Setting the Right Example

Sam Petitfils

"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."  1 Timothy 4:12

As a preacher, and assistant to the Apostle Paul, Timothy was in a position to influence many people.  Though he was young, Paul considered him fit to lead others as a pastor.  But Paul cautioned young Timothy: do not undo everything you preach by how you live.  When we lead, whether in the home or another place, our example leads the way.  We leave our mark and imprint on everything we do. Let’s take a closer look at our verse.

“Set an example for the believers in speech.” Paul also reminded the Colossian church to have their conversation “seasoned with salt: (Colossians 4:6).  Some words impress, and some words sting.  If we want to leave an example people can learn by, let’s us speak with grace.

“in life”
“Life speaks to our overall existence before God and others, with no limitations or exceptions.  We need to remember that God and others are watching our lives and we need to make sure we walk as we should.

“in love”
Paul would earlier write, “Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14).  Love should govern our motives, tone, temper, and treatment of other people.  When we love others as Christ would have us to, we set a powerful example.

“in faith”
Trusting God should encompass all of life and can set a telling example.  For instance, how do we respond under pressure?  Do others witness in our life a child-like trust in God, or do we come apart at the seams when facing life’s uncertainties?  Let us remember that other eyes look and glean from our example.

“in purity”
Peter, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, would command us to “be holy,” just as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  The very term “saint” means holy one.  While no one can claim in this life to have achieved perfect holiness, we can “make every to live in peace with all men and to be holy” (Hebrews 12:14).  When we do so, we leave a mark on those we’re in a position to influence.

Many books and volumes have been written on the subject of leadership, and I have read my share, but no leadership can affect others without setting a positive example.  As mentioned above, we can undo what we teach by not setting the example we should.  On the other hand, many leaders who speak few words have transformed countless lives through their testimony and example.


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