Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.1 Timothy 4:12-14 NIV
Timothy is instructed to set an example for the believers. Set an example for them in what you say, what you do, in how you love and in the way you live out your faith. Timothy was serving in a highly visible role of leadership within the church at Ephesus when Paul wrote this, and it might be tempting to dismiss this instruction as only applying to those in leadership. But that would be a mistake.
Yes, we may not be preachers or teachers or in some other visible public role within the life of the church. But we should all be trying to live out the life of Christ in all we do or say. No matter who you are, or your position within the body of Christ, there are always those who look to you, those you influence with your words and life. Be an example to them of what Christ has called us to be.
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself 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.1 Timothy 4:15-16 NIV
Paul follows up his direction to Timothy with an encouragement to be diligent in being an example and in carrying out your function within the body of Christ. And that is something for me to take to heart as well. Being an example is not just something I should do when I am feeling like it, or when others are watching. Being diligent and giving myself “wholly to them” indicates this should be something that I work at continuously.
So that everyone may see your progress. Seldom can I read this phrase without some pangs of conviction. Have I visibly grown in the faith in the past month, year, decade? Or am I standing still, just treading water, keeping a foot in both worlds. The change was indeed visible as a young believer 40+ years ago. But why can I not continue to progress in a way that will cause others to take notice and be encouraged to do likewise?
Give yourself over to God. Let him do his work in your life. Let him clean you up. Let him grow you. Get to know him more and more intimately. Every day draw closer to him. While those around may not be able to see the difference in a day or a week, as the years go by you should become more and more transparent, fading from sight and letting God’s glory shine out from you.