The Apostle Paul to Timothy: “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." ~1 Timothy 4:12 (NRSV).
Most of us will already know that Timothy was a timid, yet very loyal disciple of Christ under the tutelage of Paul.
He was young and called to lead many older, perhaps more experienced believers. Because he was young and lacked confidence, many of these believers looked down on Timothy; they were dubious about his credibility. In effect, by doing this, they didn’t trust Paul.
Paul knew, however, that if only Timothy would focus on those five character traits above, he would win over the critical mass and eventually establish his credibility. Let us consider these five traits:
Saying the right things at the right time, despite what we feel to the contrary, is the mark of a good leader—to utilise the portents of good self-control.
Like saying the right things at the right time, doing the right things at the right time is also the mark of a confidently restrained leader.
An Example In Love
How can one love if one is not humble enough to consider the needs of others?
The tightrope Timothy walked was in establishing respect whilst at the same time issuing love to those who did not respect him. Love always wins. When we prioritise love over the respect we’re not getting, then we prove we’re worthy of the respect we wish to claim as our own.
We need to do the very same thing; ignore the fact that respect may not be coming our way. Instead we go on in love; we love with all the power God has put into us. This is quite limitless.
An Example In Faith
Faith really is trust. It is difficult when we’re not trusted and respected to go out in trust and respect. Faith can do this because it looks to no one but a faithful God.
Paul seeks for Timothy to go beyond his fear and reach forward in faith. The challenge remains for us, also, when we too are ‘fighting’ for the respect of our credibility.
An Example In Purity
Purity is the essence of all the foregoing. It is evidence that our speech and conduct, our love and faith are all in-train.
Purity is the essence of holiness, and that, borrowed from God. Purity is example.
Leadership Is Example
Paul has probably hand-picked these five character traits purposely for Timothy.
Perhaps he’s picked Timothy strengths. Ever the encourager, Paul is playing to Timothy’s natural virtue; we know Timothy was a humble young man—too humble at times, certainly verging on timidity (see 2 Timothy 1:7).
So, we can confidently know that proper speech and conduct, as well as exemplary love, faith and purity, were well within Timothy’s developmental grasp.
Leadership has less to do with age and experience and more to do with example, and example is about the knowledge of awareness and the courage to act.
Barring experience that gives us knowledge, age has nothing to do with these things. Most importantly with leadership the key competencies are morally divined; despite his age Timothy, had these in healthy stock.
No matter our age—whether we’re considered too young, too old, too experienced, or not experienced enough—it’s these five character traits we must focus upon in establishing our credibility.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.