhaps introverted personality. His personality could have kept him from being an effective leader, but Timothy learned to move past that and to lead well. While Timothy’s personality could have led him to be more timid than he should have been, other personalities will be more naturally overbearing and stronger than helpful. Some leaders allow their personality to control their leadership but serving leaders work to develop their personality in ways that allow them to best serve the needs of those they lead.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is the baggage that comes with my specific family history, my age, and my personality? (Make a list of each). How do these impact my leadership? Which one is most important for me to focus on leaving behind right now?
  • Reflect on those you lead. Are some of the challenges I see them facing related to baggage that they carry from their family, age, or personality? What can I do to encourage them to recognize and leave behind their own baggage? Would they consider reading this reflection and having a discussion with me about it?       
  • In addition to the verses we used in this issue, consider the following: 1 Timothy 5:23 and 2 Timothy 2:22. What additional insights do you find from these verses about how Timothy might have carried additional baggage in his leadership?               

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Timothy learned self-control. Note: In this series we are looking at the life of Timothy. It’s a great time to read through the two books in the Bible with his name, written to him by Paul. As you read, reflect on what Timothy did to grow as a leader and how his actions apply to your own growth.