I’ve been a Daddy for a little over a year, and I’ve spent a lot of that time thinking about what kind of father God wants me to be. I’ve thought about my own father, the things that he taught me, the example he set before me, the time he and I spent together in my childhood. I remember the times I spent with him as he had Bible studies with people who were lost. I remember going with him to visit people in the hospital, and I remember watching him as he comforted the sick and held those who had just lost loved ones. I remember the conversations he and I had when I was in my early teen years, the years when I had still been more open to his counsel than I would be later on as I fell further and further into the rebellious, stubborn phase in which most teens find themselves. Several of those conversations were about what it means to be a real man. Sometimes I would ask him about what it means to be a real man, and sometimes he would initiate the conversation. I’ve never forgotten those conversations. I’ve never forgotten the times when he went to the Bible and showed me the kind of man that God could make me out to be if I would only let him. I hope as my daughter grows older I and her mother can show her what kind of woman God can make her out to be as well.
A lot of the time, Dad would take me to what Paul said to Timothy in order to show me how God makes true men. He did this because the relationship Paul had with Timothy was very similar to that of a father to a son (2 Tim. 1:1-2). Paul prayed for Timothy every day just as any loving, godly father would do for his child (2 Tim. 1:3), and he couldn’t wait to see Timothy just as parents who love their children always look forward to seeing them again whenever they are away (2 Tim. 1:4). And, just as any loving father would do, Paul wanted to encourage Timothy to be a man. He encouraged Timothy to make good use of the blessings and opportunities given to him (2 Tim. 1:6), and he encouraged him to become the kind of man God intended him to be, a man who did not have “a spirit…of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7).
Look at that last verse again. God did not give us a spirit of fear (2 Tim. 1:7). Granted, men and women of God do not always start out bold and courageous. Peter’s courage and faith failed him several times (Matt. 14:30; 26:69-75; Gal. 2:11-12). Even Paul was afraid at times (1 Cor. 2:3). Yet, men and women of God developed courage over time. Peter would later boldly defend Christ in the face of possible death (Acts 4:13). Paul would also write of having confidence in the face of hardship (Acts 20:24; 21:13). They became more courageous when their faith and love for God increased. Fear is indicative of little faith (Matt. 8:26), but perfect love – love defined as obedience of God’s commands (1 John 5:3), which takes place only when we have a living faith (James 2:26) – casts out fear (1 John 4:18). When our faith increases, our obedience increases, which means our love for God increases, which in turn increases our faith. Add prayer to the equation and our fear decreases (Eph. 6:18-20).
Going back to 2 Tim. 1:7, we also see that God makes men and women who are strong and powerful. Granted, we start out weak like the apostles were when Jesus needed them the most (Matt. 26:40ff). When we obey the gospel and become Christians, we are “born again” (John 3:5), and therefore we are what Paul calls “infants in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1) and weak like all babies are. Yet, God wants us to grow stronger (1 Cor. 16:13; Eph. 6:10), which is why he provided us with spiritual armor (Eph. 6:10-17) and a relationship with his Son (John 15:5; Phil. 4:13). As we grow in truth, righteousness, and prayer, Jesus will provide us with the help we need to be strong in his service. That help is found in the armor of God and the strength of God which we get from the Holy Spirit-inspired Word (2 Pet. 1:20-21; cf. Eph. 3:16).
Paul also told Timothy that God makes men and women who love (2 Tim. 1:7). At the beginning, we do not always start out loving like we should. The apostles were often jealous of each other because each of them wanted to be top dog (Matt. 20:24; Luke 22:24). James and John were called the “Sons of Thunder,” probably because they wanted God to send fire down on a village who had been rude to Jesus (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:54). However, God helped them to develop love over time. One of those “Sons of Thunder” would later write that we must love each other (1 John 4:7, 11). Another apostle, Peter, would write of his love for his fellow apostle Paul (2 Pet. 3:15). God taught them how to love by first loving them (1 John 4:10-11; 1 Thess. 4:9), and by providing Jesus as an example of his love (John 13:34-35). If we allow ourselves to be moved by God’s love for us, we will grow in our love for others.
Paul also told Timothy that God makes men and women who have self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). Mature, faithful Christians are people who have self-control, people who have sound, sober mind, people who are prudent, discreet, and well-balanced, people who see things in their just proportions. They’re not people who are feverish, easily excited, or short-tempered. They are people who are stable and self-controlled both in life and doctrine. That’s why overseers in the church (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:8), older men in the church (Tit. 2:2), older women and younger women (Tit. 2:4-5), and younger men like Timothy (2 Tim. 1:7) are all commanded to have this quality. We’ve all seen people both in and out of the church who never seem to grow up, who always seem to act childish and immature no matter their age. This is because they do not obey the words of Christ; if they did, they would be like a rock (Matt. 7:24-25). They also do not set their minds on the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5-6), those things being God’s Word (2 Pet. 1:20-21); if they did, they would walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) and have the traits of the Spirit in their lives (Gal. 5:22-23), one of which is self-control.
If we are willing to submit to God’s craftsmanship, he will make us into fearless, strong, loving, and self-controlled men and women. The question now is…are we willing to let him work on us to make us into something better?