SImone Biles made her Olympic debut at Rio at the young age of 19, but she made a name for herself long ago. Leading up to the Olympics, she had performed so highly at world championships, that she had already earned 13 gold medals, 3 silvers, and 2 bronze before Rio. After the summer olympics, she added 4 golds and a bronze to her collection. She is being called not just the greatest gymnast of our generation, but perhaps of all time (at the young age of 19). Just to see how dominant she is in the sport, check out this video:
Biles may be the greatest of all-time, and she’s only 19 years old - she has never let age intimidate her from being the greatest. Sometimes (especially as middle schoolers), though, we can be intimidated by our youthful age in the things we do. For example, if a middle schooler were to play a pick game of basketball at 24 Hour Fitness, it would be intimidating to play a game against a bunch of college kids. If you compete against older people, age can be a pretty big disadvantage. Do you ever feel the same way in your faith? If someone has been a Christian much longer than you, do you feel like you can’t “compete” with them, because you see them as so much “holier," knowledgable in Scripture, and that they just pray “better” than you can… How do you respond to faith intimidation?
The apostle Paul wrote a letter to his “true son of faith" Timothy, to encourage him in his leadership of the church he was pastoring in Ephesus. As the pastor, Timothy needed to deal with false teachers, people leaving the faith, and members leaving the church. Paul was addressed guarding the church from things like false teachings and people leaving the faith, so Paul let Tim know what he had to do as their pastor. One of his encouragements to Timothy in leading the church of Ephesus is found in 1 Timothy 4:12:
“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.”
At the time, Timothy was around 30 years old. Although that doesn’t seem all that young, being the pastor of a sizable church was a ton of responsibility for relatively young shoulders. Paul is writing to Tim because undoubtedly he had been intimidated and had insecurities about his age in leading this congregation of believers. Paul encourages not to let anyone look down on Timothy because of his age, but that he must live in a way that will be worthy of respect. As Timothy is encouraged, we too should be encouraged that no matter your age, you are an example. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, if you have faith in Christ Jesus, you are to be an example.
How could Timothy, as someone who is younger than his congregation, be an example for God? And if we apply this to our lives, how can we be an example to those who are older than us (both in physical and spiritual age)? Paul answers that in the second half of verse 12:
Are you an example in your speech? Is your day-to-day language full of curse words, gossip, rumor spreading? Do you have a sarcastic tone that tends to put people down to make yourself look better? Or, are your words clean, uplifting, and encouraging? This will be noticed, not only by your peers, but also by the older people in your life - parents, teachers, coaches, aunts/uncles, grandparents, etc. Young people are expected to have poor choice words - re-write that expectation and be an example.
Are you an example in the way you live your life? Is your conduct of a typical person of “youth” full of disrespect, immaturity, and self-centeredness? Or are you focused on the things above, respectful to others, and concern yourself with things that truly matters? This will be noticed and will be setting a proper example to all.
Are you an example in your faith? As a middle schooler, you can be an example to older people! For example: what if you read your Bible at the breakfast table at home? That can greatly encourage either a non-Christian parent, or a Christian parent in a personal spiritual rut because “youthful” people aren’t expected to be concerned with God’s Word...
Are you an example in purity? The world is obsessed with all things impure - language, sexuality, and living in general. Adults would normally expect “youthful” people to pursue impure things, and to avoid them is to be an example.
How you talk, live your life, love others, and live out your faith will be an example not just to youthful peers, but even for those much older than you (in age and faith). Don’t be intimidated in your young faith! Don’t think that because someone is older in their faith, that makes them “better” Christians. Yes, older Christians will be more knowledgable in the Bible and will have important lessons to teach you, but that does not mean you can’t be an encouragement to them as well!