Want to dig deeper into what Scripture has to say about the big topic of this month’s ec: changing the world? Go no further. Below, you’ll find a short discussion of a passage of Scripture that deals with this topic, along with a guided study of the passage. At the end, you’ll find some questions that may help you to lead or facilitate a small group study on this passage.
“Let no one despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”
—1 Timothy 4:12
Paul met Timothy in the town of Lystra during the apostle’s first missionary journey. Paul may have lodged in Timothy’s home during his stay there when Timothy was just a child.
On Paul’s second visit to Lystra, Timothy had become a promising young leader in the church. Paul invited young Timothy to travel with him on his second and third missionary journeys. Timothy became one of Paul’s favorite young leaders, and he often sent Timothy on special assignments, finally assigning him as a lead pastor in Ephesus.
In this portion of Paul’s first of two personal letters to Timothy, we glean powerful advice to young people who want to change their world. It’s not only what you do, but who you are that makes a difference.
“Let no one despise your youth”: Paul understood human nature. He knew that older people sometimes have low expectations of young people. Paul exhorted Timothy to behave in such a way that those observing his life would not despise his youth. Here’s the lesson: find a mentor who will help you establish higher, more mature standards of behavior. This doesn’t mean you can’t have youthful fun. Have fun. But remember that leadership requires maturity.
Be a role model
“Be an example”: Paul desired Timothy to be a positive role model. So, he challenged him to be an example in five major areas of his life: speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.
Speech: While many youth find acceptance and freedom in using filthy language, if you want God to make a difference in your life, your speech must reflect a heart for God. Our conduct is connected to our speech. The two work together to demonstrate outwardly that we are living in obedience to God.
Faith and purity: These are inner qualities of spiritual integrity and strength. Jesus taught in Matthew 6:33 that His followers “seek first the kingdom of God.” This is the kind of faith and purity to which Paul spoke. Of course, sexual purity, moral conduct, and genuine faith in God are crucial to our being an exemplary follower of Christ; but Paul wanted Timothy to go deep into the heart of his motives and priorities.
Love: Love is the Christlike character that holds our inward and outward actions together so that we lead by example. Deuteronomy 6:5 teaches us to love the Lord with our whole person. Jesus reminded the scribe that loving the Lord with our whole person leads us to love our neighbors (Matt. 19:19). We can make a huge impact in the lives of others when we demonstrate the kind of sacrificial, unconditional love that we have received from Christ.
Sure, there are a number of things you can do to make a difference in the world. The articles in this issue give you some good ideas of what to do. Please understand, however, that in order for our lives to make a lasting impact and impression on our world, we must first be the kind of person God can use.
Questions for personal study and/or small group discussion.
- How can you live so that adults will see the godly potential in your life?
- What do your speech and conduct reflect about your faith and purity?
- What are some examples of times when you’ve failed to lead by example? When you’ve succeeded?
- How can your godly speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity empower you to have an impact on your culture?
- How will becoming the kind of person God desires you to be influence your actions in a way that makes a difference in the world?
Making It Count
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were probably teens when they stood their ground against King Nebuchadnezzar’s command to worship idols. (See Daniel 3.) Because they chose to obey God, they were thrown into a furnace to be burned alive. Most people would like to make an impact in the world; but very few are willing to lose their lives doing so. How serious are you about making your life count for the glory of God and the benefit of humanity?