The Exemplary Life.
1 Timothy 4:6-16
Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. – 1 Timothy 4:12 NLT
Our lives are meant to make a difference. But not in the way that the world would have us believe. In this age, the sign of significance is measured in assets, popularity, job title, income, the neighborhood we live in, the kind of car we drive, or even the number of friends we have on Facebook. We live to impress. We exist to consume. We long to make a different in the world, but the terms by which we measure the success of our contribution can be shallow and exceedingly temporal. Paul would have Timothy use a different standard. He wanted this young man to keep his eyes focused on what really mattered, so he gave him a few basic tips to living a life that truly makes a difference.
First, he tells him to teach. Paul wanted Timothy to take what he was learning and share it with those all around him. Knowledge that is never shared is wasted. Wisdom that is never passed on to others ends up being selfish and senseless. Paul’s letter to Timothy wasn’t meant for him alone. Paul’s intention was that Timothy teach the truths contained within it to those under his care. He told him to “explain these things to the brothers and sisters.” He challenged him to “teach these things and insist that everyone learn them.” The truths of God’s Word are meant to be shared, not horded. We are to pass on what we learn.
Secondly, Timothy was to train. And Paul was quite specific when it came to the kind of training he was talking about. Paul said, “train yourself to be godly.” The Greek word Paul uses is gymnazō and it means “to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind.” It is the word from which we get gymnasium. Paul was expecting Timothy to put effort into his pursuit of the spiritual life. Godliness is to be our goal in life, not material success, financial reward, physical health, or personal fulfillment. Paul reminds Timothy that he will receive far greater benefits from the pursuit of a healthy and vibrant spiritual life than he ever will from getting into better shape. Godliness has both temporal and eternal ramifications for the life of the believer. We benefit in the here-and-now as well as the hereafter.
Third, Paul tells Timothy to typify what a believer looks like. He was to be an example of godliness to those around him – in every area of his life. In the way he lived, in his love, his faith, and through a life of purity. Purity includes sexual purity and integrity of heart. The Christian life is to be a holistic life – with no compartmentalization. In other words, there are no hidden or secret areas where the light of God’s transformative power does not shine. Timothy’s godliness was to touch every area of his life and it was to be a clear model of Christ-likeness to all those around him. And Timothy’s young age was to have nothing to do with it. Godliness is ageless. It has nothing to do with the number of years we spend on this planet. But it has everything to do with the amount of time we spend in the Word, with the Lord, and submitted to the Holy Spirit. Godliness is to be lived out for other to see.
Paul gives Timothy one final charge: “Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:15-16 NLT). Timothy was to teach others, train himself and typify the life of a believer. And he was to throw his entire energy into making this a reality in his life. The Christian life is not to be a half-hearted life. It’s a full-time job that requires our constant attention. We have to regularly examine how we’re doing and assess our spiritual well-being. There is no room for complacency or contentment with the status quo. There will be constant distractions along the way. We will be tempted to become satisfied with where we are and how far we’ve come. But Paul warned Timothy that the goal will not be realized on this earth. Our salvation will be consummated in heaven, not here. This life is not to be all there is. This world is not out home – we’re just passing through on our way to somewhere better. Our salvation awaits our glorification. That is our ultimate goal and objective. That’s why Paul told Timothy to train himself for godliness. Eventually, our godliness will be complete. We will be done with all the training. We will be finished with the race and done with all the exercise. John reminds us, “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). That day is coming. But in the meantime, we are to teach, train and typify. So let’s get busy!
Father, give us focus. Help us to not lose sight of the goal – our godliness. It is so easy to let the things of this earth distract and derail us doing what You have called us to do. We need to be about teaching Your truth, training ourselves for godliness and typifying for the world around us what a true Christian looks like. May we take these tasks seriously. May we pursue them diligently – until You call us home or Your Son returns. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men