Youth, No Barrier to Faithfulness (1 Timothy 4:12)
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. —1 Timothy 4:12
In the mid ‘80s I attended a trade school to study electronic technologies. I, like most of the student body, had just finished high school and chose this school and program to prepare for my first “real” job. A smaller percentage of the students were made up of older adults looking for a career change. This was my first experience having peers that were much older. I quickly realized that age and behavior were not as directly tied together as I had thought. In many cases the behavior of the younger students was far better than many of the older ones.
Behavior really mattered to the apostle Paul. In his instruction to Timothy, the young man (or should I say pastor) leading the Ephesian church, Paul wrote, “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God…” (1 Timothy 3:14-15).
In our memory verse this week, Paul identified five areas that Timothy needed to excel in if he was to be an effective, albeit young, pastor. Not only his faith and love, but also his behavior were to be of such quality that they would serve as a good example to all believers, of all ages.
When young pastors and leaders exemplify these things, they give no reason for the older, more seasoned saints to despise them. On the contrary, pastors lose credibility when their conduct does not match the truth of God’s Word they proclaim to their congregations.
One commentary noted that 1 Timothy 4:16 is a restatement of 4:12: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” According to Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, “Without true and efficient teaching, the pure and upright life of the Christian pastor will fail to win souls for his Master; and, on the other hand, the most efficient instruction will be of no avail unless the life corresponds to the words publicly uttered."
Most of us are not pastors and many of us are not leaders–but all believers should embrace this verse’s challenge. The outward effectiveness of our faith is inseparable from how we live our lives.
Have you had good examples of young Christian leaders in these five areas? If so, praise God.
How can Paul’s list in verse 12 inform your prayers for your leaders?
Do you struggle in any of these areas? Read about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, and the role of the Holy Spirit in your growth in faith, love, speech, conduct and purity. Ask a faithful fellow believer to pray with you about growing in areas where you struggle.
Brian Eaton is director of operations for Truth78. He enjoys teaching children and youth in the classroom and he seeks to encourage Bible memorization through the Fighter Verses Program.