“Be Thou An Example”
I Timothy “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
Good Examples Are to Be Imitated
Paul’s admonition to the young preacher Timothy was to be an example of the believers. We all know and understand the value of an example. Parents know without doubt that the most enduring lessons they will teach their children are those that they teach by their example. Every one of us is an example for someone. Our lives are examples, patterns or blueprints for someone; even if we are not aware of those who might be following or imitating us. In order to live as we should we must follow and be only good examples. The Apostle Paul was extremely conscious of his role as an example to all those who heard him.
II Thessalonians 3:7-9 “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.”
Paul not only lived his life as an example for all of those who knew him, he asked them to imitate him:
Philippians “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”
But Paul qualified his instruction with this caveat:
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” I Corinthians 11:1
Paul instructed the Corinthian church to be a follower or imitator of him only to the extent that he followed the example of Jesus Christ. We are also given this same instruction through the pen of the apostle John:
I John 2:6 “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”
While it is necessary for every one of us to be aware that we are examples, this is especially important for those who are teachers, preachers, elders or leaders in the congregation of the Lord’s church and this includes their wives as well.
The Apostle Peter, who was an elder himself, emphasizes that elders are to be examples. They are to serve, not as lord’s over God’s people but examples.
“Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock.” I Peter 5:3
Bad Examples Are to Be Avoided
The prophets of
Isaiah “For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying,”
Jeremiah “And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me:”
We today have more bad examples that we could ever number. The Apostle James admonishes:
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4
But many people want to be friends with the world. Unfortunately many of us invite the world into our homes on a daily basis and relish its entertainment. Television and the movies in my lifetime, even most of those available on DVD, that are available to rent, have become a garbage pit for the mind. What has been called the idiot box in my generation has become a garbage box. If it were not for weather, news, a few sports programs and a very limited list of other things there would be no need for one in my home. Even that is deteriorating; during this past week the national news became so disgusting that I turned it off.
I John 2:15-17 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
Our neighbors, our teachers, our associates, our parents, our children and grandchildren all influence us. We need to be aware and wary of all things worldly and recognize the danger signals that will tell us when we are being led astray. We are to:
“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” I Corinthians 16:13
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” Ephesians 5:15
We must be careful what examples we follow but above all we must be fully aware and in control of the kind of example that we present to those around us.
An Example in Word
First of all; as Paul admonished the young preacher, that he must be an example in word. As James tells us in:
James 3:8 “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison”
And, oh, what a chore it is to control our tongues. Our tongues can create more havoc in 5 minutes than we can repair in half a lifetime. If I asked for a show of hands of those who have to deal with this problem, I would expect to see everyone present to respond, myself included. The Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesian church:
Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
We normally think of corrupt communication as that which is considered vulgar, cursing or of that nature but this is a misconception. The writer continues with a contrast corrupt speech with that which should edify, strengthen or build up, giving us a definition of corrupt as anything that does not edify, strengthen or build up.
Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”
We are to “KNOW HOW YE OUGHT TO ANSWER EVERY MAN” and with the age and experience of most of us we should, but do we? Our speech should be that which attracts, that which comforts, that which answers patiently that which is best and pertinent to the occasion. We have to work at it. The source of our words is our heart. If our heart is not right then our words won’t be right either. This is the contrast that Jesus is pointing out in:
Matthew “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
In verse 33 Jesus tells them that just as the good tree will bear good fruit, a corrupt tree will bear corrupt fruit, the fruit of the heart will be likewise:
“A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good
things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth
An Example in Our Manner of Life
We are to be an example in our “CONVERSATION” in the 17th century English of our King James Bible this is our manner of life; the way we live. Those who are looking to you as an example will follow your actions, your ways, your activities, far more often than they will follow your words. Or, as most of us were taught when we were growing up, “actions speak louder than words.” We begin again with our hearts.
Proverbs “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
Proverbs 23:7 “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.”
Our lives, our actions, our thoughts and our manner of living are shaped and controlled by what we have in our hearts.
Matthew “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.”
