I'd guess that most of my students this semester are in their mid-20s. They are the future leaders of the church. Paul tells them, "Don't let anyone despise your youth" (1 Tim. 4:12). Despite their relative "youth," they will soon be put into positions of great responsibility. Some may be tempted to look down their noses at these young leaders. Older people have always seemed to find it difficult to accept young people as responsible adults in their own right let alone as leaders in the church.
How should young people respond? Paul answers that in our text. Writes J. B. Phillips, "Don't let people look down on you because you are young; see that they look up to you because you are an example to them." If you want older people to accept your leadership, then you must set for them a good example. They won't despise your youth if they can admire your character. Notice that this example is to be comprehensive.
If I could just comment on one of these areas, the expression "in your faith/faithfulness" has two possible meanings:
- in your sincere and constant adherence to the truth of Scripture.
- in the way you keep your word and follow through on your commitments.
Paul possibly intends for us to understand both of these meanings here. Greek student, if and when you should be tempted to surrender your belief in the authority and inerrancy of the New Testament, my hope and prayer is that your Greek studies will help you see just how perfectly the New Testament is made. Furthermore, now that you've taken on the responsibility of learning this language for the glory of God and for the good of the church, I pray that he will enable you through his Spirit to follow through on your commitment, granting you all the skills and dedication you will need to succeed in class. Despite your age, God is doing a magnificent work in and through your lives. It is my great joy to help you acquire a skill set that will hopefully bless you and your ministry for many years to come.