You may be the only Jesus some people see…
How you carry yourself as a committed believer in Jesus Christ is as important as what you say. Francis of Assisi said, "It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching."
I’ve known many pastor’s who have strong armed authority because of their position, but there is a better way. To be people not seeking power, but living as honorable people, honest people. Paul says to the “young” Timothy (probably about age 35 – “young” is a relative term) “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example…” and then the scripture goes on to talk about simply going about your business, living the values and qualities of a leader.
GK Chesterton in a conversation said, “If a rhinoceros were to enter this restaurant now, there is no denying he would have great power here. But I should be the first to rise and assure him that he had no authority whatever.”
When I was the director of Teens for Christ for 3-4 years, 1 Tim. 4:12 was one of the favorite verses of the youth, almost like an empowerment to convince themselves they had something to offer the world. There is a fine line between pride and humility. This verse is a call to humility, a call to servant-hood, a call to overcome any perceived weaknesses and live an honorable and decent life anyway. Bottom line is that the Lord can use every one of us in spite of any “weaknesses”. For Timothy it is his youth and his passive personality. Here’s my thoughts for how this verse applies to all of us: Everybody has something they could use as an excuse for not making themselves fully available to God. Underline the word youth, in your minds eye, make it a blank. What’s your weakness? You may think you don’t speak well. I’ve said it a thousand times, but it’s true… when I was young, even in high school, other kids would make fun of me that I spoke slowly, I had to overcome the feeling of inadequacy as a speaker, now my slow and articulate pace is an asset. For some of you it’s your background, your lack of experience, we put ourselves down and so easily convince ourselves that the Lord cannot use us. When Paul says to Timothy, Don’t let anyone look down on you because of your youth,” he is talking about Timothy’s perception of himself, don’t let that be an excuse, look to God for your identity, here is a fact that you can take to the bank: there will always be people that will try and put you down, always people that will search for the weak spot in your armor, that’s how a lot of people build themselves up, by finding the weaknesses in others. You are called by God for a purpose. “Don’t let others look down on you because you are young [inexperienced, reserved, made poor choices…]
As a teenager, I used to climb Mt. Baker with my father. People would call all year long to be put on the list to go up with my father. As I got to be an older teenager, for a couple years, I started leading groups of 12-15 people up Mt. Baker myself. I remember well one particular group that was dominated by “old” guys, guys that must have been in their 40’s and 50’s. In those days I was very current with the conditions of the mountain. The open crevasses were numerous, including a crevasse very near the place where we sleep at the snowline and sleep in a tent. The week before a man fell in the crevasse and died. A week later I was leading a group of inexperienced old guys. They listened to me, but not really. The trip to the top was uneventful; I warned the guys that on the way down everyone is tired but we needed to be diligent. They half listened, because I was young, and they were old. Several hours later, when we came to the final slope, and we could see the tents a mile below, the temptation was to unrope and slide down the slope unhindered. I knew a man had just died the week before. The guys started taking off their ropes; I tried to tell them to not do that. But I was young and they were old. The temptation to have a lot of fun won out over the quiet pleadings of an 18 year old kid, and I had no choice but to watch the old guys zip off down the slope to the tents. They made it. Everyone was safe. I felt horrible because I had let them down, and the old guys didn’t even know it.
What did I learn? I took groups of guys for several more years. I did not demand leadership. I learned to work harder ahead of time with instruction and training, to let people know I knew what I was talking about and was worth following.,,
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example…” Don’t hold back in ministry because you don’t speak well, because you have a lot of baggage, because you are inexperienced, because you get nervous… “but set an example.” One person said, "You don't lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case" (Ken Kesey). Paul is saying, just jump into ministry and make a difference, don’t hold back just because somebody is critical. Some of you may have a problem with being a party person, but your desire is to change the focus of your life and make a difference for Christ…overcome by not worrying about your “reputation” and acting with honor and integrity. Quit caring so much about what other people think and be the honorable person serving the Lord Jesus Christ that you are called to be.
Everything that follows 1 Tim. 4:12 is about being bold in Timothy’s calling: don’t worry about what people think. Be an example with your speech, the words that come out of your mouth. One person in this community in the past few months has been telling me about times friends have wanted to come over for less than wholesome evenings and over and over again the person has resisted saying, “I’m not dong that anymore…” you overcome by becoming the person God wants you to be. Your speech, in your love towards others, caring about others, in your faith, listening to God, in your purity, the way you conduct yourself. Quit caring about what others think and start acting in the way you know is better and god honoring. 1 Timothy 4:13 applies specifically to Timothy, reading scripture, preaching and teaching, but the principle is clear – you start by fulfilling your responsibilities with distinction. 1 Tim. 4:14 says start practicing your spiritual gift,. Using God’s gift is far more important than limiting ourselves because somebody does not approve. Yet how often does that happen? We should talk more about spiritual gifts – think about it, too often rather than being bold in ministry by using our god given spiritual gift, we hold back because of what others might think – too young, too old, too inexperienced, too much of a checkered past, too ugly, not the right family, not good enough health…
God’s gift to you is far more important, each of you is given a gift from God, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, prophecy, service, teaching is the list from Romans 12. (See also 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4). [For a spiritual gift inventory test try: http://mintools.com/spiritual-gifts-test.htm or another one: http://www.churchgrowth.org/cgi-cg/gifts.cgi?intro=1 Here’s a list and definition of the spiritual gifts: http://ldolphin.org/rrrgifts.html ]
Be diligent Paul urges. (1 Tim. 4:15) Keep on keeping on. You show people you are changed person by living as a changed person, not telling people about your good intentions or demanding that you now be respected. “Let them see your progress…” You show the world you are living as the person God is calling you to be…. 1 Tim. 4:16 is quite similar as an emphasis: “watch your life…persevere…” Keep on keeping on. Critics will try to hold you back, they may not even be bad people, but you must remain firm in the calling of your life of Jesus Christ who has given you a spiritual gift, given you a purpose, and wants for you to live a life of integrity and honor that is making a difference to others.
Consider 1 Tim. 5:1-2. This verse is the practical alternative to 1 Tim. 4:12. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young….” Don’t get in fights, don’t feel sorry for yourself, don’t demand authority, but instead, this is how you get along “exhort the older man as if he were your father….build him up, encourage… treat younger men as brothers… people whom you love and appreciate… older women as mothers… that’s easy for me, coming from a small family and growing up in this church I have many I have considered mothers… Connie reminds me all the time she could be my mother! And the scripture today ends with the word purity. Pure motives, not manipulative, not prideful, but simply behaving as the Lord would want you to do, with sincerity and a desire to served him and make a difference to others.
You are the only Bible some people will read, you are the only Jesus some people will see. The Lord is calling you to serve him by serving others. Do not hold back because of your reputation with others or because of criticisms of others, but focus on your god given opportunities and your gift from God. Everybody has something that could hold them back from fully serving God, those feelings come from the human level, God is calling you to focus on him, his gifts, his desires, and to serve him in purity, motivated only by making a difference to others in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.