I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. (1 Corinthians 4:16-17 ESV)
This is pretty much the go-to passage for a discussion on discipleship. We have Paul setting it out nice and clear for the people in Corinth. They are to follow his example, because he is following Christ’s example. Paul lays down the plain chain of Christian obedience. It can be a very inspiring passage, but it can also cause some self-esteem issues. Paul is the biblical equivalent of a superhero – which is better than a normal superhero, because he was real. It is tough to compare ourselves to Paul. Just read 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 and then finish it up with a tall drink of Philippians 1:21. Paul is sometimes hard to relate to.
I’ll never be as smart or as Jewish as Paul, but I can relate to Timothy. He was a young guy, brought up in a faithful home, and came under the tutelage of a great man of God. So far, all I have been in my life is a young guy. I have also been blessed to have great men and women to disciple me throughout my life. God has put solid believers above me in the various seasons of my life to serve as an example of Christ. I often sought them out, and became very close to a number of them. I wanted to take Paul’s words seriously, and imitate them as they imitated Christ.
I am very grateful for these examples. I hope that they never fall totally out of my life. However, I have noticed as I’ve grown older that my relationships with them always changed over time. The mentor/mentee thing started fading away and they began to become peers. The first few times this began to happen, I panicked and immediately began searching for a new person to follow. The smarter of you will have already picked out the flaw in that logic. See, it was not until recently that I noticed a certain implication in 1 Corinthians 4:16-17.
Paul told the Corinthians to be imitators of him as he imitated Christ. However, he also sent Timothy so that they could have that example in person. In other words, the young man known for being Paul’s mentee was now to become a mentor to the Corinthians. No longer could Timothy only live comfortably in Paul’s shadow; trusting that his was a good example of Christ. Timothy now had to become an example himself; not of Paul, but of Christ.
When God decided to put me into a role of leadership over groups of young men, the truth of this passage became my own personal reality. I discovered that the role of a Timothy type Christian eventually has to mean stepping up and following Christ on a more intimate level than I had previously believed. I realized that I was not only to imitate, but to be worthy of imitation, myself. It is the other side of discipleship that gets a little less attention, simply because it is a more demanding facet.
Not many people desire to be Paul. His was a position of intense pressure and scrutiny. It is the natural progression of discipleship, though. At some point, probably sooner than later, we have to begin to think in terms of not just imitating the example, but of becoming the example to imitate. There is a foolproof way of making sure that when that day comes, you will be ready and equipped. It is simple, but not always easy.
Every day, just seek to know Jesus better than you did the day before. Constantly go to him in prayer and in the worship of your life. Read his written words and be quiet sometimes so you listen to his Spirit speak to you personally. Seek to be close to Jesus and you will begin to resemble him. Then you will be more ready to follow the example of Christ and to put forth that example to others.
Two truths and a lie about Brad:
- Holds a degree in Religious Studies from Liberty University.
- Currently works as a Web Developer and Graphic Designer.
- Has a crippling fear of the tiny holes cut into crackers.
The truth is out there…twice.