We are now in our fourth week in this series. God created us as individuals, but also uniquely. We’re all made in His image, and bearing that image carries responsibilities to reflect God’s nature to others, seeing them how he sees them, and realizing that each encounter with have with another image bearer can potentially alter their course.
How their course is altered relies on how well we can show our example. And that’s where we’ll camp today.
Boys look up to their Dads. I was no different. So each time my Dad would take a fishing trip into Canada with some other guys, I’d beg to go! I must have worn him down (or mom got tired of hearing my begging), and I was allowed to take this adventure with Dad and the rest of the guys!
It was awesome.
The days were filled with boat time, fishing, napping, more fishing, and not being made to take a bath. For a boy, that’s also awesome!
One of the things I remember from this trip was breakfast. Most of the meals we ate at the cabin. But breakfast we often ate at the cafeteria. Being one of my favorite meals of the day, I loved it! I was curious, though, about the steaming cup of black liquid that each of the guys ordered.
Coffee, they called it.
Desiring to follow their example, I ordered a cup of coffee…black…just like one of the guys. My Dad looked at me puzzled. Knowing I wouldn’t drink it and telling me I wouldn’t, he still let me figure this out on my own.
The waitress brought my cup of coffee and put it down on the table. Cautiously, I picked the cup up, sniffed it, and took the tiniest sip. That’s not too bad, I remember thinking to myself. I let it cool a few moments and decided I needed to take a larger sip. This time, I had enough in my mouth to recognize that this stuff was the grossest stuff I ever put in my mouth!
Skunk water was how I would have described it at that time in my life.
Too proud to spit it out, I swallowed it hard, not wanting to let the other guys know it was gross! But they could tell by the look on my face. I kept sipping on it, hoping that it would eventually taste better, but each sip was just as bad as the first.
I so wanted to follow their example, and I was willing to drink something that tasted awful. Today I love coffee. But my point is this; I was around a bunch of guys watching their example. And that example impacted me enough for me to try coffee.
Paul and Timothy
Paul mentored a young man named Timothy after meeting him on his second missionary journey (Acts 16). He trusted Timothy so much he left him in charge of the church in Ephesus. Paul believed in Timothy, while the church in Ephesus likely felt differently. Timothy was young, and the Ephesians church saw immaturity. They probably didn’t see Timothy capable of leading a church in their eyes. Greeks valued age in leadership. I’m sure Paul didn’t disagree. But Timothy was different. When Paul discovered Timothy in Acts 16, Luke records that Timothy “was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.”
To encourage Timothy, Paul writes and tells him to
Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:12
It’s almost as if Paul tells Timothy that he would need to live a mature life by being an example to the other believers because of his youthfulness. What example? Paul lays it out clearly.
- By the words he uses
- Living out faith and purity
- How he loves
Briefly, let’s take a look at these because they are what you and I should be aware of to show ourselves an example.
Speech and Words
The words we use can either build up or tear down. Warnings of words we use and the power of our tongues are all through Scripture. Matthew records Jesus as saying
But I tell you that for every careless word that people speak, they will give an account of it on the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:36–37
The words Jesus refers to aren’t words that are insignificant, nonchalant, or small talk. Jesus is referring to words of unkept commitments, words of gossip, or words spoken in anger. They are indicators of what sort of character dwells within.
Paul’s encouragement to Timothy is to show his character by the example of the words he chooses to use.
Living out faith and purity
How we respond to life events also tells much about our character within. It’s asking questions such as when life presses in, do we respond in faith or panic? Or do we let emotions run crazy and react out of them?
Peter writes to
Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God on the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:12
Charles Swindoll wrote that “Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it”. That’s the idea of living out faith and purity.
Paul encourages Timothy to show his example in how he loves. This isn’t emotional love. Out of the several Greek words for love Paul could have used, he chose one that refers to an all-encompassing, unconditional love. It’s a God-level love, one we cannot manifest ourselves; it flows directly from the state and depth of our relationship with Jesus.
It’s a love that enables us to love when it seems impossible to do so. It allows us to treat others and see them how God sees them. Like I said – it’s a God-level love.
Show Your Example
While it’s not quite like my first experience with coffee, the principle remains. When we show ourselves an example, we shape and determine who others become around us. And I’m not just talking about kids or spouse.
I’m talking about coworkers, family, the guy at the post office, or gal at the grocery store. It’s the clerk that’s having a hard day or the waitress that’s struggling.
We all want the world to change. And for some reason, we think it has to take some big event to do so. That’s not the model Paul describes to Timothy. The model Paul describes is more straightforward than that!
- Mind your words
- Mind your reactions
- Love like Jesus
We shape the world around us by showing ourselves an example. And that’s the challenge of a lifetime! It’s one we never stop striving to attain.
So today, show your example! You change the world around you with it! You might even make someone like coffee. But better than that, you might help them fall in love with Jesus!
You are loved.