1 Timothy 4:12
12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Here is the Lord’s heart cry to all of us. Be an example. Let others see what Christ is like by all that you do. The word example is defined two ways in Webster’s dictionary. The first is a thing characteristic of its kind or illustrating a general rule. That means this example needs to be in the image of what it is trying to show to others. We need to conduct ourselves like Christ would. Remember the old saying “What Would Jesus Do?” This became very popular in the 1990’s and actually became part of pop culture. Unfortunately, it just became a popular saying, not a popular thing to do necessarily. People wearing WWJD bracelets and T-shirts would be just as sinful as the world, and that is not what Jesus would have done. Our example must be like the spotless Lamb of God.
The second definition of example is a person or thing regarded in terms of their fitness to be imitated or the likelihood of their being imitated. This means we should live a life that others could imitate in their walk with the Lord. Paul said that the things we have learned, have received, have heard and have seen in him we should do (Philippians 4:9). Paul set an example for others to follow. Are we setting this same example? Would we want others to live the same kind of life we do in a successful walk with Christ? This should be the pattern for our lives.
Paul then goes on to tell Timothy there are 6 areas of his life this applies to. The first way we should set an example is in our words. One of the first things God did when I got saved was that he took swearing out of my language. It was just gone. All those 4 letter words that I used in every sentence vanished from my vocabulary. It even amazed me that suddenly these words were no longer used. Those words have no place in a Christian’s vocabulary. They set a bad example. So does telling dirty jokes. There is no room for these either. Nor lying, dishonest statements or saying things with the wrong motives in mind. Gossip, backbiting, slandering and many more ways seem to be part of our culture today. Each of these creep into the church, and into our lives, at different times. All of the above mentioned issues with the words we speak show the church to be nothing more than a bunch of hypocrites. The church has become too much like the world in our words.
Our words should be loving, merciful, forgiving, forbearing, patient and reverent. They should show us to be lovers of men, ready to lay down our lives for those less fortunate than we are. Our words should give comfort, joy, peace, nurturing and grace to those we are speaking to all the time, not just some of the time. These words should be honest and truthful at all times, spoken in love to anyone we approach. There should be no hint of ungodliness or unrighteousness in the things we say. James 3 is a great chapter on taming our tongue. Basically, James says if we can bridle our tongue, we enter a realm of perfection. Let us guard our speech at all times.
The second way Paul asks Timothy to be an example is in his conversation. We can get confused if we see this word meaning the words we have between one another. In biblical terms, the word conversation means lifestyle. Our lifestyle should be one that everyone sees as pure and undefiled. We should set an example by the places we go, the choices we make and the manner in which we conduct ourselves. Do we take correction easily? Are we quickly offended? Do we forgive people if they wrong us? Do we ask for forgiveness if we have hurt our neighbor in some way? All of these things are part of our conversation.
Ephesians 4:1 tells us to walk worthy of the vocation to which we are called. It does not matter if you are a preacher or the church custodian or a clerk at Walmart or flipping burgers at McDonalds. You might be a corporate executive, or retired or maybe a CPA or an MD. Maybe you just write blogs, work on mapping, sell insurance occasionally and help out at your church (this is me in a nutshell). Whatever your vocation, whatever you do day in and day out, you should walk worthy of that calling. Our jobs are part of our calling, and we must show ourselves as an example of Christ in everything we do.
The third area Paul says we should be an example is in charity. I think we all know charity means love. I like the use of the word charity because that word means giving something without expecting a return. The word love is so misused and abused in our society that it gets a bad wrap most of the time. People don’t know what real love is. Many have never experienced a true loving relationship except with their parents, and even there a lot of people are abused by that word. When we as Christians think of the word love we should always think of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth
To translate briefly, love is patient and kind at all times. It does not become jealous or covetous and does not boast of its accomplishments but is humble. Love never portrays a non- Christian attitude and does not try to get things for itself. Love does not get angry easily and never thinks evil of someone else. Love rejoices in the good fortune of others and in the truth always being in the forefront. It bears with anything and believes in the other person with the hope that will endure to the end. Love never fails. This is the kind of love we should have at all times to set the example Paul is talking about here.
The fourth area we should be an example is in spirit. This talks about the attitude with which we live our lives. Are we positive and uplifting, or are we a sourpuss all the time. Do we speak words of grace to everyone (Eph 4:29) or are we sarcastic and cruel. Do we wake up in the morning refreshed and renewed, ready to take on the day? Or are we just trying to get through the day and bring our cloud with us as we go through our routines? All of these things reflect the spirit with which we approach life. I love the quote from Charles Swindoll, renowned Christian author, speaker and pastor.
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
To me, that says it all!
The fifth area Paul tells Timothy to be an example is in faith. Do we show others that we trust God in all things, even in the most difficult of times in our lives? Do they see our faith arise as we go through those times and continue to rely on God to bring us provision, strength and guidance in the midst of the storm? Has our faith risen to the occasion when someone needs prayer and we are quick to pray with them on the spot instead of the old line “Yes I will pray for you.”
When I was going through my cancer battle for three years, people noticed how upbeat I stayed most of the time. Many would ask me how I could face such a difficult test with such a good attitude. I would tell them it is because I have an undying faith in my God! I knew he would not fail me. I knew He would use this test for my good. I knew he would sustain me and keep me even in the hardest of times. People saw my faith in action. They saw my example of faith. How often do they see yours?
The last area where we should be an example is in purity. This talks of moral and behavioral excellence. We should be above anything that seems filthy, raunchy, rowdy, or anything else that would be deemed impure. Our lives should reflect the Bible and it’s moral standard in every way. The worlds moral compass has gone haywire, and we must show what the standard should be or it will be lost to all. We leave in a world that has put purity aside for pleasure. They do not even see how they have gone wrong, or that they are even doing wrong. The low morals and impurity are out in the public eye and no one seems the least bit concerned except those who want morality brought back into our lives. If we do not keep the biblical standard it will further erode this society and Christians will be even more weird in the worlds eyes.
Christians are already being persecuted for righteousness sake, as Jesus told us we would. We should rejoice in this (Matthew 5:12) But greater persecution will come as the world drifts farther and farther away from Christian values. I am a part of Pew Research in that I take survey’s for them once a month. One of the questions on the last survey asked if I thought social media should be allowed to take off offensive material. I said no, mainly because the world is starting to see parts of the Bible as offensive and I do not want our face squashed by a social media company. Some of my own blogs would disappear! Those of us who stand up for Christian values, for pure values, must never let this world dictate what we write or preach.
With all my heart I want to be the type of example Paul asked Timothy to be. I fail often, but I must each time pick myself up and keep on going. Paul does not tell Timor=thy he has to be perfect and part of our example should be seen as a flawed human being with difficulties and challenges. If we can remember to forgive and accept forgiveness, that will go a long ay to developing us an example of what Christ would want us to be.