Thankful for Everything
2 Timothy 1:3–5
Memory is a wonderful gift from God. Some people say the human mind can store as many as 600 memories a second in a lifetime of 75 years. The apostle Paul no doubt reflected on his lifetime of memories as he sat in a dark, damp, dirty dungeon writing the Second Epistle to Timothy.
Death hung like a cloud over Paul’s head, and he knew his execution was near. Many people in his circumstance would have felt hopeless and wondered why God had allowed them to suffer so much. But Paul’s faith was not shaken; and, as in past imprisonments, he continued to praise God.
Paul’s Appreciation Of Timothy
Second Timothy 1:3 begins with a word of gratitude: “I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day.”
The phrase I thank God in Greek literally means, “I am having gratitude to God.” Gratitude was Paul’s mindset. To the Thessalonians he wrote, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Th. 5:18). Throughout all of Paul’s epistles, he emphasized our duty to be thankful “in everything.”
He had told the church in Rome, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). In other words, whatever happens in a Christian’s life transpires according to God’s purpose and “is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
The will of God includes the commands in 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 to rejoice, pray, and give thanks always, without ceasing and in everything in Christ Jesus. The Lord expects believers to accept these commands as His will for their lives—and to obey them.
Paul added, “whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did” (2 Tim. 1:3). The word serve is all-inclusive and covers every aspect of Paul’s life (preaching, teaching, and worshiping God). He served the Lord with a “pure conscience” (clean and clear of guilt). Although not perfect, Paul wanted to assure Timothy that his imprisonment and suffering were because of his faithfulness in serving the Lord, not because of sin.
The phrase as my forefathers did refers to more recent forefathers, not to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. His forefathers were God-fearing men and women who passed on to Paul the teaching of Scripture and a pattern of godly living.
Paul was born in Tarsus and brought up and educated in Jerusalem under the highly respected Gamaliel (cf. Acts 5:34; 22:3). Extremely zealous for the traditions of the fathers (Gal. 1:14), he had learned the Jewish laws and customs as a Pharisee and saw himself as blameless under the Law. But all that Paul possessed in Judaism he counted as loss compared to the treasures he had found in Christ (Phil. 3:4–10).
The apostle expressed his appreciation to Timothy for the young man’s commitment to the ministry. He had many precious memories of traveling with Timothy, whom he prayed for “without ceasing . . . night and day” (2 Tim. 1:3), remembering Timothy’s tears (v. 4), Timothy’s faith, and the faith of his grandmother and mother (v. 5).
Paul’s continual prayer was not only for Timothy personally but also for his involvement with people in the ministry. This prayer “without ceasing” does not mean he prayed for Timothy endlessly without a break but, rather, over and over again throughout the day, always having an attitude of prayer. Being incarcerated gave Paul time to concentrate on supplicating prayer for Timothy night and day.
Paul’s Attachment to Timothy
Paul was extremely attached to young Timothy. He wrote, “greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy” (v. 4). This verse expresses Paul’s yearning to be with his young disciple. His heart ached to renew the face-to-face fellowship they had shared in days gone by.
All Christians need close fellowship with other believers. The author of Hebrews said it well when he wrote, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).
Paul said he was “mindful of [Timothy’s] tears” (1 Tim. 1:4). The context might have been when Paul and Timothy parted at Ephesus, where Timothy was ministering; or when Paul summoned Timothy to come from Ephesus to Macedonia to see him shortly before Paul was arrested and taken prisoner to Rome. Whatever the occasion, their untimely parting greatly disturbed Timothy, who cherished Paul and knew he would soon lose him as his spiritual father.
Paul expressed an intense desire to be reunited with the young man, “that I may be filled with joy” (v. 4). To fellowship with him again would have given Paul great joy.
Paul’s Assurance of Timothy’s Faith
Paul confirmed his assurance of Timothy’s faith in two ways:
First, he wrote of the “genuine faith that is in you” (v. 5). In other words, Timothy’s faith was unhypocritical—not fake, make-believe, invented, or deceptive.
Second, Timothy’s faith “dwelt first in [his] grandmother Lois and [his] mother Eunice” (v. 5). Timothy’s faith was grounded in a godly heritage that had been passed on to him. Scholars differ on whether Paul was speaking of the women’s Jewish roots or their heritage after coming to faith in Christ. In either case, they would have been committed to the Hebrew Scriptures and later the New Testament writings after receiving Jesus as Messiah.
Timothy was grounded in the faith at a young age: “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (3:15). The Greek word brephos, meaning “child of the earliest age,” implies Timothy had been taught Scripture since he was a baby. The word Scriptures refers to the Old Testament, the only text available to Lois and Eunice.
It was customary then to teach Jewish children to read and write using the alphabet and simple words from Scripture. This method (Christians should use it to teach their children today) guaranteed that most Jewish children would know God’s Word.
Lois and Eunice had applied the biblical principle, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Sadly, many Christian parents neglect this necessary responsibility. Paul was thankful for the genuine faith of godly women who expended time and effort to ensure Timothy was nourished and trained in God’s Word.
Here is a beautiful example for mothers who lack a committed Christian man in the household. Often, teaching children falls to mothers and grandmothers who can seize the opportunity to bring them to the Lord. Timothy’s upbringing gives us clear testimony from Scripture of the importance of spending quality time with children in personal discipleship.
If every Christian family were to bring children up “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), the result would greatly impact families, churches, and the social structure of society. When parents neglect this duty, they leave their children vulnerable to worldly influences that often destroy what little spiritual training their children do receive.
Looking back on his experience with Timothy, Paul was “persuaded” that genuine faith “is in you also” (2 Tim. 1:5). On his second missionary journey, Paul had returned to Lystra where church elders highly recommended Timothy as a worthy worker for the ministry. Paul was convinced Timothy was ready, and Timothy lived up to Paul’s expectations.
It is written in the book of Job, “Man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (5:7). We all have trials and heartaches in life. But Paul is teaching us, as he did Timothy, to be thankful always and to persevere in serving the Lord.