7 Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly.8 “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 9 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10 This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.
11 Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. 12 Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13 Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.
1 Timothy 4:7-13
Perhaps I just don't like being put in a box. Or perhaps I'm just stubborn, but that line of thinking has never sat well with me. And then this passage was pointed out to me.
In 1 Timothy 4:7-13, Paul speaks with Timothy and gives him a great deal of direction. Paul is known for being like a spiritual father figure to Timothy. Part of Paul's instruction concerns a number of things not to do, but it also includes a list of things Paul encourages Timothy to do.
1. "Dont let anyone think less of you because you are young."
Looking back throughout my life, I am greatly blessed that God has let me be a part of so many things that I never would have believed that I could have been a part of. I'll get into that another time, but I cannot even begin to count the number of times where I have seen students do and say the profound and amazing. As a kid, there was a tv show that focused on the life of a child genus who became a doctor. Today, students can enter college earlier. Some will even dual enroll in high school and college. I have seen middle school students memorize pages of information. Some put together phenominal literary, musical, or scientific projects. I have seen elementary school students expound on ideas from scripture that some adults have difficulty sharing.Ther can be great benefits when it comes to age, but in and of itself, age does not have to be an obstacle for a person to accomplish much or to lead.
How much does age play into how you judge people?
What limits or restrictions do you put on yourself because of age?
What kind of limits or restrictions do you place on others because of age?
2. "Be an example to all believers"
This encouragement that Paul gives to Timothy is not limited to his interaction with younger people or to people who are new to faith. I once had a professor who said thatwhen it comes to scripture, "all means all and that's all 'all' means". It took quite a while for that to connect with me, but getting a full picture that a younger believer could be an example to ALL believers, new believers, young believers, growing believers, mature believers, old believers, I feel like I can get surprised every day if I am paying attention. My daughter shared her testimony once when she was seven in a way that was concise, but full. I have seen and heard students of all ages ask questions or make statements that cause people with their doctorates, stop and take notice.
When you look at your life, who would follow your example? Who would shy away from your example? Why?
WHo are some older examples you are happy to follow who are older than you? Who is around your age? Who is younger than you? Why do you see them as an example?
3. "in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity."
From a recent picture of a young 6th grader named Cayden standing alone for this year's See You At The Pole, to Biblical examples of young people leading like Samuel as he is called to call out the High Priest, there are countless ways that Students have and can make a difference.
When it comes to your speech, your lifestyle, who and how you love, what and how you show faith, and how you express purity, which of these components of your life, would people see as a good example? Which of these would be a good representation of Christ if you were to look at your own life? Which of these would be a bad or a poor example? How might you change that?
4. "Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church"
There was a time when my whole family did a mission trip together and my oldest was seen reading his Bible several times every day, just because. He was 10 at the time and periodically I see him still doing that. On that particular trip it intensely affected the whole team. A year ago, we had a young family in our church post a video where the daughter quoted a chaper of scripture as this family started off their day. As people watched this post, people of all ages were encouraged, challenged and periodically, convicted. We never know what a portion of scripture will do unless we do something with it.
When was the last time that you opened up the Bible 'just because?'
When was the last time you read from the Bible aloud?
When was the last time you hear a student read from the Bible?
5. "encouraging the believers"
Several times a year, we give our students opportunities to write letters and notes of encouragement to others.I was recently reminded of a student who wrote a small hand made Valentine to several people. One person who recieved that handwritten encouragement had been pondering suicide that day. Another person who recieved a note was a pastor who shared with me that he carries that in his wallet to help keep him encouraged when he struggles. I have seen a great number of educators, medical and ministry personnel who have saved and even posted notes and letters of encouragement because of how much that they valued them.
When was the last time you recieved a letter or a note of encouragement?
When was the last time that you wrote a letter or a note of encouragement?
To someone older?
To someone younger?
6. "and teaching them."
I don't think it is often where students are seen teaching in church. I think this is a little ironic because of the number of projects, presentations, reports and other things that students are required to do in school. Why is it that we tend to push really intensely at school, but do very little in comparison in church? There was once a tv show called 'Kids say the darndest things', where children might say something cute or intensely profound. In ministry, we have had a number of students share both in small groups as well as periodically in large group settings. There are many times where I find myself having to stop and ponder as a student may bring new perspective or even new life to something I may have read a number of times previously. I once heard that parents are encouraged to get on their hands and knees before having a child to change their perspective as they try to 'Babyproof' their home. A different perspective can bring new life, new understanding and even new drive when it comes to learning.
When was the last time you heard a student teach?
If you are a student, when was the last time that you taught?
Paul gives a number of instructions and encouragements to Timothy and as this elder pours into this younger leader, this does not seem to be an isolated incident. This also does not seem to be something that Timothy immediately perfected. It seems like Timothy had made a great deal of progress.
As I personally try to juggle my own life, I feel that student leaders are an incredible part of a leadership team. I have a number of students who are more than proficient in social media, tech, science, math, history, and sometimes even politics or practical theology. Getting everyone in the right place and at the same time, does not typically happen by accident though. As a group, we have to be intentional.
If you are an adult leader, how much to you actually give to your students?
If you are a student leader, how often you you actually take the opportunity to step out and lead?
How many opportunities are actually open in your ministry?