"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Instead, set an example for the believers through your speech, behavior, love, faith, and by being sexually pure.”
1 Timothy 4:12 CEB
It was a mild fall afternoon in Brandon and we were waiting in the car line at the high school. There were dozens of cars waiting to pick up their students after a day of school. Usually the students were more than ready to get out of the school and parking lot. The parents were not longing to spend any more time in the sea of cars than necessary. However, some people were a little more anxious to leave than others. Some would get downright aggressive in their desire to be first, or next, in line. On this day one of the parents got particularly aggressive with me. Somehow, she thought I had hindered her progress or disrespected her right to be next. She proceeded to pull up next to me and honk her horn while extending a certain finger into the air in my direction. The windows were down and you could also hear her using some choice language to express her displeasure with me. This continued until we both exited the parking lot onto the main street and she sped away in anger. I remember her actions, attitude and demeanor vividly to this day. I believe others who were there that day may also remember this person. That day she chose to set an example for all to see and remember.
Once you set an example you cannot hide it. Your words, actions, love (or lack of) are on display for everyone to see. Your example cannot be taken back either. Over the next four years I saw her in car line often. I have no idea if the woman I mentioned above had any regrets after that day. Her daughter was in the car with her and both of my daughters were in the car with me. There were dozens of other parents and students observing this example. I have often wondered what the students all thought about her behavior, especially her own daughter. I know my girls were embarrassed if I played the radio too loud when picking them up. I also don’t know what had been happening in the woman’s life to have her respond the way she did. I really did pray for her that day. One thing I know for sure … this woman’s example was not a positive one. She chose to behave poorly, use corrosive and toxic language, and not be loving toward another person. In fact, in my car we discussed how important it is to NOT respond in that way. We talked about how it was not worth getting that upset about something so little. It is said that we lead by example and I believe this was a poor leadership moment. I have to believe that given another chance she would have liked to respond differently.
There is great influence in our example. It can either be negative or positive—it’s our choice. There is tremendous influence in a positive, godly example. This is what Paul is telling Timothy in the verse above. Timothy is to command and teach certain things to the church in Ephesus. Paul knows that some will look down on Timothy just because of his age. Due to this, Paul reminds Timothy to not just command and teach, but to set an example for the believers. Paul knows firsthand the power of a positive, godly example. Paul goes on to say, “Practice these things, and live by them so that your progress will be visible to all.” It is important for all believers—those who follow Jesus—to understand the influence of a positive, godly example. In the Bible, we think of people like Abraham, Isaac, David, Solomon, Ruth, Esther, Deborah, Isaiah, Elijah, Peter, John, Paul and many more. We are all called to do our very best to live a positive, godly example in all things and everywhere. We do this through our words, actions, love, faith, and purity. Our example equals our influence for God.
What example will you set today? I’m sure that you will be presented with many opportunities today to respond to situations as they come up. Will you choose to set a positive, godly example from the start? I truly believe it is a choice we make every day—many times a day. You have a chance to influence those around you through your example. The One who gave his life for you chose this every day of his earthy life. Christ lived the example for all of us of the tremendous influence of a positive, godly life. Will you follow the example of Christ today in your life? It’s a choice to decide what example you will set today.
The greatest influence you may have is the example you set for others this day. May we all set a positive, godly example for all to see God’s glory in us.
This Sunday we continue the message series entitled Influence: A Study of 1 Timothy. We will discuss the influence of example. I hope you will join us this week and every week as we dive into God’s Word. The best is yet to come at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!