This past week I witnessed kids of all ages attend Vacation Bible School to worship God and to learn about how they can be “Serving One Another.” It was amazing to see young men anxiously wanting to be picked to lead a prayer or to see a little one excited as they recited the Memory Verse of the week with ease. Seeing their enthusiasm and excitement to learn about God shows that we have many young people who will continue to grow in their love towards serving the Lord.
You may have heard this phrase spoken about young people within the church, “You are the future of the church.” The problem with this is that the phrase may be giving the impression to young people that they aren’t that important now, but will be eventually. In fact, some are already serving and some are currently working towards being elders, preachers, song leaders and teachers.
But no matter which age group you may fall into, we all have a duty to serve and encourage one another as servants in Christ: mentoring, training and educating one another to grow stronger, and to be used for the Lord’s purpose.
One of the great mentorships we read in the Bible is Paul’s fellowship with Timothy, who was a young minister of the gospel and accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journeys. Paul had great confidence in Timothy and gave him advice and encouragement as a fellow worker.
The letter of First Timothy was written as a reminder to what Timothy’s mission was while living among the pagans and false teachers in Ephesus. Nearly two thousand years later, Paul’s wisdom and encouragement to Timothy is still effective and contagious even to this day as we continue to minister and live by the gospel.
First Timothy 4:12 “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”
Timothy was believed to be between the ages of 30-40 during the timing of this letter, which was a young age to be in the position that he was in. Paul challenges Timothy to set an example for the believers, particularly those older than him, by teaching the word correctly, having good conduct, by being loving, faithful and pure.
For us, our lives should be a reflection of the gospel. Our age does not signify our knowledge about the Word, nor does our age permit our eligibility to serve. The words we read from Paul should be challenging to us to set an example for the believers, so that they may see and follow.
This comes with more responsibility as we read in the following verses:
First Timothy 4:13-14 “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have which was given to you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.”
Verse 13 shows that Timothy was spiritually qualified to do the work that he was given. In verse 14, Paul notes how Timothy was prophesied to have this gift and it was given to him by the council of elders. This indicates that not everyone has this gift to do what Timothy was doing. During his time in Ephesus, Timothy may have had doubts about his purpose and may have felt discouraged at times. Paul reminds Timothy that he was right where God wanted him and that he had a very important job to do.
But one thing he was told not to do was to neglect the gift that he had!
These ancient words still ring in my ears when I read it. (Mainly because I have been told words similar to this in recent times.) While we each have a gift and a function, whatever that may be, the gift we all share as Christians is the gift of eternal life. It may sound silly to hear, but we must not even neglect that gift, (why would we anyway?) The gift of eternal salvation should encourage us to live under the example of Jesus Christ, devoting ourselves to the scripture, living by the Word and setting examples for believers.
I will conclude with this: To elder brethren, as Paul was to Timothy, being a spiritual mentor is a blessing. It’s helping and encouraging younger believers to build their foundation on Jesus and to prepare and continue a life of servanthood. To younger brethren, As Timothy was to the church in Ephesus, do not let anyone despise or discourage you about your age or purpose, you are a part of the church and have a responsibility already to serve and to set an example.
Let us continue to be examples to each other as we worship, pray and teach. Let us not be despised because of our purposes and let us not neglect the gift that we each have.
Article by Andrew Green—Southside church of Christ