march 27th - an example
Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. 1 Tim 4:12-16 (NKJV)
Paul made a bold statement: “Follow me as I follow Christ!” Dare I say such a thing? Is my life a near facsimile of Christ—is it even close? Without any false humility the answer would be a resounding “NO!” That said, I do want to be more like Christ and less like myself. I want to live a Godly life and to be a Godly example. This is a worthy endeavor.
This is the challenge that Paul gave to Timothy. He instructed Timothy, “Be an example…in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith and in purity!” (That just about covers everything) What was Paul’s point? I think that Paul was trying to help Timothy understand that spiritual credibility is established by spiritual integrity; and that it is impossible to lead others unless they believe you are worthy of following.
Spiritual leadership is challenging—and it is even more difficult when someone is young. The general public does not have a lot of confidence in either the wisdom or the decision-making ability of young people. The only way Timothy would merit a second look would require him to be a sterling example.
It is true that disrespect is sometimes unearned. People disrespect or despise people for a myriad of reasons. They might not like another person's social economic background, or gender, or education, or culture, or race, or national heritage, or religion, or age...the list is really endless as well
as nonsensical. You can challenge their preconceived prejudice by proving their assumptions wrong. By being an example in so many important areas of conduct, Timothy would not be giving any room to his critics to "despise his youth!"
Certainly, no one is perfect; however, our progress needs to be evident to all. When I was a young man my grandfather told me, "Build your reputation by living right, this will make it more difficult for your enemies to turn people against you and it will also make it easier for your friends to defend you." It was great advice! I'm sure that we all have our critics, but by setting a Godly example and living Godly lives, we are literally taking away their ammunition and silencing the voice of the accuser.
Author’s Note: As a young pastor I acted in a less-than-gracious manner in a softball game. There were some people who observed my behavior and in their eyes, I lost all spiritual credibility. I learned a hard lesson, sometimes when people lose confidence in you it is impossible to recover. Spiritual credibility is indeed established by spiritual integrity. If I want people to believe in me as a spiritual leader, then I must set an example worthy of following. RJD