Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 (ESV)
When Paul exhorted Timothy to be an example to the believers in faith, he in essence was telling Timothy to show the believers what it looks like to have moral conviction; what is looks like to have reliance upon Jesus Christ for salvation, what it looks like to believe in and to accept the truthfulness of God. Paul was confident that Timothy would be able to handle the admonishment to be an example to other believers. In his second letter to Timothy Paul wrote that he was reminded of Timothy’s sincere faith. Paul’s confidence in Timothy is further demonstrated by addressing Timothy as his “true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). He was even eager to send Timothy to the Thessalonians to establish and exhort them in the faith (1 Thessalonians 3:2).
One way for us to be an example to believers is to stand firm in our faith. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church to stand firm in the faith, be strong and act like men (1 Corinthians 16:13 ESV). He told Timothy, Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12 ESV) Jesus said that one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). To be an example in faith we must not be of those who shrink back (Hebrews 10:39).
We are to live out our faith, not in the wisdom of men (1 Corinthians 2:5), but fully grounded in Christ, not counting our lives as precious to us (Acts 20:24). Paul wrote, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV) Doing this includes fleeing youthful lusts and pursuing the things that pertain to the faith (2 Timothy 2:22).
Faith without works is dead (James 2:17, 26). It seems that being an example in faith would have to include righteous acts. James wrote, But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:18 ESV) What useless faith we exhibit if we do not care for those in need. One of the purest demonstrations that we are of the faith is our works (James 1:27; 2:14).
One final way we can be examples in faith is to earnestly contend for and struggle for the faith. Jude made this appeal to all who are called and beloved by God (Jude 1:3). We contend for the faith by standing firm in the true gospel and opposing false doctrines and those who would corrupt the gospel and seek to draw others away. We must always be ready to make a defense for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).
So, Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV)
Scriptures for meditation:
Hebrews 11:1, 6