Faith, real faith, is not just about what we believe, but is evident in how we behave — and that, because it abides. That’s what I’m picking up from what Paul’s laying down this morning as I eavesdrop on some final words from a father-in-the-Lord to his son-in-the-Lord.
To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 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. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
(2Timothy 2:2-5 ESV)
That Paul had a soft spot in his heart for Timothy is evident throughout the New Testament narrative. Paul connected with Timothy back in Acts 16 and, from the get go, saw great potential in the young man. More than just being a faithful co-laborer in the gospel, he considered Timothy his son in the Lord. A trusted, capable son fully bought into the “family business”, often relying on him for the follow up work in areas where the gospel had been received. Timothy, it seems, wasn’t so much a church planter as he was a church establisher. And that, Paul would say, because “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare” (Php. 2:22).
And here, in his second letter to Timothy, aware that his letter writing days were soon to be done, Paul is thankful for this faithful laborer, reminded that it was his faith which was truly at the heart of his faithfulness.
Paul calls it a sincere faith. Genuine. The real thing. Without hypocrisy. No pretense. No concealing what he thought, or what he believed, or how he discerned it should be lived out. Up front. What you see is what you get. And what you saw on the outside with Timothy was because of what was happening on the inside. For Timothy had a dwelling faith.
His was the same sort of faith that dwelt in his grandma, Lois. An enduring faith, able to be passed on from generation to generation. A faith that also dwelt in his mom, Eunice. And, like grandma, like mom, like son, a faith Paul could see was dwelling in Timothy as well.
A faith that had moved in. A faith that entered through the mind, but had set up permanent residence in the heart, soul, and spirit. A permeating faith. More than just a checklist of to do’s and to don’ts to simply follow and obey, the truth of God and the implications of the gospel had become operating precepts and principles etched into the innate mechanics of how Timothy responded to all of life. He had been transformed by the renewing of his mind (Rom. 12:2) and it manifested itself in a dwelling faith.
The Word had been hidden in his heart. The Way had been programmed by the Spirit into his life directing GPS. His motivating reward determined by things above, not things below.
He’d wake up in the morning and his faith was working. He’d go through his day and his faith was leading. Inseparable. No sacred vs. secular divide. His faith’s influence unavoidable regardless of the situation. Because it wasn’t just a Sunday morning faith. Not just a when-I’m-with-other-believers faith. No, Timothy’s was a dwelling faith.
Not saying Timothy had a perfect faith — we know better. But Paul, led by the Spirit of God, declared it to be a sincere faith. The real thing. And that, because it was faith beyond just facts, but a faith that had moved in — abiding in Timothy, even as Timothy abided in the Lord. A dwelling faith.
O, that I might operate out of such a faith, a faith at home in me through His on-going work in me.
By His grace. For His glory.