“These are the things you must insist on and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”
~1 Timothy 4:11-12 (NRSV).
Timothy in context, we’re probably aware, was thought historically to be a relatively young and timid man.
Paul is found imploring him to move forward in faith and become the model of Christian leadership, among an older demographic.
The very first thing that might have smacked Timothy in the face—in “insisting on” and teaching these ‘more mature’ (i.e. in years) believers—is he’s to be the very polished example to them.
His godliness is to exceed theirs, especially in these ways:
“Speech and Conduct” – Wisdom for When the Rubber Hits the Road
His speech and conduct (i.e. observable behaviour) were to be beyond reproach. Here he must approach wisdom; indeed, he needed to pray for wisdom as if his life depended on it. He couldn’t afford a shaky credibility.
To reverse the status quo—the believers’ looking down on him—wisdom was the only thing in his repertoire which could truly help him achieve what Paul (and hence God) were requiring of him.
Love – Always the Final Test
Nothing compares to love. Without everything else—alone with love—life stands the test of time; love is the ace. Many abandon love for the more transferrable issues of observance—truth, for instance. Truth is alluring when your craft is truth; but truth is not everything!
When we slip, ever so slightly, gunning for truth to the detriment of the grace of love, we fail, and then only momentarily afterwards we see we’ve been duped.
Timothy must’ve ensured that he melded his love with his wisdom, knowing when to battle in truth, and more so, how!
Faith – the Necessary Component for Survival
At the tougher end of the spectrum, faith always helps us survive. It’s our ticket to ride to the next day. So, in context then, faith would be a kindly brother to Timothy on his chilly mornings and long evenings where the reception-of-fellowship would otherwise fail him.
All leaders find themselves ostracised every now and then; it’s a function of the furnace of finding—the consequent nature of putting the foot gently down; the team member scolded, hurt in their pride. It’s part of being part of the team but it’s also part of being apart from the team.
Faith would get Timothy through the doubting times; encouragement welled in the Lord for those times of need.
Purity for When There’s No Place to Hide
Purity, then, is pressed hard after all these. Purity is the absolute essence of the Presence of the Lord. Purity is the key test of true versus false asceticism. The test of the true teacher versus the false was (and is) how they live(d) their lives.
These combined are a lesson for us. If we love God we will seek to lead by actual divination of the call that God has placed on our heart—appropriate to God’s timing and way.
It doesn’t truly matter what we know or don’t know—all this will be added to us (Matthew 6:33). It is how we operate—the outworking of our characters—that is the chief test. Per Timothy, this is a great encouragement to us in our ‘youth,’ as we step out with God.
And these five—speech and conduct, love, faith and purity—are an excellent place to begin (and continue!).
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.