How do you spell “love” to a child?
The same is true in mentoring. Even a cursory look at the relationship between Paul and Timothy shows two things – that they spent a lot of time together, and Paul was proud of the man Timothy had grown into.
After leaving his family to join Paul and Silas, Timothy was present in many significant events in Paul’s missionary travels. Timothy was at Philippi when the mob had Paul and Silas arrested. Later an earthquake leveled the jail, which led to the jailer and his family to believe the gospel. Timothy was also in Thessalonica when the riots started there, and he stayed with Silas in Berea when Paul was forced to travel ahead of them.
Timothy was also with Paul when he spent 18 months in Corinth, starting a church and ministering there. Similarly, Timothy was with Paul during his two year stay in Ephesus. Piecing together the timeline from other New Testament writings, we find that Paul would send Timothy out as his representative to encourage the churches they had previously established.
Timothy’s efforts mirrored his mentor’s so closely that Paul even referred to Timothy as “my co-worker” (Romans 16:21) and “our brother” (2 Corinthians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, Philemon 1). Even more impressive is that Paul listed Timothy as a co-author in six of his letters – 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon. None of Paul’s other ministering partners come anywhere close to that.
Over the years and years of working together, Paul also witnessed a lot of growth in Timothy. Notice how Paul proudly recommends Timothy to the believers at the church they had established in Philippi:
Now I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon so that I also may be encouraged when I hear news about you. For I have no one else like-minded who will genuinely care about your interests; all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
But you know his proven character, because he has served with me in the gospel ministry like a son with a father. Therefore, I hope to send him as soon as I see how things go with me.
Their relationship is an excellent example of what a mentoring relationship should look like. Timothy wouldn’t have developed without Paul’s guidance and the time Paul invested. Timothy was able to learn from Paul; and not just to become a carbon-copy of his mentor, rather he would use Paul’s investment as the launching point of his own efforts to live out and spread the gospel.