The following is a part of our weekly devotional series, which is a companion to the 2013 Foursquare Life Journal. This week’s Bible reading comes from 2 Kings 11-14; 2 Chron. 24-25; Ps. 80, 86-87 and 104; Joel 1-3; Amos 1-9; Jonah 1-4; 1 Tim. 6; 2 Tim. 1-4; and Titus 1-2.
“Do not let anyone despise you” (Titus 2:15, NIV).
“You don’t look old enough!”
A woman with a disapproving look on her face spoke those words to me right before I was to conduct a funeral service. Admittedly, I was young—and evidently I didn’t fit her physical image of a pastor.
But what is “image”? Am I trying to live up to someone else’s preconceived standards of qualification for being a church leader? I hope not! I like the way the apostle Paul put it. He spoke of setting an example:
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12, NIV).
Though he was seeking to encourage his young associate, Paul’s admonition not to let anyone “look down on you” applies equally to people of any age, gender or background.
No one has the right to look down on you or discount you. Set an example in your talk and your walk of the redemptive work of God. Live your life with such godly character and in such a manner that critics will be silent. In doing so, you will engender respect and receive consideration.
Character is about what and who I am at the very core of my being. My character counts. In fact, in a society that minimizes godly values, the value of my true character as a minister of Christ matters more than ever. To be an example is to be trusted and readily followed as a leader. God will use my character to encourage and transform lives.
Paul calls Timothy—and you and me—to target five specific areas of life. These are essentially matters of the heart and might be described as “character in action.” These five specific areas are as follows:
- Speech: From the time we utter our first words, one of our primary struggles becomes what we say and the words we choose. In introducing the subject of the tongue, James warned teachers that they would be held to a very high standard in this area. Jesus used blunt words to declare that our words reveal our essential character (Matt. 12:34-37).
- Conduct: My actions are an outgrowth of my heart, and will reveal either a submitted and committed relationship with Christ or a heart that has drifted from Him. Scripture allows no gap between our words and our deeds. As leaders, we are never allowed to say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” It isn’t an option. There is to be no gap between our words and our deeds.
- Love: The heart of what it means to be a Christ-follower and church leader, love is the all-important key that opens the door to respect and an audience for Christ. A visible love creates a viable ministry (John 13:35).
- Faith: Faith shows itself when we live out by our actions the things we profess to believe. Faith is the actualization and application of my beliefs (1 Cor. 9:25-27).
- Purity: Purity of heart is that quality of life that allows an ongoing intimacy with God (Matt. 5:8). My heart is nothing more or less than the authentic me—the very core of that which we call “character.” As leaders walk in daily cleansing, they have credibility when they invite others to join them in that same walk.
Right now in my life, though I’m aiming at all five of Paul’s targets, I’m paying particular attention to my words. I am relearning to guard my speech. When I can’t find good words to say, I don’t say anything. I have been realizing afresh that there are few things more powerful in the arsenal of our ministry than true, from-the-heart, well-chosen words. With them, I can blister or bless. I can bring life or death.
I want to bless. I want to bring life.
How can I overcome being discounted by others? By pursuing godly character. In the long run, it’s the only “image” that really matters.
By: Rick Wulfestieg, director of Foursquare’s senior-living community, Parkview, and director of the Children’s Gospel Box program with Foursquare Missions Press.
Download the yearlong reading plan (PDF, 80 KB), or sign up for the full, online version of the Life Journal. To purchase a Life Journal for your own use, or to place a bulk order for church-wide use, visit FoursquareJournal.com. Learn more about Foursquare’s 2013 Life Journal project.