I Timothy 4:12
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

John Calvin at 27 wrote his Institutes. Ben Franklin at 27 began “Poor Richard’s Almanac.” Charles Lindbergh at 25 made his famous solo flight across the Atlantic. The Wright brothers at 31 and 35 made their first flight at Kitty Hawk. Thomas Edison at 32 had already perfected the stock ticker, typewriter, telephone, phonograph, and electric light.

These men did not live in a vacuum before they made their contributions to history. What they did in young adulthood was determined to a great degree by what they were as they departed their teen years.

The Bible takes note of young people. King Josiah was 16 when he “began to seek the God of his ancestor David” (II Chronicles 34:3). Solomon advised, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). In our text Paul told Timothy, “No one should despise your youth; instead you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (I Timothy 4:12).

Young people, determine you want to live a life that counts for God. You can have an impact for the Lord. Let me propose seven steps to success:

1. Set goals pertaining to a vocation. Pick out a job you think you might be interested in and prepare for it. Shoot for a particular vocation. Submit all to the will of God. If He doesn’t want you to be what you’re aiming for, He’ll close the door.

Going in the wrong direction is not necessarily sin. Unwillingness to change direction is sin.

2. Be busy doing something constructive at all times. God calls and uses people who are busy. Elisha was plowing with 12 yoke of oxen when Elijah found him. If you’re not busy now, a promotion probably won’t help.

When I surrendered my life to God at age 15, I volunteered for everything. I was busy doing whatever needed to be done while I waited for God’s particular will for my life. I sang solos, performed in the choir and quartets, helped take up the offering, taught children in January Bible study, preached, helped the janitor on Saturday, and would have joined Woman’s Missionary Union if they had let me.

3. Stay loyal to God. Don’t ever quit serving the Lord. Stay true to Him at all cost. Do private time daily. Read the whole Bible annually.

4. Study the lives of famous people. Begin with Bible characters, especially Jesus. Learn that their power source was God.

Learn from their weaknesses. Anger kept Moses out of the promised land. Lust destroyed the peace of David’s life. Fear humiliated Simon Peter. Lying destroyed the presidency of Nixon.

Learn from their strengths. One of their strengths is they worked to improve their weaknesses. Franklin Roosevelt refused to yield to polio. He knew he had to overcome that to succeed.

You will not rise according to your strengths. Your level of success will ultimately be determined by your weaknesses. You will never rise higher than your greatest weakness allows.

5. Love people. Never overlook the importance of people. Jesus loved people and died for them. The best leaders love people.

General Pickett was an outstanding Confederate strategist. One of his strengths was his love for his men. When Lee decided at Gettysburg to attack Cemetery Ridge, he called on Pickett’s division. Pickett knew that many of his men would be slaughtered. As he rode up and down before the lines, giving the command, he wept almost uncontrollably. The massacre of that assault broke his spirit; he was never the same again. But that day his men obeyed, marched, and died because of a General that loved them.

Stonewall Jackson loved his men. They sensed it and returned his love. It was said Jackson’s men would meet death for his sake, and bless him when dying.

Abraham Lincoln hosted a huge ball for dignitaries near the end of the Civil War. The soldier guarding the door had a leg missing. Lincoln left the dignitaries and made his way over to the guard. The president learned the young man had lost his leg fighting for the Union. Lincoln, deeply moved, expressed his gratitude for the soldier’s sacrifice. Later the young man told a friend, “For that man I would gladly give my other leg, also.”

Begin loving people immediately with kindness and courtesy. Many personality problems can be overcome if you try kindness.

6. Stay pure. Reserve yourself for your future mate. Joseph stayed pure and God made him the Prime Minister of Egypt. One of the church’s early enemies had to confess Christians produced the finest women in the Empire.

Purity in Ruth first caught my eye. She was clean and consecrated. As college students we often ate together in large groups. While the rest of us were diving into our meals, Ruth would bow her head and say a silent blessing.

7. Dream dreams. When you lose your dreams, you will have crossed the generation gap. Dream of doing your best to change the part of the world you live in. Determine that whatever you do, you will do your best to help the most people.

Remember to uplift Jesus. Let Him rule your dreams. Most people plan their lives without ever thinking of God. If God were dead, many people would never know the difference. But for us, the Lord is all in all.

Dream your dreams and achieve goals, but when the spotlight is turned on you, be sure God receives the glory.