Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in the word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12
The 2nd thing mentioned is conduct, why conduct? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ your life should confirm the biblical principles on how to live your life that are found in the bible. Conduct is personal behavior, it is a way of acting or how to behave or manager oneself.
How do you conduct yourself in public, with friends, with your parents, or at school? Do you act differently when you’re with different people? The way you act tells others about your relationship with Jesus. Your heart spills outward what is within (Prov. 4:23; John 13:35). In my own life I know if I haven’t read my bible for a few days I can get short and aggravated quickly with others. I’ll be negative because my eyes are not on Jesus. In those times my conduct changes and it’s not for the better.
Your Christian life in the world should look like a life that is given to Jesus. You will slip up. There will always be times that you have little mess up along the way. It’s what you do with those little mess ups, or maybe sometimes big mess ups, that matters.
Now by this we know that we know him, if we keep his commandment he who says “I know him” and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word truly the love of God is perfected in him by this we know that we are in him.
1 John 2:3-6
What does your conduct say about you?
1 Timothy 4:12 – Setting an Example in Speech
“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”
Paul is abundantly clear in his message to Timothy: age is not an excuse for slacking off in any area of our individual walks with Christ. In fact, Paul goes beyond encouraging Timothy just to avoid slacking off. He tells Timothy to set an example for the believers around him of every age! That might seem like a mountain of a challenge; sometimes it’s hard enough to be a good role model for younger brothers and sisters, much less for adult believers in our lives. But thankfully Paul gives some direction to his “child in the faith”(1 Timothy 1:2) by outlining five areas for young people to focus on in their mission to set an example for all believers: speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first area Paul points to is speech; words are loud, obvious, memorable, and powerful, whether they are spoken, written, or typed. James (the half-brother of Jesus) described the power of speech in his letter to the first-century church in Jerusalem with a few comparisons for the tongue: a horse’s bit, a sailing ship’s rudder, a fire, and a poison (James 3:3-8). Those images each communicate the valuable lesson that words may seem small, but they have massive, wide-ranging effects. They can be constructive and useful in their power, like a bit or rudder; a word of encouragement or truth to a sibling, teach, classmate, or coach can change the direction of a life. But speech can also be dangerous and deadly, like a forest fire or toxic poison. I don’t believe it would take more than a minute to remember the last time you were hurt by something someone else said to or about you.
Now that we have established the power of speech, I wanted to outline two short passages that give us all clear instructions on how to speak as a believer in Christ. First, Colossians 3:8 says to put away “anger, wrath, malice (intent to hurt), slander (intent to harm a person’s reputation), and obscene talk from your mouth”. These are speech characteristics that do not belong in the life of a young man or woman that has been changed by Christ’s love. And second, Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8 what believers should be thinking about, so I think we are safe to apply these things to our speech as well: “Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise, think about these things.”
I know that this may seem like a daunting list of “do’s and “don’ts”, so I wanted to finish this post with an easy verse to remember. Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” If our words are simply honoring to Christ and worthy of His name, then our speech will naturally set an example for all believers. God doesn’t expect us to wait until we are 18, 21, or any other “legal” age to submit our speech and words to His will; that time is now.
‘”Let no one despise you for your youth, but set an example for believers in your speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.”
1 Timothy 4:12
Entitled, self obsessed, irresponsible, inconsiderate, lazy, indifferent, immature and the list goes on. These are a few ways that you’ve probably heard people describe your generation. I know I’ve heard these things from time to time and, let’s be honest, we all fit this description on occasion. We’re sinful people living in a fallen world and unfortunately we yield to our flesh more than we should.
But so was Timothy. An Paul saw great things in him.
Paul looked at Timothy and saw in him the reality of a transformed life, change effected by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Timothy had been installed as an elder in the church at Ephesus to continue the work that had been started there (Acts 19). Through the years leading up to this, Paul spent a great deal of time and energy instructing Timothy in the ways of faith, continuing what Timothy’s mother and grandmother had started (2 Tim 1).
Paul tells Timothy a whole host of things he needs to be mindful of and on the lookout for in order to shepherd the flock at Ephesus to God’s glory. Paul does all of this with the encouragement to Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because he was younger. At this point Timothy was probably in his mid 30’s, certainly not a teenager, but still a younger man, and given a great deal of responsibility.
How is Timothy to go about not letting anyone look down on him because he’s young? Simply by being an example in his speech, in how he handles or conducts himself, in how he loves, in his faith and in his purity. He is to function in these areas in such a way as to not provide people any opportunity to bring accusations against him, or at least accusations that would stick! He is to be diligent in his study and teaching of the Word of God.
Now while you may not be one with the gift to teach the Word, you absolutely have the responsibility as a child of God to honor Him in the other areas mentioned.
As youth group leaders this is our challenge to you. Be examples to others, both Christian and non Christian alike. If you have younger brothers or sisters, be examples to them. Be examples of sacrificial , Christ like love to your friends and families. Set an example, even as young believers, for your older friends or relatives to emulate. Take Paul’s words to heart to “not neglect the gift you have…and to practice these things”. Immerse yourselves in the things of God so that others “may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven”. (Matt 5:16)
Regardless of your age you have a responsibility as children of God to be an example. We’re divinely blessed to have the Holy Spirit do this work in us and empower us to die daily and pick up our crosses and follow after Christ.
Over the next couple months we will be releasing a series of blog posts highlighting each of the five areas Paul tells Timothy to set an example in. Speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. Each leader will write on one topic to be shared on the website. We pray that these will be challenging, encouraging, thought provoking and ultimately helpful to further your relationship with Christ.