Following a Good Example (Part Two)

img_36972 Timothy 3:10

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness… (ESV).

In this verse, the apostle Paul encouraged his friend and coworker Timothy to keep on following the example or pattern that he had lived before Timothy. As we have said, Paul stressed the importance of each item. It has been too easy for Christians to concentrate on either teaching or conduct, while ignoring the others. Many churches have focused on teaching, which is important, so much that they have created the impression that what a church exists for is to cram everyone’s heads full of ideas. Perhaps this has been in overreaction to the neglect of doctrine by others. Many other churches have overemphasized conduct, perhaps again in overreaction against the “teaching” churches. The result has been a group that grades everyone by the rules or “standards” they keep. However, as we realize that both teaching and conduct are important, let us not forget five other examples that Paul set for his friend and for all other believers to whom he ministered.

  • “My aim in life” – Paul reminded Timothy about his purpose. The apostle lived according to the purpose to which God called him. This affected how he lived in many ways. It infused him with a missionary attitude (Romans 15:20-21), helped him live with a clear conscience (Acts 24:16), and caused him to be devoted to knowing Christ (Philippians 3:12-14). When Paul discovered God’s purpose for him, it helped him to simplify his life by pursuing what the Lord wanted him to do.
  • “My faith” – This probably refers to his life of faith, the example he set by trusting God for what was needed for his life and ministry. The Christian way of life is a life of dependence on God. This can become difficult when God’s ways fail to match up with our opinions about how God should act for us. It helps us to remember God’s purposes (Romans 8:28-30), but it still is hard for us to humble ourselves before God and to wait upon him and so to cast all our anxieties upon him, because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:6-7).
  • “My patience” – Paul spoke of his pattern of patience. He had to learn to wait calmly for God to act. His patience developed from his earliest days as a Christian, when he went away to think from the Scriptures about what he had learned from meeting the Risen Jesus on the Damascus road. It developed when he had to leave Jerusalem to spend a few years in Tarsus. It grew when he and Barnabas were thrown out of town after town on their first missionary journey. His patience increased as the Holy Spirit took time to lead him to Europe on his second missionary journey. And what can we say about the many years that Paul was a prisoner? His life was a pattern of waiting calmly.
  • “My love” – Paul taught and modeled love. Two of the greatest passages about love in the Bible (Romans 12:9-21; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13) were written by Paul. His love for God and his people caused him to press on through many difficulties. He loved people like the Corinthian and Galatian believers who frustrated him. He loved his own people of Israel and was willing to give himself for him that they might be saved (Romans 9;1-3; 10:1). He demonstrated love by constantly praying for people and remembering them in his letters. Timothy had seen that Paul was a man who loved God and others.
  • “My steadfastness” – His friend also knew about the example of endurance that Paul set. All we need to do is to read Luke’s account of Paul in Acts to know that Paul persisted in the face of the greatest difficulties. His own words about his sufferings for Jesus the Messiah (2 Corinthians 6:3-10; 11:16-12:10) provide us a model of perseverance in suffering for Christ. Please don’t complain about your problems until after you seriously reflect on Paul’s faithfulness to the Lord in the most trying circumstances.

The point of his pattern is not to shame us, but to motivate us to live for the glory of the Lord. Paul did all of these things by trusting God the Father to help him by the Holy Spirit, who made Christ’s power known in him. We are to live in conformity with this pattern.

Grace and peace, David

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