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1 Timothy 4-5: 5 Keys to Keep Others from Despising Your Youth

emokidsI don’t know how many times I have heard people my age (for I am still a youth) and younger whine and moan with I Timothy 4:12 on their tongues. “Oh, you awful old people. You’re not supposed to despise my youth.” But these whiny fits miss the point of Paul’s statement. He was not telling Timothy to direct from on high that no one was allowed to despise him for his youth no matter how youthful he acted. Rather, he was telling Timothy what he needed to do so no one would despise his youth. In fact, he immediately provides 5 keys to keep others from despising his youth.

1) Be an example

Specifically, Paul told Timothy to set an example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. If we don’t want folks despising our youth then we need to exemplify mature Christianity even though we are young. We need to speak in mature ways, live in mature ways, love in mature ways, believe with maturity and show mature purity. This connects with the command elsewhere to flee youthful lusts. Let’s face it. Paul’s point is if we don’t want people to despise our youth, then don’t act like a youth. 

Here is the key. If we talk rashly and carelessly, without thinking… If we behave impulsively… If we love selfishly… If we believe shallowly… And if we stain our purity with thoughtless arguments about personal liberty, then our older brethren are going to look at us and say, “Your young, you don’t understand.”

2) Give attention to reading, exhortation and teaching the Scripture.

This is a statement about personal humility. Too often, we young people are not actually focused on reading, exhorting or teaching based on the Scripture. Rather, we have a point we want to make because we think we have figured something out that no one before us ever has. Then we go searching about for a Scripture to make it fit.

If we want our older brethren to honor us despite our youth, our words and teaching must be based on Scripture not the latest self-help book or the newest scholarly treatise even if it is from a respected theologian. I know I have been one of the worst violators of this principle. I love self-help books. Certainly, we can gain some insight into scriptural ideas. However, when we teach we have to make sure what we speak is the oracles of God, not Covey, Maxwell, Blanchard or Warren.

3) Use your gifts

Based on my understanding of other texts and the passing on of miraculous gifts through laying on of apostles hands, I do not believe this passage refers to miraculous gifts of the Spirit. Rather, I think this refers to the gift of the ministry and authority that the elders who had charge over Timothy granted him because of the prophecy the Spirit had revealed to them about Timothy. The reason he had the opportunity to be an evangelist and work at Ephesus was because of this gift.

Therefore, I believe Paul’s point is not to squander the opportunity given him. The elders had put trust in him. They expected him to do good work and so they had granted him a measure of authority and ministry. In much the same way that Paul had said deacons who do their job well gain a good standing, if we young people will use the opportunities given to us by our leaders, we will also develop a good standing. Our older counterparts will not despise our youth when they recognize that we use what abilities, opportunities and resources we have been granted well. If we squander what we have now, why should they give us more?

4) Make progress through devotion

Sadly, we young people can sometimes think we have already reached the mountaintop. Oh, we pay lip service to the fact that we have room to grow. However, we have the idea that really we are pretty much as good as it gets and if everyone else no matter their age would be more like us they would be really spiritual. Paul’s statement here demonstrates that we have some real room to grow. It also demonstrates that the older folks have been through exactly what we have been through. They know what we have experienced and they have come out on the other side. They can tell when we are maturing and when we are not.

We need to devote ourselves to the keys Paul is mentioning. When we do, we will grow. We will progress. We will actually climb toward the real mountaintop and those who are already closer will actually be able to see our progress. They will, therefore, no longer despise our youth.

If, on the other hand, we continue in the mindset of our own greatness and maturity, those who really are more mature than us will be able to see our immature pride and arrogance. They will despise our youth, but they won’t be the ones sinning.

5) Watch your teaching

There is something about being young that says we need to come up with something new. The young seem to believe they only justify their existence in the body of Christ if they figure out something no one else has yet been able to realize. Granted, I realize everyone has room to grow and we may in fact have a spiritual breakthrough that is novel and true at the same time. The problem is with this mindset, we can very easily lose sight of what we really need to be teaching. We need to teach the truth that has been passed down to us from the word of God. It is not our job to find new things. It is our job to pay attention to what we are teaching and make sure it is in line with what has been passed on from Paul, the apostles and prophets of the New Testament. 

As young people, we definitely need to take care. If we have studied and believe we have figured out some truth that others have missed, we need to take great care before we go hog wild passing it on. We may not be the first to think the way we do. Some of our older brethren may have already “discovered” our new teaching and in their maturity know why it doesn’t mesh with the word of God.

Again, the point is not that we never branch off with some “new” teaching, but that we take care and watch what we teach. We are not teaching to show off our mental prowess. We are teaching to help folks glorify God and go to heaven. Let’s keep that as our goal and we won’t be enamored with introducing folks to some new teaching, approach or practice unless there is real reason to do so.

Don’t let people despise your youth. But don’t approach it as a demand to simply not despise you no matter how you act. Live in such a way that folks won’t despise you because you are acting youthful. 

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 17, 2008 Posted by | Growth, I Timothy | , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Peter 1-2: God’s Tests Show Me Where to Work

On Saturday, I had a heart to heart with my oldest daughter. She had to take an online quiz for a class she is taking. Her first time through, she didn’t do so well and became very upset because she knew her teacher would see it. That was when I explained to her the purpose of tests. The purpose of the test is not to do really, really well and impress the teacher. The purpose of the test is simply to see which parts of the class she has already learned and which parts she needs to study harder. Granted, I get the fact that few teachers present the tests that way, but that is how we need to look at them if they will do us any good. Otherwise, we will merely get upset about how poorly we did, not learn anything and then do even worse as the course progresses.

That is very much like what Peter says in I Peter 1:6-7:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (ESV).

God will allow our faith to be tested, but then Peter describes it as being like gold that is tested by fire. That is an interesting picture. When gold is tested by fire, it is put in a crucible and then heated past the melting point. When that occurs, the denser gold goes to the bottom of the crucible and the less dense slag and impurity rises to the top. This allows the refiner to skim the impurity off the top. This testing is not to see if the gold passes or fails. This testing is to let the impurity rise to the top so the gold can be refined.

That is exactly what testing our faith does to us. God does not test our faith to see if we pass or fail. He tests us so the impurity will rise to the top and we can work on it.

Sadly, I often do something wrong when stress is high or trouble is happening. In those moments, I often say, “That’s okay, God will understand how difficult things are for me right now.” The point of the heat, the trial, the struggle, the test is not to grant us an excuse and an exception to sin. The point of the heat is to cause the impurity to rise to the top so we can see what we need to work on. 

If somebody slanders us at work and we get caught up in the moment, allowing malice to set in our hearts and then seeking vengeance, we shouldn’t say, “Well, God understands, they did such and such to me and I couldn’t help myself.” Rather, we need to say, “Oh wow, look at this impurity that was hiding in my heart. I need to work on this.” Then we can skim it off the top. If we get home and our spouse says something accusatory and we blow up with wrath and clamoring, showing our resentment and bitterness, we shouldn’t say, “Well, God understands when my spouse acts like that I’m just going to blow my top.” Rather, we need to say, “Oh wow, look at this impurity that was hiding in my heart. I need to work on this. I need to skim this off.”

God doesn’t test us to let Him know whether our faith passes or fails. God tests us so we know where to work. Further, we don’t work on these issues to try to impress God. Let’s face it, none of our work could remotely impress the all-powerful and all-holy God. We do this because that is what the tests are all about. They are not there to give us a pass or fail grade. They are given to show us where to work because we believe God’s way works. Let’s get to work.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 10, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Growth, I Peter, perseverance, Responsibility, Testing | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment