"But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel" (Philippians 2:22)Great leaders are not always born but nurtured by people whom God had blessed with grace, wisdom and experience. However, an attitude of submission, obedience and willingness to learn is what is expected of those who would like to be used by God.
The house where my parents live was built long before I was born. However, I have memories of this house being renovated to add two new rooms: one on the first floor which later became my room. The carpentry team consisted of a father and his two sons; both sons were married and had small children. The father had the drawings and consulted my father occasionally and the sons just took instructions from their father and slogged. The father would take break from hammering the chisel on the wood occasionally, have a smoke and walk around the structure that is coming up. The sons worked silently, until their father allowed them to stop and have a break. At the end of each day, the father collected the wage for the team.
By the time we had another renovation of our house the father had died. The two sons are no living in their own houses and had their independent carpentry shops. My father had a tough time to decide to which of the two sons he should give the work. He finally chose the "best son", meaning the son he thought would do a work as efficiently as his father. Thus he became our "resident carpenter" for years. The story continues: he came with his sons, the sons took orders from their father and learnt from him and in the course became the best carpenters in our village.
The relationship of Timothy with Paul was one of "father and son". However, Timothy was not Paul's biological son. Paul had led Timothy to faith in Christ and became his "spiritual" father. However, in this passage there is a new dimension to their relationship. That is the relationship of a father and son as far as their occupation is concerned. In the gospel work that Paul had immersed himself, Timothy had served him as a son means he had been his apprentice. In the ancient world, the sons learnt a trade from their father and continued the family tradition. We call Jesus the carpenter of Nazareth because he must have (like all boys in Nazareth) learnt the trade of carpentry from his foster father, Joseph who was a carpenter.
Later on, Timothy became a bishop of a congregation and a leader on his own right. However, the beginning was as a submissive apprentice of a godly leader.
Here is an often neglected aspect of Christian ministry. Great leaders are not always born but nurtured by people whom God had blessed with grace, wisdom and experience. However, an attitude of submission, obedience and willingness to learn is what is expected of those who would like to be used by God.
Union Biblical Seminary, PB No. 1455, Bibvewadi, Pune, 411037