2 Kings 7; 1 Timothy 4; Daniel 11; Psalm 119:25–48
WHEN I WAS STILL A VERY YOUNG MAN, I became pastor of a smallish church in Canada. The people were very kind toward me, and were far more patient of my faults and errors than I deserved.
There was one woman in that church whom I sometimes found to be particularly exasperating. Almost every Sunday morning, she would thank me profusely for the sermon, and then add, "But you're so young." This went on for many weeks, until it was little more than a formula. Eventually my zeal exceeded my sense. After listening yet again to her formulaic outburst "You're so young," I smiled sweetly and remarked (citing the King James Version in those days), "Yes, but Scripture says, 'Let no man despise thy youth'—no man." However intemperate my outburst, it seemed to do the trick, for she never said anything like that to me again.
On reflection, however, I came to realize I had cited the first part of 1 Timothy 4:12, but not the last part. The first part reads, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young." I suppose if that line of text stood all by itself, then one of the ways to stop others from looking down on you when you are young is to clobber them with this text. But Paul writes, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." In other words, if you are a young believer, not least a young believer in a position of leadership like Timothy, the way to stop others from looking down on you is to set such an example—"in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity"—that your transparent godliness silences them.
If you are diligent in the gifts and graces that God has given you, Paul adds, everyone will see your progress (1 Tim. 4:15). Your diligence must be comprehensive, and the places where others detect your progress will also be encompassing: "Watch your life and doctrine closely" (1 Tim. 4:16). The result will include not only your own perseverance issuing in the salvation of the consummation, but the salvation of many of those to whom you minister (1 Tim. 4:16).
Embedded in this counsel to a young man is an array of Christian moral teaching. Actions often speak louder than words. Christian leaders are to lead not only by words but by action in conformity with those words. The authority that accrues to a Christian leader is gained not so much from the office itself, as earned over time by the quality of the Christian living. Small wonder then that much of the next chapter is given over to specific instruction on how to treat brothers and sisters in Christ in varied stations of life. How to treat people is always near the center of Christian discipleship.