Saturday, April 6, 2013


1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)
Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

                When I was a teenager, I attended a training conference for men and boys who worked in a boy’s ministry called Christian Service Brigade. The speaker made a statement that has stuck with me all of my life. He told us that whether we realize it or not we are role models. Someone is watching us and making choices based on what they see. We do not have the choice about being a role model; we are. The choice we have is what kind of role model we will be.

                The reality of that statement became very real to me a number of years later. All during my junior high and high school years I worked at a summer camp run by Christian Service Brigade. I would spend five weeks each summer working as a junior counselor. Each week a different group of boys would come and fill my cabin. We played games, took hikes, learned new skills and had times of devotion. The emphasis of the camp was to help young boys grow in their faith. I grew enormously during those years.

                A number of years later I returned to the camp for a reunion. A young man came up to me and introduced himself. He told me that he had been in my cabin one summer. Then he said that he was planning to attend seminary because of something I had told him back then. He quoted my words, which I did not remember, with reverence. That young man had made a very significant decision about his future based on my example. I was humbled and awed.

                I have never forgotten that experience. I have been a pastor for over 30 years. Every time I step into the pulpit, or walk down the hall of the church, or meet someone at a store, I remember that people are watching. I have no choice about being a role model. The only choice I have is what kind of a model I will be.

                Paul wrote a very similar thing to his son in the faith, Timothy. Paul had left Timothy in charge of the church in Ephesus. He had confidence that Timothy had the right stuff to lead. But Timothy had a tendency to be a little timid. So Paul wrote to encourage him and to challenge him to be the role model Paul knew he could be.

                Paul told him to not make excuses for not assuming his responsibility. Timothy was relatively young. He was probably in his early 30s. Paul challenged him to refuse to let his age keep him from serving Christ fully.

                Many times, on our journey of faith, we can find excuses for not being spiritual leaders. I am too young. I don’t have enough experience. I don’t have enough time. I am not talented enough.  I have personally tried to use all of these excuses and more. None of them hold water. No matter where we are in life, we have the opportunity to lead. Someone is watching us. The choices we make will shape how they progress in their faith journey.

                Paul outlined for Timothy, and for us, five areas where he needed to be an example.
- Be an example in speech. Words are far more powerful than we often realize. The words we choose to use make a difference. If our words are abusive, crass or vulgar, they with lead people away from Christ. If our words are loving, compassionate and gracious, they will lead people toward Christ. Paul challenges us to be careful with our words. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

- Be an example in life. As powerful as our words are, our actions are even more powerful. People are skeptical of our words until they see them acted out in our lives. If my words and actions do not match, people will believe my actions every time. James is very straight forward about this in James 2:15-16.  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

- Be an example in love. Love is one of those words that has almost completely lost its meaning today. What most people mean by love is passion. The concept of unconditional care, concern and compassion has almost disappeared. People see love, not as a commitment, but as a passing feeling that can easily be transferred from one person to another. More than any other time in history, Christians need to be an example of genuine love. Love is more than a feeling. It is a commitment to seek the very best for another person, even at a cost to ourselves. That is the kind of love Jesus demonstrated toward us. It is the kind of love that He wants us to demonstrate toward others. Our love must be tangible, practical and genuine. Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18 (NIV)

-Be an example in faith. Ultimately our lives are shaped by what we put our faith in. As believers, our faith is firmly grounded in Jesus Christ. Paul challenges us to live lives that demonstrate our commitment to Jesus. Does our faith shape our lives, or is it just an optional add-on to our lives? We are called to set an example for others to follow. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV)

- Be an example in purity. We live in a very impure world. Every day we are bombarded with things that challenge our purity in mind, heart and soul. We are all tainted by the influence of the world. But we know that, through Christ, we can be cleansed and we can live differently. Rather than give in to the pressure of the world, we can daily commit ourselves to live pure lives for Christ. When we fail we know that Christ is there to pick us up and put us back on the right track. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (NIV)

                Make no mistake. Someone is watching you. They are making life choices based on what they see. Look around you. Open your eyes to the people in your circle of influence. God has placed them in your life so that you might be an example to them. What kind of an example will you be? People are watching!

No comments:

Post a Comment