“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.” – I Timothy 4:12 (King James Version)
What does this Scripture mean? Even though Timothy was probably in his mid to late 30s when the apostle Paul wrote these words, they are perhaps the clearest and the most straight to the point instructions in the New Testament to guide every Christian young person.
Don’t let anyone…
- look down on you
- think little of you
- make fun of you
- treat you as if you are unimportant
- underestimate you
- or put you down just because you are young.
As a Christian young person, notice the commandment…
- Be an example to those who believe
- Be an example of one who does believe
- Be an example that is worthy to be imitated
To be more specific:
- Be an example by what you say with your words. By how you speak. And in what you teach through your words.
- Be an example by what you do; by your actions and conduct. By how you carry yourself and in the way you live your life.
- Be an example by how you love others.
- Be an example by and through the way the Holy Spirit governs you.
- Be an example by the way you live out your faith and how you instruct others in the faith.
- Be an example in your purity and integrity.
Many non-Christians presume church is for the little kids and old folks. They usually don’t take a young person’s sincere interest in God or Christianity seriously. From their perspective, teenagers should be focused on the prom, dating, parties, ball games, graduation, and going to college.
From within the church, too many “average church members” elevate the importance of worldly success, popularity, hobbies, education or a career over the spiritual education and growth of the children. We are quick to congratulate and celebrate when a young person gets an academic award or an athletic scholarship.
But if one wants to become a preacher or missionary, too many of us think to ourselves “he is going to miss out on a whole world of possibilities available to him.” A major reason many young people do not enter the ministry is because nobody is asking them or enlisting them! We don’t consciously elevate positions in ministry or the people who serve in those capacities. If we do, we tend to elevate them too high and load them down with too many unrealistic expectations.
Before you read any further, make a list of 10 words that describe teenagers or young adults. . .
1) 4) 7) 10)
2) 5) 8)
3) 6) 9)
Were most of the words you chose positive or negative in meaning? Did most of the words you chose accurately describe the young people you know personally or the young people you see in the media?
One word I especially like is “idealistic”.
Their dreams are unrestrained. They can see and believe in the possibilities. But do we see the possibilities in them?
If we do, are we taking advantage of every opportunity to lead, train and nurture them? If we do not see the potential in them, why don’t we?
Let us remember that God designed the psychological, emotional and physical changes and experiences we go through as we mature from childhood into adulthood. Young people are idealistic but their crusading spirits should not be crushed. They should be channeled and used constructively. They can be tender-hearted toward God and want to be given a chance to express their faith.
Reflecting my own personal experience, being a new believer was strange. I became a Christian at the age of 17 and most of my peers respected my convictions. But I was unprepared for the reaction and response from my church family. They were actually the ones who actively discouraged me, ignored me and dismissed me. Most did not give me a chance because of some preconceived assumptions or ideas about a young guy my age. Fortunately, two of my first mentors took me under their wings.
As I searched my Bible for young and godly people to learn from, I was both encouraged and surprised. The 9 young men listed below were the ones I looked to for comfort, affirmation and guidance. As a high school senior, they were my true heroes. I identified with the challenges they faced. The source of their strength and faith gave me hope.
Jesus is of course, is the ultimate standard. He “grew in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). He lived a righteous and obedient life before being executed in His early 30s.
John the Baptist – rough, rugged and living outside the mainstream of society. Yet he was a powerful voice for God who was beheaded when he was about 30 years old.
David was likely between 18 – 22 years old when he faced Goliath with courage and faith (I Samuel 17:31 – 58).
Notice. . .
- His oldest brother said, “You don’t belong here.”(v 28)
- King Saul questioned his ability and qualifications. (v 33)
- Goliath made fun of him (vv 41 – 44)
- But God said, “He is the one” (I Samuel 16:12b) and “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).
John Mark was a young man who made choices and learned the consequences of those choices (Acts 13:13; Acts 15:36 – 40). For some reason, when I think of a “typical” male teenager or young adult, Mark is the first Biblical personality that comes to mind.
When it came to protecting the purity of their minds and bodies, Daniel and his young friends said “no” to the king and “yes” to God (Daniel 1).
Joseph – a young man who had power, privilege, responsibility – and the opportunity of illicit sexual indiscretion (if he wanted it). But he chose to honor God (Genesis 39).
Young Timothy embraced his family’s rich spiritual heritage (Acts 16:1 – 3; II Timothy 1:5) but he knew what it was like not quite fitting in; having two parents of different ethnicities and differing spiritual heritages.
When King Josiah was 16, he began to seek after God. At the age of 20, he led a massive cleanup campaign to rid his country of all idols, religion and sex shrines and the practice of human sacrifice. For the rest of his short life, he led his people to serve and worship God. (II Kings 22, 23; II Chronicles 34, 35).
And if you think you are too young or too ordinary to be used by God, consider one of my personal favorites – Jeremiah. He emerges more as a real person (with all his questions, complaints, deep struggles, disgruntlements, internal conflicts and being misunderstood) than any other Old Testament prophet. He was a young man like King Josiah and they undoubtedly worked together to lead God’s people.
Just because you’re young does not mean you can’t make a difference (or have influence) for Jesus and His cause right now.
- Encouragement For Young People: Your Attitude Toward Becoming A Christian (rmhic.wordpress.com)
Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net