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. (1 Timothy 4:12)
The Power Of Example
Faith is not a feeling kept within the reserves of our heart but a manifestation of our trust in God in every part of our lives. Abraham was a man of faith because he was a man of action. David stood in the valley of Elah with the faith and courage to defeat the giant Goliath. Paul dedicated his life to the cross of Jesus Christ as a man moved by the gospel to go into all the world preaching the old redemption story. The early letters of the New Testament admonished their readers to be people of faith in their hearts and also their examples or patterns of life. What is striking about the life of early Christians is the impression they left on a pagan world of their simple love for truth, righteousness, purity and faith. Many Christians lost their lives under the heavy hand of persecution but it was not because they were rebellious to government, criminal or immoral despots bent on destroying the fabric of society. As law abiding citizens who nurtured a community of compassion and kindness, the faith of first century Christians was an example to everyone who saw them. Paul’s admonishment to the young man Timothy was characteristic of how Christians impacted their world. Each generation must learn well the lessons of leaving a mark on the world of their faith in Jesus Christ and trust in the Father.
Paul points out six areas where Timothy can be an example. These are vital to the whole character of the child of God as they examine what people see, what Timothy believes and what God wants of His children. The word ‘example’ is a fascinating word to use because it refers to something like a die or stamp that leaves an impression. John uses the same word when he describes the scars of the nail prints of Jesus. There is an indelible mark that is left. What the world sees in the life of a Christian leaves a lasting impression: good and bad. Influence can never be lost; it can be a bad influence or leave a bad example but a pattern is left on the mind of those who witness the actions of those unconcerned about their example. The power of individual example is when a positive scar is left on those who see the example of Christ. Building faith is learning how to show the image of God in speech, action, thought and motives so that what people see is the glory of God. That is the ultimate goal in life. Being an example to others is the work of chiseling from rough marble an image that looks like God. All of these virtues show the spirit of the man of God.
Building faith is seated in the power of the word. Becoming an example in word is so powerful. The greatest challenge man faces is the ability to control his speech. It is the patient man that will learn to season his tongue with the grace of God so that others can hear the voice of God and not man. Conduct of life is the power of salt or the light on the hill that others will see. The child of God lives in a glass house surrounded by righteous plates of glass that allow the transparency of a holy life to manifest the character of holiness. Being an example in the manner of life shows the ungodly that faith is rooted in the soul of the believer. What people see is what they perceive as the pattern of belief in the person’s conduct. Important to the manner of life is to be an example of love. There is little a child of God can do that is more important than to let the spirit of love shine through their speech and actions. It is a condition of the heart. Love is a building block of faith manifesting itself in every part of life whether in the home, on the job or in the community. The light that shines the brightest is the beacon of God’s love glowing from the example of the believer. Key to the pattern of righteousness is to possess the spirit of God and showing that fidelity as a faithful Christian. People of God are spirit lead and spirit motivated souls that radiate the love of Christ in their lives. Minds that are filled with the Spirit will have hearts that speak the words of the spirit of Christ.
Faith comes from the power of the word of God. Building faith comes from establishing bridges of trust in the promises of God. Knowledge of the will of God increases the faith of those who are seeking to please the Lord. This will also exhort others to be challenged through the knowledge of the word. As an example to others, faith manifests long hours of study, examination, inquiry, truth-seeking and discussing the wisdom of God from holy scrip. Being the example of truth is to fill the mind with His word. As a result of this knowledge life will have fewer complications brought about by the damaging effects of sin. Purity is not a natural response. Having a pure mind is developed through the imprint of the word of God on the heart and seen through the pure acts of love toward others. Paul exhorted Timothy to be an example of purity as he developed all of the characteristics of the word, his conduct, love, spirit and faith. Tying all of these together manifests the whole man of God to live a pure life. The apostle wanted the disciple to be an example, live the life of example and to show the pattern of godliness in every part of life.
Timothy needed to be a pattern that other believers could follow. Being an example to believers is putting the character of life on a higher plane. If all the believers were examples to one another – what a remarkable impact there would be on the community. It is clear the lessons to Timothy are important for all Christians. Let no one despise who we are whether young or old. Each of us must be an example in word, conduct, love, spirit, faith and purity to the believers and to the unbelievers. From these traits of righteousness we will encourage the faithful to remain faithful and exhort the lost to come to Jesus Christ. Seeing Christ live in our lives will build our faith more fully and may help someone find eternal life.