"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 (ESV)
Often times it can become discouraging when you are under a certain age, because often times people don't take you seriously. I have heard with my very own ears the words, "People under the age of 35 don't know anything, and don't know what they are doing." in terms of Christianity. I have also heard, "People under the age of 35 are incapable of making their own decisions." and many, many more that I don't have enough room to mention here. In fact, it's not only me who has heard these things said. I have several friends who have experienced similar things. Maybe you have, too. Now, I'm not saying that everyone thinks this way, but sometimes it does seem that a lot of people look down on younger Christians, simply because we are younger. How do we rise above this? How do we show people who look down on us simply because we were younger than them that we aren't any less of a person than them? 1 Timothy 4:12, as we have seen above, tells us how.
1. With our speech. Our speech is very important to our Christian walk. We cannot be Christians without speaking like one. James 3:1-12 speak about how powerful the tongue really is. Like a rudder on a ship, (verse 4) it can be used to steer you into a war, or direct you out of it. "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." according to Proverb 25:11. Words are where a lot of our influence comes from. The words that we speak of others speak more about us than of them. If we set a proper example in our speech, that will give others a lot of respect for us. Not only speaking well of others, but also what we speak of. How often do you talk about God to your friends? How often do you tell other about Jesus? How often do you discuss the Bible? Could it be more? It's important that we always speak of things that are good and perfect.
2. In our conduct. Anyone can say that they are a Christian, but how you act is crucial to give others a good impression. Not just in public, but in private, as well. Matthew 6:7 says, "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words." When we serve God, it's important that we don't do it just to make ourselves known, but because we genuinely want to serve God. Have you ever had a role model that turned out to be a big fake? Did you have much respect for that person after that? I'm assuming not. If our motives are not pure, then we will show this in our actions. It is crucial that we have actions that match our words, and that serve God, not man.
3. With love. There are countless passages and verses about love. 1 Corinthians 13 is where we get the definition of love, but there are so many other passages that describe it, as well, such as Luke 6:35, Mark 12:31, Romans 13:10, and several, several others. It is our job as Christians to treat everyone with love and respect. Not only do the things we say about others speak more of us than of them, but also the way we treat others. If we do not treat others with love and respect, then they will see that as well, and see you as an example.
4. With our faith. How strong is your faith? Do you know? Faith is one of those things that we often think about, but tend to forget to consider. We see a lot of things about taking leaps of faith, having faith, and being faithful, but we forget what faith really is and what it really means. Faith is not taking a jump into the dark, but knowing that God is there, and that the promises He has made for us will come true, because we have proof. But how good is your faith? If someone were to tell you right now that you would die in four days, how freaked out would you be? Obviously somewhat because naturally, we are scared of death. Even Jesus wanted to avoid death (Matthew 26:39). It's human instinct. But do you know where you would go? Would you be unsure? Why? If we lack faith, it will show in our lives, and in our walk with Christ. So how is your faith?
5. With our purity. Not only is this speaking of David and Bathsheba type situations, but also, pure in your religion, pure in your faith, pure in your speech, actions, thoughts, and everything else. When we allow imperfect things into our lives, it is clear. Black contrasts greatly over white, as does sin over perfection. How can we set others an example if we are not completely pure in our thoughts? If we are not completely pure in our speech? Our worship? It's crucial that we stay as pure and as perfect as we can. Not because we should expect perfection out of ourselves, but strive for it, as everyone should.
Today, I would like to encourage you all to look at these things in your life, and ask yourself if you are being a good example in them. Not because you are doing them to draw attention to yourself, but to God. Our lives should be spent trying to show others to God, not to ourselves. Today I would like to encourage you to remember these things, and to always set yourself as an example. You never know who is watching.