2 Tim. 1:3 - "I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day."
I recently helped one of my grandmothers move from the West Coast to the Midwest. As we packed up her house we came across a closet that was filled with family scrapbooks and photo albums. We leafed through the pages looking at familiar faces and scenes. Each photograph triggered different emotions depending on what the memory was of, or whose likeness was captured in the image.
What a blessing for Paul that when he brought Timothy to mind during his prayers, that each memory made him grateful! Can you imagine making such an impact on a fellow believer? I wonder which specific memories brought Paul such gratitude? The scriptures only reveal a handful of interactions between the apostle and the young evangelist, but they should prove helpful in understanding what Paul was talking about.
- I'm confident that Paul's introduction to the young man with the good reputation, despite his complicated home life, was a source of joyful gratitude (Acts 16:1-2)!
- I'm equally sure that Timothy's repeated willingness to genuinely serve others by putting their needs ahead of his own made Paul thankful for him (Acts 16:3; Phil. 2:19-24).
- Despite knowing other men who shrank back when Paul suffered for the gospel, Timothy had demonstrated an initial willingness to follow Paul and Christ in every respect (2 Tim. 3:10-11). Paul was grateful for Timothy's initial endurance, and encouraged him to follow through (2 Tim. 2:2, 10, 12).
What can we learn from this verse within the opening of Paul's last epistle? A couple of things. First, we can learn from Timothy and live in such a way that when other believers remember us it makes them grateful. Let's not misunderstand, this passage is not teaching us to live as people-pleasers. However, when we put Christ first in our lives and faithfully follow him, we will motivate and encourage others seeking to do the same. Are your fellow believers grateful for your life when they remember it? Second, let's learn a lesson from Paul. He knew Timothy was struggling in his faith as he watched the apostle suffer to the point of death. How did Paul encourage the young man? By telling him that he was praying for him, and by telling him what he was praying for him. There are times when we can encourage our spiritual siblings not just by verbalizing our intent to pray for them, but by humbly sharing with them what we have prayed for them, especially if we have expressed our appreciation for the encouragement they bring us.
Live in such a way that if Paul was writing his final letter to you, he would be able to honestly write, "I thank God...as I remember you"!