You’re not too young to serve

Image: You’re not too young to serve

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young.

Paul’s encouragement to a young christian

The apostle Paul once wrote to Timothy, “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 Timothy 4:12 NIV)

This is a popular verse used in youth ministry, and rightfully so. It’s encouraging to young brothers and sisters in Christ, but what’s the context of it? Who was Timothy? Does any of this relate to us today?

Timothy of Lystra

When the apostle Paul came to Lystra, he met Timothy, and fellow believers spoke well of him. Paul would later write that he saw Timothy as a genuine believer of Jesus Christ. In other words, he wasn’t going through the motions because his mom took him to church.

Timothy was raised in a home that believed in God, but at a young age he took a mature step in proclaiming his own faith in God. Timothy was all in, not because his family or culture said so, but because he believed.

When Timothy joined along, Paul didn’t treat him as some secretary or student that just listens and watches Paul do all the work. Paul taught and equipped Timothy to lead churches, and help disciple others, young and old.

1 Timothy was written by Paul to Timothy while Timothy was helping lead the Church at Ephesus. Paul was encouraging Timothy to help lead a congregation and not be intimidated by the fact that he was young.

Timothy did all of this, led by the Holy Spirit, while still learning and growing in Christ (1 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 1Timothy 1:18). Paul constantly speaks highly of Timothy in his letters and talks about the great works and progress churches all around the world were making, thanks in part to Timothy’s service.

But like all of us, Timothy wasn’t perfect.

He had times of doubt, insecurity, and poor health (1 Timothy 5:23, 2 Timothy 1:6-8).

Despite this, God continued to guide, teach, and bless Timothy. Timothy was young, but ambitious. He was given leadership responsibilities but was humble.

Paul taught him all he knew, yet Paul still had to keep him accountable and disciplined (1 Timothy 5:22, 2 Timothy 3:10). Whether we are younger like Timothy, or older like Paul, these are lessons and qualities we all as Christians can learn from and grow in.

What does this mean for us?

The apostle Paul did not see himself higher or better than Timothy (1 Corinthians 16:10).

All of us in the body of Christ have been given unique callings and gifts. If you go all in with Jesus, as Timothy did, then God will call you into His ministry and church now, not wait until you “grow up”.

We who believe have all been saved by Jesus and have received the same Holy Spirit.

Whether you’re in a sinful culture, or a rising church; if you are seeking to do God's will He will answer you! If you allow Him to work through you, there’s no telling what the Holy Spirit may do, regardless of your age!

The fruit of the Holy Spirit that Paul instructs Timothy to live out in 1 Timothy 4:12 are in the way we talk and conduct ourselves.

It is also how we live in love, faith, and purity.

This can’t be separated from God. These fruits of the Spirit are qualities all of us should strive and pray to the Father for every day, young and old. So as Paul once told Timothy, let the church tell all young believers: "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."

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