“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NKJV).
There is nothing like teaching an audience which does not speak your language to make one appreciate the value of visual aids. Some things just don’t translate very well. Some English words or concepts don’t have an exact equivalent in other languages. When that happens, the speaker and the translator must resort to other means in order to communicate adequately.
That usually results in going to the white board and marker or to a map or picture. Sometimes an object or action may be shown to get the meaning across. In this modern technological age a Power Point presentation or some other computer assisted aid is often very effective. The old cliché, “A picture is worth a thousand words” has much merit.
We don’t often think of our own Christian example as a visual aid which assists others in understanding the teaching of Christ, but that is exactly what Paul described to Timothy. In his letters to the young evangelist he repeatedly instructed him to teach the truth as revealed in Christ and taught him by his mentor – Paul himself.
But Timothy was not to rely on spoken (or written) words alone. In order that younger Christians and even unbelievers might know exactly what was required of them, Timothy was to show them through his own righteous life.
We may give wonderful sermons on such topics as “Love your neighbor as yourself,” or “Be filled with the Spirit of Christ,” or “Be holy as God is holy,” but many of the people whom we teach have never lived in a Christian community and have never experienced a society where others actually sought to live righteously. They might understand the words we use, but the concept of truly godly living is foreign and strange. They have a hard time comprehending what such values look like in the flesh.
Such people have a great need to see what we are talking about. Just as James challenged his opponents to “show me your faith without your works” (James 2:18, one cannot do that; which is his point), so Paul instructs Timothy to show the meaning of love, faith, the spirit, and purity by living in the manner demanded by them.
That such examples are necessary and effective is proven by their frequent mention in Scripture and by our own experiences. Paul commanded, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Peter pointed out the power of a Christian wife’s example to win her unbelieving husband to the gospel even though that husband might not be moved by the spoken word alone (1 Peter 3:1-2).
We live in a cynical age, when many believe that “every man has his price” and no one is selfless and righteous – good just for the sake of being good. In such a view, every Christian is a hypocrite and no one really cares about anyone else.
Against such negativism, it is imperative that devout Christians demonstrate that these charges are simply not true. Jesus described our role as being the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-16) and commanded, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
No Power Point presentation or white board message can come close to the effectiveness of that shining light. Believers living what they are taught are a means by which the Gospel of Christ is being delivered to this lost world. They too present the power of God for salvation.