Leadership guru Ronald Heifetz once advised parents to “worry not that your child listens to you; worry most that they watch you.” Children learn by watching their parents! The apostle Paul also recognized the power of being a role model. He encouraged the Corinthians to “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
In today’s reading, Paul applies this teaching to Timothy. He encourages him to “set an example” even though he was young (v. 12). Timothy could be a godly model both in his speech and his conduct. This covers every area of observable life which should give a clear testimony to the power of the gospel. Timothy should also be a model “in love, in faith, and in purity” (v. 12). That is, he should have a relationship with Christ that results in genuine love for others.
In addition, Timothy should set the example in his dedication to Scripture. “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture,” Paul commands (v. 13). Unlike the false teachers who “devoted themselves to myths and endless genealogies” (1:4), Timothy should remain grounded in God’s truth. This task was especially vital because most believers in the ancient world would not have had a copy of the Bible, so hearing it read publicly was their main access to it.
Paul recognized that Timothy had been given a spiritual gift to serve the church. By faithfully exercising that gift, Timothy could “save both [himself] and your hearers” (v. 16). Biblically, the word “salvation” can serve as a shorthand for the entire process of conversion, sanctification, and ultimate glorification. Timothy served a vital role by teaching Scripture to help people grow in their walk with Christ.
>> As a parent, I have become acutely aware that my children are influenced by my example. Each of us has the opportunity to be an example of faith to those around us. Consider today the people who are watching you. How can you model godliness to them?
Are you an example to somebody? You may be, without even realizing it. That’s why it’s important to follow Paul’s admonition to Timothy: “Watch your life and your doctrine closely” (1 Tim. 4:16). Lord, help us to be a godly example.