January 22, 2014

Holy Apostle Timothy as a Model for our Lives

St. Timothy the Apostle (Feast Day - January 22)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Apostle Timothy was a disciple of the Apostle Paul. He was born in Lystra of Lycaonia of a Greek father and Judean mother. Very early on his father departed this temporary life and Saint Timothy grew up with his mother Eunice and his grandmother Loida, who raised him with the pure milk of faith and taught him from his childhood to pray and study the word of God. When the Apostle Paul passed through Lystra he acknowledged the spiritual gifts of the young Timothy and saw him as a worthy missionary worker. He took him on his second apostolic journey and later placed him in Ephesus, to shepherd the flock of that Local Church as its Bishop. The Apostle Paul sent him two epistles, which can be found in the New Testament. They are wonderful texts of advice which should be studied by all believers, but especially by spiritual shepherds.

After the martyric end of the Apostle Paul in Rome, the Apostle Timothy continued his pastoral work in Ephesus until his own martyric end. According to tradition, he was martyred by angry pagans because he criticized their orgies during a series of celebrations of Artemis in Ephesus.

In his two epistles to Saint Timothy, the Apostle Paul gives him advice for his personal advancement, but also for the advancement of his flock. He writes among other things:

- "...nourished on the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed" (1 Tim. 4:6).

He teaches him to be nourished on the words of the faith and the good teaching which he has followed, that he may hence be in a position to nourish as a good shepherd his reasonable flock.

The word of God is truly spiritual food that sustains and strengthens while relaxing and comforting man, but it is also living spiritual water that cools and quenches the thirst of the soul. Of course, this is when it is transmitted clearly and without distortion, because today, like it was in the time of the Apostle Timothy, and as it is in every era, heretics exist who distort the faith and with spiritual food they offer spiritual poison.

In today's age of overconsumption human societies are plagued mainly by spiritual hunger. Although many spiritual books are currently circulating and many sermons heard, in almost every part of the earth, spiritual hunger still exists: "There will be a famine of hearing the word of the Lord" (Amos 8:11). On the one hand because the majority of people unfortunately do not study, a fact of which many factors are responsible, such as television, the loosening of morals, indifference to spiritual life because of the abundance of material goods, etc. On the other hand, because most of the time, even where there abound books and sermons, that which is offered as the word of God and spiritual food is nothing but a theology of the passions. Namely, passionate human words that do not have the power to comfort, support and cause regeneration in people.

We live in an age where secularism has taken dangerous proportions and devours the marrow of Orthodox theology and life. Many sermons are, alas, colorless, odorless, tasteless and anything but the word of God. Also, words about God are one thing, but the word of God is another, the latter being the fruit of experience and the vision of God. And if the preacher of divine words does not have much personal experience and expertise, then he has the ability to "exploit" the experience and expertise of the God-seeing Saints, and he must do this and not offer his own thoughts and reflections, because there is the possibility of making serious mistakes. And certainly no one has the right to play with their own salvation, as well as the salvation of others. "So it is necessary to emphasize how it is possible for anyone to carry out the purpose of their life and obtain their salvation, in what way and by what method they should follow" (Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos).

- "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Tim. 1:7).

He urges the Apostle Timothy to rekindle the flame of the gift of God, given to him by the laying on of hands of the Apostle Paul, because God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but power and love and soundness of mind.

There is a widespread impression among many people that all those who struggle to experience God's will in their lives are timid, antisocial, cut off from society, losers of life who are without the strength to cope with everyday life and its problems. But what takes place is quite the contrary, because one needs to have at their disposal great bravery, inner strength and spiritual manliness to renounce one's own will, to live in obedience to the will of God, and to live with virginity, purity and soundness of mind in the difficult and adverse conditions of the world, whether it be in marriage or as an ascetic in the desert with voluntary deprivation, with asceticism and prayer, far from beloved faces, "alone except for God". "To pray for the entire world is like spilling blood" (Saint Silouan the Athonite).

Those who have learned to feed on the pure milk of the faith from the living breast of the Church rather than spoiled substitutes, will acquire spiritual antibodies, spiritual health, courage, valor and true manliness.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΟΣ ΤΙΜΟΘΕΟΣ", January 2005. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.