#357 Timothy: Becoming a Role Model

September 6, 2023

Timothy learned early that leading himself came before leading others. Before he called others to follow, he had to model the way. Consider these verses:

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives tales; rather, train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7, NIV).

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).

15Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4:15–16).

In this chapter Paul exhorted Timothy to be a role model to those he was leading, to “set an example” to others. Serving leaders acknowledge that leadership is an inside job. Before serving leaders tell others they show them what it looks like. As Timothy followed Paul’s instructions he became a model in several significant ways.

Timothy modeled discipline.

Paul instructed Timothy, “train yourself to be godly.” To lead others Timothy needed to be the right kind of person—a godly man. This would not happen without focus and discipline.   Athletes training for their sport leaders need to exercise discipline. The discipline of training can be tiresome and difficult. There are many days that any athlete would prefer to stay in bed rather than do the necessary training.  

Many leaders want to be seen as great leaders, but they aren’t willing to pay the daily price of discipline that is required to become great. They look for shortcuts to help them lead others without improving themselves. Serving leaders acknowledge that discipline is the price of becoming a role model. They are willing to pay the price before they attempt to lead.  They discipline themselves to be the right kind of person before they seek to lead others.

Timothy modeled distinction.

Paul encouraged Timothy to overcome the challenge of being a young leader by setting an example for others. Timothy could not change his age, but he could work towards becoming the most mature young person around. He would distinguish himself from the crowd of others his age by growing in “speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”  Timothy modeled distinction, standing out from the crowd by rising above the crowd.

Many leaders want to be elevated because of their position and authority. Serving leaders seek to be the best version of themselves that they can be at whatever age they are. As they do so they become more mature than their peers and serve others as a model of distinction.

Timothy modeled diligence.

Paul called Timothy to diligence “so that everyone may see your progress.”  Timothy learned that growth takes diligence. While it was good to be an exemplary young leader he needed to make continual progress that was obvious to those watching his life.   

Many leaders stop growing when they think they are good enough to get the job done. But serving leaders are diligent to keep growing in ways that become a model to those around them.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What area of my life is currently not a good model to others? What do I need to change this week to start improving in that area?
  • Do I model a continuous improvement in my life and leadership that is obvious to those around me? If not, what do I need to change?
  • Reflect on those you lead. What can I do to encourage them to become models to those around them? In what ways can I affirm and encourage those who are currently role models?       
  • In addition to the verses we used in this issue, consider the following: 1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; and 2 Timothy 2:16, 22. What additional insights do you find from these verses about how Timothy was called to be a role model and specific areas in which he was to show others the way.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Timothy developed good friendships.