(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)
No matter how old you are nor how long you’ve been a Christian, it’s your job to be a good example whether you are with Christians or non-believers. Your choices and lifestyle reflect what is in your heart. Do these things encourage or discourage your fellow Christians?
If we want to see the church stand firm tomorrow, we need to be a solid example of faith today. How do we shine our light to each other?
1) Serve God while Young
Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
~ 1 Timothy 4.12, NKJV
Often, those who become Christians while they are young have this subconscious idea that they aren’t there to serve, but be served. We need to abolish this concept. Do they still need a lot of instruction? Absolutely! But they also need to learn to be servants, trained to be leaders, and made aware of the impact of their example.
The above scripture was written by Paul the Apostle to Timothy, a young evangelist. I do not know how much of a youth Timothy was when this was written. I assume he was under 40, maybe even under 30 since most prophets began their ministry around 30. (If you know, please mention it in the comments!) Notice the six ways that Paul commands this young man to be an example (those of us who are older can bear this in mind too!):
#1: In Word
What do you talk about? Is it all about you? Do you use profanity in your speech? When you speak, do you ever talk about the things of God or is it all about worldly concerns? Set a guard over your mouth, and be an example in what you say.
#2: In Conduct
How do you behave? Are you short-tempered? Patient? Friendly? Aloof? Proud? Be mindful of your manners.
#3: In Love
How do you demonstrate love to others? Do you just pat them on the shoulder and say, “I’ll pray for you?” or do you take interest in their concerns and needs, offering help whenever you have the opportunity?
There is a vast misconception of what constitutes love. The millennial generation tends to think that love is lending “support” or “approval” to someone no matter what their choices. That is not love. Love seeks the best for the other person and sometimes that means telling them to their face that they are wrong.
#4: In Spirit
#5: In Faith
How are you demonstrating your faith? Do you put God first?
#6: In Purity
When we encourage younger people not to spend time alone with the opposite sex, it’s not because we are a bunch of prudes; it’s because we are well aware of the temptations, having faced them (and sometimes failed) ourselves. Are you dressing appropriately? Are you putting yourself in compromising situations? Are you striving to keep yourself pure?
In a world that shouts, “flaunt it if you’ve got it” and “do what feels good,” you encourage other Christians—older and younger—when you buck this trend. Go against the grain, swim upstream and be an example of purity!
2) Be an example as you age
As I am over the age of 30 now, I guess I fall into the “middle-aged” category. I’m not technically old, but I am not considered young either. This is the time of life in which I need to be mindful of how to age gracefully. Notice what Paul writes to Titus:
But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine:
that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience;
the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
~ Titus 2.1-5, NKJV
As we get older, are we demonstrating these things to our fellow Christians?
3) Don’t lead the hypocrite parade.
Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I [Paul] withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
~ Galatians 2.11-13, NKJV
Imagine for a moment dropping a small stone in a still pond. What happens? The stone hits the water and ripples spread out from that spot, disrupting the stillness of the water, pushing leaves and any other floating matter around. Now, what would happen if you dropped a giant rock in that same pond? You’d get more than ripples, you’d make waves!
Peter was like a huge stone, when he made a decision, it made waves, not merely ripples. Look how many people followed his hypocrisy!
Don’t lead the hypocrite parade. It matters not how big a stone you are, even if your ripples affect only one person, you might lead that one person astray by your example.
4) Take a stand for what is right
In that same account, Paul confronts Peter in his error. It had to be done publicly because it was affecting all of those people. Paul took a stand for truth, even if it meant being unpopular:
But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all,
“If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
~ Galatians 2.14-16, NKJV
If you want to be a good example, stand firm in the truth. Be willing to go to people—lovingly—and help them correct their error. In Peter’s case, it had to be handled publicly and immediately, but more often than not, issues ought to be addressed privately.
In the first part of the passage, it says “I withstood him to his face.” If someone is in error, we need to go to them first. Don’t be a gossip and slander the individual behind their back. Bring the issue to them and give them the opportunity to correct it.
This is not a pleasant task. If you take pleasure in correcting people, then I suggest you stop for awhile, because odds are, you are not seeking the best for that person. I do not enjoy discipling my kids—it’s unpleasant, inconvenient, and painful for both of us. I’ll tell you what I do enjoy—seeing the positive change it brings about in their behavior. Do you see the difference? I stand firm—disciplining when necessary—because I want their best.
5) Immerse yourself in the word and devote yourself to prayer
To know what we ought to do as children of God, we need to be in constant study of the word, and asking for God’s help in prayer. These are habits we need to engage in every day until the Lord calls us home. We will never “know it all” or “be perfect.” Until we are in heaven, we will be wrestling with the powers of this world. Continue to put on the armor of God!
What other ways can we be an example to each other? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!