You talk with your hands, just like your mom.
You laugh, just like your grandmother.
You walk, just like your father.
Have you heard comments like these before? We all possess traits passed down from our family, or simply acquired through our constant imitation. These traits serve as a reminder, even when the days feel mundane, that our daily actions are investments into the next generation. Paul weaves this reminder throughout the first chapter of his second letter to Timothy.
To Timothy, my beloved child (v 2)
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors (v 3)
a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. (v 5)
Paul sees Timothy as a spiritual child, and the tone of the entire letter is instructive as he passes God-given wisdom and encouragement to him. Paul also recognizes that the line of faith did not originate with him, so he acknowledges those who served God before him. Paul’s accolades then turn to Timothy’s mother and grandmother. As an aside, whether you are a mother with children in your home or a spiritual mother to the community around you, I pray you will be encouraged by Paul’s words. Do you notice that he doesn’t highlight Timothy’s ability to send a thank you note on time, or the way he always puts his laundry in the hamper? Neither does he point out Timothy’s manners or his well-portioned organic meals (I can get so caught up in these daily concerns). Paul commends only Timothy’s faith and compliments the women who modeled faith for Timothy. As women, let’s make it our highest priority to lay a foundation of full trust in our God for the next generation.
Returning to the main point, Paul has reiterated this theme: giving and receiving from one generation to the next.
If I were Timothy, at this point I would raise my hand to interject.
“I know you think I’m faithful Paul, but I am wrestling with fear. You are in prison. My days might be numbered too. Are you sure about all of this?”
See, in the same way that faith and worship are passed down from prior generations, sinful traits have also flowed through the family tree. We are all broken people. Our best foot forward is still stained with the smudges from where we fell short. Perhaps, I’m sensitive to Timothy because I am prone to worry and fear. I could tell you countless examples from childhood of times I stewed over things far beyond my age or understanding.
If this letter were addressed to me, I would have stopped Paul at “fan into flame the gift of God,” (v 6) and insisted on a small ember only visible if someone really came looking for it. Sure Paul, I will consider serving and using my gifts but only in a behind-the-scenes way, only in a way that attracts little attention and even fewer critiques. Paul, if you really knew my past and my predispositions, then you would know the tiniest ember is really all I can handle.
“While we are addressing what the previous generations passed down, you should know I received ample amounts of fear too. I am naturally too worried, too anxious, too timid to be this bold for the gospel.”
I don’t know if that was Timothy’s retort, but if it were, Paul silences the argument. I only know it is my response today, but Paul silences my argument with four, powerful words.
For God gave us – four words, four simple words in stark contrast to the opening repetition of this letter.
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (v.7)
We have all inherited the stain of sin from our ancestors. It is the pesky problem of humanity that no one can escape. But God gave us – first He gave us Jesus as the sacrifice for what our flesh and sin deserved so we might experience redemption. For God gave us – the Holy Spirit living inside of us each day with the power to overcome what our flesh inherited. For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. The wounds passed down from your family; the pain you have always carried; the sin to which you are most prone – none of this gets the final say.
What you inherited from the flesh has been overcome by what God has given you by His Spirit.
We have a new spirit, and I pray when people see me walking in power, love and self-control, they will say, “She walks just like her Father.”
Lindsay is a follower of Jesus living in Texas. She is the wife of a football coach and the mom of a precious son, who joined their family through the miracle of adoption. She is a writer, coffee connoisseur, and expert shoe shopper. For the last decade, she has been discipling teenage girls and believes God is doing a mighty work in the next generation. When she’s had enough coffee, she blogs at www.lindsaydsmith.com.
Week 5 Challenge: Each day this week, set aside intentional time to sow seeds of faith into the next generation.
Week 5 Reading Plan:
Week 5 Memory Verse:
We’re in Week 5 of our 1 & 2 Timothy study! You can find our women’s and corresponding kids’ journals here: