#361 Timothy: Learning to Fight the Battle

November 1, 2023

All leaders fight battles—but not all leaders know what battles they should fight or how to win the battles. Paul gave Timothy instructions about how to serve others by successfully fighting and winning the right battles.

18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith (1 Timothy 1:18-19, NIV).

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:11–12).

Some of Paul’s instructions to Timothy go against the natural instincts of a leader who is faced with a battle. But serving leaders carefully observe what Timothy learned from Paul and learned how to fight by running in the right direction at the right time.

Timothy learned to fight by running back.   

Paul encouraged Timothy to remember the “good confession” and the prophecies that had been made about him “so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well…”  Timothy learned to fight by running back to the memories that would help keep him grounded. He needed to remember who he was, why he was called, and the great purpose for which he served as a leader. As he ran back, he would gain clarity on which battles to fight and which direction to run.

Some leaders facing battles run away instead of running back. Others run quickly towards the battle but lack the solid footing that comes from recalling their purpose. They run into the battle with no sense of who they are or why they are leading. Serving leaders facing any battle fight first by running back! They run back to where they get their stability and strength. They reflect on where they have come from and why they are leading. They recall their great purpose. Then, with clarity of purpose and focus, they can face the battle.

Timothy learned to fight by running away.

Paul also encouraged Timothy to fight by fleeing “from all this”! It does not seem courageous to avoid battles, but Timothy learned that some battles are won by running away! (*See note.) He needed to turn away from areas of temptation and weakness.

Some leaders try to fight every battle. They simply charge forward believing that if there’s a battle, they should lead the charge and win. But serving leaders run away from some battles and find victory by avoiding the things that lead them in the wrong direction.

Timothy learned to fight by running toward.

At the same time Paul urges Timothy to flee from some things, he tells Timothy to “pursue” others. Timothy was learning to fight by running toward what was right and good. As he pursued these things, he strengthened his leadership capacity and was better able to serve those he was leading.

Some leaders never learn to run towards the right goals. They settle for short term wins and quick success. They measure victory only by the “bottom line” instead of the finish line. But serving leaders fight by running towards the qualities and actions that will bring ultimate success to those they serve.

Timothy served well by fighting battles well. Serving leaders learn to serve those under them by knowing when to run back, when to run away, and when to run toward their battles.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How can I learn to run in the right direction when I face the battles of leadership? What do I need to run back to that will keep me grounded?  What things do I need to run away from? What things do I need to pursue? What happens when I run toward before I run back or away?  
  • Reflect on those you lead. What can I do to encourage them to develop their ability to fight well? Do I need to remind some to run back to their grounding? Are there ways I need to encourage some to flee areas of weakness? How do I call my team to pursue what is good?       
  • In addition to the verses we used in this issue, consider the following: 1 Timothy 1:18, 6:6-11, 20-21; and 2 Timothy 2:22.  What additional insights do you find from these verses about how Timothy fought by running?               

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

(*In this context Timothy was especially encouraged to flee from the desire for money.  In another place Paul warns him to flee sexual temptation (see 2 Timothy 2:22). Both of these are areas where many leaders lose the battle.)  

As we conclude this series on the life of Timothy, I want to acknowledge the hard work of those who serve behind the scenes to get these out to you! Milonica Stahl-Wert and Linda Boll both use their keen editing skills to sharpen these emails. And Brian Drewery does all that is needed with technology to get these on our websites and on their way to you. Our world is better because of many who, like them, serve behind the scenes!

 If you enjoyed this series, click here to get the entire series in one document.

In the next issue, we’ll begin a series on the serving leader and money.