This Bible study is a companion to the May Encourager’s Devotion: In Search of Spiritual Mothers and Fathers. For additional studies in the Encourager’s Devotional Series, click here.
For information on Timothy and the relationship between Timothy and Paul, see the following passages. Make notes on Timothy’s background, Paul’s expectations of Timothy, things Paul did for Timothy, and signs that Timothy was growing in the faith as a result of Paul’s influence. You might also think about how Paul’s investment in Timothy’s life brought rewards to Paul’s life as well.
2 Timothy 1:2-14
- Paul prayed for Timothy daily.
- Timothy’s mother and grandmother were believers.
- Paul reminded Timothy to use his gifts and remember his calling.
- Paul reminded Timothy that living a holy life is important.
- Paul reminded Timothy of sound teaching and encouraged him to live by it.
- Timothy’s father was not a believer.
- Paul took Timothy with him on his missionary journey. This gave Timothy opportunity to develop his ministry skills, and also brought much joy to Paul as he watched his son in the faith grow into maturity.
- Paul praised Timothy and gave him his endorsement as he went out to the churches.
- Paul sent Timothy out to minister to others and served as his “job coach.”
In the book Groups: The Life-giving Power of Community, authors Ortburg, Pederson, and Poling list some of the “forms that encouragement takes.” Read the texts related to their list and make any notes that come to mind as you read. Also, as you read, if anyone comes to mind as needing any particular form of encouragement, write their names down in the space provided in the “Application” section.
*To believe in someone, to see their giftedness and ability to contribute:
1 Timothy 4:12-15
- Paul calmed any fears Timothy may have had about being so young while in ministry.
- Paul set high standards for Timothy, with confidence that Timothy could meet them.
- Paul again reminded Timothy to be diligent, to watch his lifestyle, to be devoted to God’s word, and to persevere.
2 Timothy 1:6-7
- Paul encouraged Timothy to not be timid and to utilize the gifts God had given him.
*To exhort someone, to build their character by confronting them even when it may involve saying hard things:
2 Timothy 4:2
- Paul told Timothy to encourage God’s people, but also to correct or rebuke them when needed.
- Paul instructed Timothy to do this with great patience and careful instruction.
2 Thesselonians 3:11-13
- Paul modeled what it means to say hard things to people (calling some in Thessalonica busy bodies and warning them to not be idle but to work for their food).
*To comfort, console, give courage to:
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
- Paul reminds us that we are to comfort others just as God has comforted us.
2 Thesselonians 2:16-17
- As we saw in last month’s study, the church in Thessolonica was being persecuted. Paul prayed for them to be encouraged and to be strengthened to continue to do good works. (Remember, too, that Paul gave this church very specific praise, listing the good things they were doing.)
*To challenge, to urge, to entreat one to greater heights, deeper growth:
- Paul challenged the believers at Ephesus to live a life worthy of their calling. He told them to be humble, gentle, and patient. He urged them to live in unity.
*To express support and affirmation through tangible gifts:
- Joseph was called Barnabas by the apostles – a name which means “son of encouragement.” One way Barnabas encouraged the apostles was by giving to them financially.
Romans 15:25-27; 2 Corinthians 8:1-7
- Paul took up an offering for the church in Judea.
- The church in Macedonia (as well as many other churches) gave generously to this offering and Paul urged the Corinthians to do the same.
- The church at Philippi sent gifts and aid to Paul. Paul says, in this way, they “shared in his troubles” and showed him they were concerned for him.
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12; 17-20 and contemplate the following:
What criteria are established for those who would lead to be spiritual parents? Hint: Paul says he and his companions were “holy, righteous, and blameless” among those who believed.
If we are to encourage others to “live lives worthy of God,” then we must strive to do the same. Take some time to pray and ask God to help you search your heart for any attitudes or lifestyle changes which might be necessary to bring you closer to your goals for holiness. Record any convictions or thoughts which come to mind after prayer.
In verses 11-12, Paul says, “as a father deals with his own children” he encouraged the Thessalonians, he comforted them, and he urged them to live lives worthy of God.
Do you have any “children in the faith” for whom you are doing these things?
Paul expresses such a concern for his spiritual children that he has an “intense longing” to see them and has made every effort” to be with them.
Can you say that about anyone in your life?
If not, what might be stopping you from becoming a spiritual parent, what hesitations might you have? (For example: feeling unqualified, busy lifestyle, lack of concern).
Remember, no one ever really feels ready to be a parent and sometimes we “learn as we go.” We can almost always look around and find someone else who is just a bit younger than us in the faith for whom we can be a spiritual parent. But if you simply do not see yourself in this role yet, consider asking someone to be your spiritual mentor. Or maybe, view this as a “big brother, big sister” role for now.
You might spend some time praying that God would increase your desire to expend the effort necessary to play this role in someone’s life.
In verses 19-20, what does Paul say is the reward for being a spiritual parent to our brothers and sisters in Christ?
It brings joy and it is the “crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes.”
For each of the “forms that encouragement takes,” write the names of anyone you think may need that type of encouragement. Then for each person listed, jot down ideas as to how you might encourage them.
- To believe in someone, to see their giftedness and ability to contribute
- To exhort someone, to build their character by confronting them even when it may involve saying hard things
- To comfort, console, give courage to
- To challenge, to urge, to entreat one to greater heights, deeper growth
- To express support and affirmation through tangible gifts
This month’s devotion mentioned people who struggle with occasions such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day:
- Those who have lost their parents, or the mother or father of their children.
- People who do not come from healthy homes
- Those who long to be parents but cannot
Do you know anyone who struggles with these holidays? Can you invite them into your home or out to lunch? Is there a way you can acknowledge that you understand their struggle?
Can you come alongside someone as a spiritual parent?
As you think of the role of spiritual parenting, think in terms of what a child needs to learn and grow:
- Do you know anyone that’s just beginning to learn how to walk in the faith? How might you help them?
- Do you know anyone that’s learning how to do something new? How might you train them?
- Do you know anyone who is learning how to get along with others, or being tested in this area? Do you have any life lessons you can impart to them?
- Do you know anyone who’s been hurt (physically, emotionally, or spiritually)? How might you help bandage their wounds and let them know they will be okay?
What do you want to do in response to this month’s devotion?
 John Ortburg, Laurie Pederson, Judson Poling, Groups: The Life-giving Power of Community. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2000, p. 129.