Scripture Reflections @ CEC (8/24/20)
Reading the Bible is not where your engagement with the Bible ends. It’s where it begins.
Michael Heiser (The Bible Unfiltered)
Scripture & Devotion: Scriptural focus: 1 Timothy 4:12-13, 15-16
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching, and to teaching… Be diligent in these matters; give yourselves wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Setting an example
You may remember a TV commercial from several years ago where a prominent professional basketball player declared, “I am not a role model.” You may also remember the backlash that ensued as a result of that remark. The controversy involved whether public figures such as professional athletes, politicians, and others in positions of high visibility are automatic “role models” by virtue of their authority, their popularity, or their fame, and whether or not they have a responsibility to conduct themselves privately and publicly in a manner befitting such widespread esteem.
Writing to his young friend, Timothy, Paul makes it clear in this passage that the standards which a person upholds in day-to-day living are more important than his/her age. He mentions several specific areas in which believers of all ages should strive to set a good example, beginning with speech. In my research, I looked up several speech-related words in my concordance. Without including the chapter and verse references (which would make this entry too long for a short devotional), scripture advises us to keep our word, use words carefully, be gracious in our speech, know when to speak and when to listen, think before speaking, not use vulgar speech or swear, avoid spreading rumors, and stay away from disputes, among a host of other prudent practices. Our speech has great power to reveal what is in our hearts. As such, it can impact our witness in vastly positive or negative ways.
What does it mean to “set an example in life”? I think it means to strive to do what is right in all circumstances according to the guidelines we find in scripture. It means to be honest, trustworthy, reliable, dependable, hard-working, and responsible in all our dealings with others, whether they involve our home life, our work or professional life, our social life, or any arena in which we move. It means to watch our temper, to stay away from questionable influences that may tempt us to sin, to be a faithful spouse, a loving parent, a dutiful son/daughter, a caring brother/sister/friend. At heart, it means to reflect Christ in every aspect of our lives, which is a true and daily challenge.
Setting an example “In love” means practicing kindness, compassion, and a spirit of acceptance toward others, regardless of their gender, race, socio-economic situation, political opinion, or any other element of difference that might potentially come between people or create contention. Practicing godly character should enable us to see beyond a sinful deed to the soul behind it, someone who is most likely acting out of ignorance, fear, anger, or frustration. This is what Jesus did when he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Christ’s love is the standard for us to follow in our homes, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our nation, and our world.
As for faith, setting an example means knowing that God is who he says he is, our Creator and sustainer, and acting like we believe it. There are practical ways to set a faithful example: maintaining regular devotions, studying the scriptures, praying, participating in worship activities, and giving of our time, talents, abilities, and financial resources. But faith is often tested, especially when loss, hardship, or heartache enter our lives. The hard truth is that, in any given moment, we either live consistent with our faith or contrary to it. Trusting God is most difficult when we feel as though our life is falling apart, when we are overwhelmed by fear or sadness, or when hope is hard to come by and we can’t see an end to pain. At times like these, when we are most vulnerable to despair, that we need to hang onto faith like a lifeline, both for ourselves and as an example to others who may be undergoing struggles of their own. Paul advises us to, “Persevere, because if you do, you may save both yourself and your hearers.”
Most people who hear the word “purity,” the last of the areas Paul mentions in this passage, probably think of it in sexual terms and associate it with prohibitions against pornography, pre-marital sex, extra-marital affairs, etc. But in a technology-driven world like ours, there are temptations to other types of impurity as well, especially when television, movies, and the Internet offer (and sometimes advocate) a wide variety of opportunities to feed desires and fantasies of many kinds. Money-making schemes, scams, and other dishonest practices entice people to become involved; vices and addictions impair judgment, often with catastrophic results. This passage of scripture reminds us to be alert for anything that might cause us to stray from God’s path, potentially causing harm to ourselves or others and compromising our ability to serve effectively.
Paul encourages Timothy to “be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.” He knows that, as Christians, we are all “role models”, whether we feel comfortable with or intimidated by that idea. The Bible attests that God has chosen throughout history to work through his people as a conduit for his glory. Even in our flawed humanity, we can still hold forth the standards set by our Lord. Someone watching may be in need of such an example.
We are reminded that, for some reason,You have chosen to work through us, Your people, to reach the world for You - to be role models of what it looks like to live for You. The joy You bring. The peace. Help us to be Your called out people no matter where we find ourselves!