By: Tim Sader
Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. (Philippians 3:17)
Alicia was only sixteen when she was murdered the funeral was difficult but I learned the importance of loving everyone I care for. Somewhere between the end of Living Waters and this tragedy another friend of mine Jamie invited my brother and me to youth group at his church. Central Baptist was a block from our house but other than once for vacation Bible school we never attended there. For me going to youth group felt strange because I had already finished high school and was planning my future. One Wednesday I was bored and needed a new spiritual outlet since the other groups I belonged to no longer existed. Finally I got over my preconceived ideas and accepted the offer from my friend. The group was close and well established with about ten devoted teenagers who had mostly grown up attending that church. Warming up to outsiders wasn’t easy for them so things were awkward at first but after a few weeks they were acknowledging me and making small talk. I might not have made it that long if Jamie wasn’t there and I thought their youth leader Skip was a cool guy. I think he had a gift of looking at a young person and knowing how to minister to them with a simple conversation. I think he noticed me struggling with being between high school and adulthood but still in youth group. I don’t remember the conversation we had but at some point he gave me some responsibility and made me a mentor for younger teens. After a while I would lead one of the groups to answer questions and discuss the topic of the night. Around that time ThornHead had their first gig there and started leading praise time every week. Skip had been wanting to let teens in our group lead the message with assistance from a book he used. I think I was first to do this and was nervous but despite the uncomfortable silence from the group not cooperating I made it through. The next time I used no book, we played prank games from my old youth group and did a study I wrote on spiritual gifts. The games were a hit but the message was a bit foreign and boring for this group of teens who hadn’t heard much on the topic. ThornHead ended, a lot of youth graduated and went to college leaving a few junior high kids I didn’t know. I figured out my higher learning path so my time at Central Baptist sadly came to an end while I worked on growing up.
When I was made to be an example for others to follow I cannot say I was the best one for them. I mostly followed Christ when they saw me but I was drinking with friends outside of church. I know many of them were doing the same but what could I say when my example was no different. It is my hope that they were only watching what was pleasing to the Lord but I’m not sure of that (1 Cor. 11:1). When following our example the perfect model is Christ so what’s important is to live our lives like Him. When we are the example we need to set a good one by showing others who Christ is. Part of doing this is by being willing to work to earn our keep, we don’t only expect handouts so we are a burden to noone. We might be entitled to the help of others but to show we rely on God we do not so others may model their lives after us (2 Thes. 3:7-9). We need to set an example by doing what is good, showing integrity, being serious and saying the right things that will not condemn us. This gives no fuel to those who are looking for dirt on us because there is none to find (Ti. 2:7-8). We who believe are called to shepherd those who God has surrounded us with. We don’t do it because we have to but it is our desire, not for our gain but we are eager to serve those who need help. We do not lord our faith over anyone instead we give them an example to follow (1 Pet. 5:2-3). At Central Baptist I learned what this looks like by doing what I shouldn’t and eventually after being tired of setting the wrong example I was convicted to set things straight.
We may not have paparazzi following us to capture all our juicy gossip but our world is watching the kind of person we have become. Are we the example that we want the world to see or are we hiding dirt while pretending to be clean? All of us have done things we are not proud of so what do we do to fix it? We wake up in the morning and except the forgiveness of God and allow Him to do a work in us. We may have to own mistakes that we made in the past and we may always be a work in progress but if we try a little each day we are a better example than we were before.
Lord help us to model our lives after the design of Christ so that the flock we shepherd may see you in us. If we screw it up help us to not delay in making it right so that noone may stumble from our example. Each day help us to be a greater example of you than we were the day before. Highlight to us those whose example we have followed and those who we follow now. Help us to follow Christ in the ways that we see them following him and do likewise. Also help us to have grace for them when they mess up and give them a fair chance to make it right. In Jesus Name, Amen!
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No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. Luke 8:16