Evil deeds are begotten by evil thoughts; what we do springs from our intermost thoughts, wants and desires. Those things that are wrong in our lives spring from either a heart that is corrupted by this world, or one that has been overcome by the temptations of Satan. Jesus in the sermon on the mount taught us:
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6
Just as Peter admonished the elders in I Peter 5:3 we teach our children, grandchildren, neighbors, and anyone who sees us or associates with us by the example we live far more than the example we teach. One must be in harmony with the other or we are living in hypocrisy. We’re told in the sacred scripture:
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” James 3:17
An Example in Our Love
We must be an example in our love. Much is taught and much has been made concerning God’s love for mankind. But that love must be returned by our love for Him and the love our fellow man and his welfare. The welfare of our fellow man must be second in our hearts only to our love of God. When asked the question concerning the greatest of commandments Jesus answered this way:
Matthew 23:35-42 “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Are we an example to others in our love of God? Does our life reflect a deep abiding, committed love for God? Or do we stand one Sunday and sing the words to the song “Oh How I Love Jesus” and then let the slightest hindrance or interference keep us from Bible study or worship the next opportunity that we have to edify ourselves or pay homage and honor to God? What kind of example are we?
Do we come to worship God, study God’s word and then leave everything we learned, everything that we should do as God’s children behind the door when we leave the church building?
I John 5:3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”
What is our example teaching others about our love for God, his precepts and his commandments?
What is our example teaching others about our love for each other? Jesus taught us in:
John “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
By this, by what, Jesus:
John “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
It is by this, by our love for one another; that men will know that we are His disciples. We are to love one another just as Jesus loved us. What was the extent and depth of that love?
John “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
We are extremely blessed that we do not live in a day where Christians are persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, even killed simply because of their faith in God and their obedience to his commandments. Has that so watered down our concept of love that we no longer can comprehend the meaning of the words of Jesus? The influence of the world gives us a “me first” attitude. It is said that the “me” generation was the one in which I grew up with and the next one has outstripped us in saturating their lives with this attitude.
We have been so blessed in our lifetime that our entire world seems to have become addicted to their own wants, wishes and pleasures. Other people take second place and God a poor third. What is our example showing? Does it show our love for God and his commandments, or our love for ourselves and the pleasures of this world? Does our example reflect our love for others or our love for self?
An Example in Our Faith
What is our example to others in our faith in God? Our faith is generated by our learning the will, mind and love of God. Our righteousness comes through our faith:
Romans “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
This is the reason behind Paul’s writing to the Roman brethren a few verses later:
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
We are to hear the word of God, learn his purpose for putting us here on this earth, realizing that he put us here for his purposes not ours (Ecclesiastes 12:13). At the same time he gave us the free will to serve him or to refuse to serve him. But he has made special promises to those who honor him. The Psalmist records for our learning:
Psalms 9:9-10 “The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.”
Psalms 32:10 “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.”
Another not only tells us that we are blessed if we trust or have faith in God, but also tells us that if we don’t we will turn away to lies.
Psalms 40:4 “Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
This is emphasized further:
Psalms 84:5, 12 “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.” v.12 “O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.”
We are protected, bolstered against the wiles of Satan, by our shield of our faith. The apostle tells us to above all, beyond everything else that we should carry that shield of faith.
Ephesians “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”
Our example to others should be as a pillar of working faith that will carry us thorough our entire lives as faithful, working, obedient children of God. Our eternal destiny will be determined by the strength of our example of faith:
I Thessalonians 5:1-3 “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”
But the Apostle John gives us this assurance:
“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Revelation 2:10
Be An Example in Our Purity
We must be an example in our purity. That becomes harder and harder in today’s society, especially for those who are influenced by their peers, or others that they associate with in this world. Moral goodness is a rarity among many people today. All we have to do is to look around us, listen to the news reports, read our newspapers to know that the morals of this country seems to sink to a new low almost day by day. Modesty is mocked by today’s world. It seems that most of the popular clothing is so tight that we wonder how the seams hold together; much of the rest is designed to display and enhance whatever physical attributes that the people who wear it have. Though these styles of dress are mostly targeted toward young women, any of us can be guilty. Our current society is described by the wisdom of God through the seer, Agur:
Proverbs 30:12 “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.”
Among such our example must be one of purity.
Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”
Conversely those not pure in heart will not see God. The Psalmist describes those who will see God in this fashion:
Psalms 24:3-5 “Who shall
ascend into the hill of the LORD? or
who shall stand in his
Those who practice pure religion, righteous living will have no part or parcel of this world:
James “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
The completeness of our example is to follow the words of the apostle, put into our hearts and keep in our hearts the things that make for righteousness, the thoughts that are pure and wholesome in a depraved world:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8
Put these things in our hearts and minds and do not let the thoughts and cares of this world crowd them out.
Look in your mirror and ask “What kind of example am I?” Am I a good example in word, in my manner of life, the way that I live, in my love for God and my fellow man, in my faith in God, in purity from this evil world? If not then there are some changes that we need to make in our lives.