I have heard it said that everyone needs a Paul, Barnabas, & Timothy (I will clarify what this means in the following paragraphs). I would have to agree with that statement. As I said in 4 Reasons You Need Fellowship, companionship is a vital part of Christian life! However, not every companion should be exactly the same; there are actually three different companion types that you need! Allow me to describe these three characters:
Paul, of course, was the brilliant apostle who wrote 13 of the New Testament books; he is the man who essentially mentored the entire Early Church in truth and practice. In your own life, Paul is the irreplaceable teacher – the wise elder that pours into you and offers invaluable advice. This is the man or woman who has been a spiritual parent – rearing you in the faith. It should also be said that you could have more than one Paul; in fact, one can never have too many brilliant mentors! In my own life, I have probably had 3 or 4 Paul figures, and have benefited greatly from it.
Barnabas was the initial missionary colleague of Paul, and was known to be an important peer in Paul’s endeavors. He is perhaps most well known for the name given to him by the apostles in Jerusalem – “Son of Encouragement”. In your own life, a Barnabas figure is one who acts as a friend and peer – neither a mentor nor a student. He or she is the person with whom you share life, with whom you can be yourself, laugh, cry, be authentic, and grow. Barnabas is neither your parent nor your child in faith, but your brother or sister! I must admit that I have not pursued enough Barnabas companions in my life – and have struggled because of it. In fact, I have found that most believers have this same problem! However, I have recently been blessed to begin new relationships with people of God that I would consider Barnabas types; let me tell you, my faith has never been challenged and sharpened in such a profound way as it has with them. It is true that “iron sharpens iron”!
Timothy was the “spiritual child” of Paul (1 Corinthians 4:17) – the faithful student and disciple. After being taught by Paul and accompanying him on missionary journeys, Timothy was appointed to be a teacher/pastor in the Ephesian church. In your life, Timothy is the person into whom you are pouring yourself; he or she is the person you are intentiollay guiding and discipling. While Timothy is still a beloved companion like the rest – this person should not be expected to pour into your life like a Paul or Barnabas; whether due to youth or spiritual infancy, Timothy is one who almost solely receives. Therefore, if you want to have many Timothy companions in faith, you will need to surround yourself with even more Paul and Barnabas companions. After all, as you continue to pour out you must continue to be poured into – receiving guidance and encouragement. However, Timothy companions are important, and will sharpen your faith; as you aim to teach and invest in this person, your own faith will be challenged and cultivated – as you are forced to spend more time with the Lord, that you may lead in truth and love.