Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord’s battles. (1 Timothy 1:18)
The roughest turbulence I've ever faced on board an aircraft occurred a few years ago on a flight from Nelson to Christchurch. We were flying over mountains when we were hit by a sudden first jolt that saw most instinctively grab the armrest. In the seat in front of me was a young toddler who let out a howl that reflected the alarm we all felt. Quickly his mother reassured him and declared ‘Isn’t this fun!” and before long he was laughing with delight at every bump while the rest of us clung on in white-knuckled fear!
The lesson I drew from all this was: how we perceive something affects how we respond.
In this verse, Paul reminds the young leader, Timothy, that he is in the midst of a spiritual battle. Understanding this means that Timothy is to perceive all he faces with a perspective that transcends what he observes at a human level. He is to stay focussed on the spiritual dimension that impacts his ministry.
As we start to lead it’s easy for us to forget that we too are involved in a spiritual battle. We may at times see young people who are disruptive, apathetic, or critical. In those moments it’s good to be reminded that they are not the “enemy” but are themselves being dragged into a battle in which the devil is doing all He can to draw them away from the purposes God has for them.
The impact of this battle is often visible outwardly, but it also rages within the heart of the leader. At times you will feel discouraged, underappreciated or inadequate, and may contemplate giving up. In these moments the battle with your unseen foe is at it’s strongest. Satan would like nothing more that to see you complain, lash out and even give up.
By leading, you’re stepping a little closer to the front line where the heat of battle is greatest. This should come at no surprise to you because in these moments a greater measure of God’s grace and empowering are available to you if you’re willing to ask and receive by faith.
After all, as Paul is quick to point out, this is the Lord’s battle – not ours, and us such He equips us to triumph. “Greater is He (God) who is within us than he (the devil) who is within the world” (1 John 4:4)
How are we equipped to fight? Here Paul reminds Timothy of the “prophetic words spoken about you earlier”. It seems likely that these (unrecorded) words were spoken at Timothy’s commissioning. Paul is essentially saying, “As you fight in the Lord’s battle, remember the words spoken over you by elders who confirmed your calling.”
Holding on to the certainty of your call and the confidence of older, wiser Christians, is a valuable weapon in your spiritual arsenal. Treasure the things they’ve said about you and the prayers they prayed over you. Give them opportunity to speak into your life as you serve God, drawing strength and encouragement from their words.
All this will help you to keep a right perspective on the battle you’re in and your role within it.
How do you know you're called to lead? What words have been spoken to you or prayed over you at that point where you sensed your call to leadership and it was confirmed? Reflect on these words and draw strength from them in whatever challenge or temptation you're facing now.