1 Timothy 4:12 "Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity."
The first thing that must be considered here is that people can despise someone for their youth; but generally they will only despise them if that youthful person is acting immaturely. Youthfulness has its place; yet there comes a time when we must "put away childish things". (1Cor.13:11)
However, youthfulness in and of itself ought not to be looked down upon.
Children are capable of reasonable discussion, of wise action, of pure thoughts, and of maturity. Look to Jesus, who was a child; "all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and answers" (Luke 2:47) We can say that Jesus was perhaps an exception, but this would be a limited view. Children can study and grow and develop well-grounded faith in God. Youth can act responsibly.
Youth is not an excuse for acting foolishly. We cannot say or do bad things and then shrug and say "I'm young, I can get away with it." That's not an answer. That's not good. We are held to the same standard that everyone else is. God doesn't say "well, boys will be boys." He says instead, "even a child is known by his doings." (Proverbs 20:11)
Not only are youth to strive to not be despised, but they are to set examples for believers! Youth are given an extraordinary command here. Set an example for all - the elderly, those younger than you, those your age - all believers.
1 Samuel 16:18 "One of the young men answered, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.”"
One of the good qualities of David was that he was "prudent in speech".
1. Wise in handling practical matters; exercising good judgment or common sense.
2. Careful in regard to one's own interests; provident.
3. Careful about one's conduct; circumspect.
Prudent speech will set an example for other believers, especially if it comes from younger Christians.
Proverbs 4:24 "Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you."
Proverbs 16:21 "The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness."
Even the young can remember this advice. This is speaking of sweetness that is pure and prudent, not false sweetness that is really bitter and harmful. What does it mean to have sweetness of speech? I think it's talking along the lines of humility, graciousness, love and gentleness; referring to speech that sooths the soul, and lifts the spirits. Children can speak this way.
Colossians 4:6 "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."
Proverbs 20:11 "Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright."
1. Adhering strictly to moral principles; righteous.
Romans 13:3 "For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval..."
Good conduct is a witness to other believers as well. One thing that all youth fall under is the negative stereotype of bad conduct; immaturity, selfishness, acting stupid. People - whether believers or not - will see your good conduct, and know that you are different. Acting righteously is itself a witness without any words.
James 3:13 "Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom."
1 Peter 1:15 "...but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct..."
1 Peter 2:12 "Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation."
John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."
Believers, no matter what age, have a commandment from their Lord and Saviour: Love, as I have loved. Christ loved us in such a way as to not be mistaken: He gave Himself up for us, and held nothing back. We are to do the same. We are commanded to love the Lord our God with our all, and to love our neighbour as we love our own self.
Romans 12:9 "Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good."
1 Corinthians 16:14 "Let all that you do be done in love."
Ephesians 4:15-16 "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."
Ephesians 5:1-2 "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
Romans 1:17 "For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”"
Faith is an important part of the Christian life. Faith is not just saying "I believe in such and such". Faith spreads itself into our conduct, our speech, our love-! It affects everything we do. Whether we, youthful or not, believe in God, whether we trust His promises, whether we seek to grow our faith by reading His Word or praying or worshiping, all this is seen by other believers, and all of this is a mark of whether or not we are faithful to God and HAVE faith in Him.
Youth has nothing to do with it. Youth is not an excuse for an absence of faith. Rather, younger people should have more faith in God, for they have more things to "worry" about, more experiences to go through yet, etc. Youthful believers should have an extra dependence and faith in God, knowing they are weak and can't handle things on their own.
Romans 10:17 "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."
The youthful years are the years to spend in studying the word of Christ. These are the days, not to be spent in idleness, but to be spent in strengthening your relationship with your Lord and Saviour. Don't waste these years! As you get older, your life will get busier, as strange and bizarre as that sounds. Find the time now to strengthen your relationship.
Proverbs 22:11 "He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend."
Psalm 119:9 "How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word."
The answer is in God's word. Purity comes from studying the truth! Do not think that you can do it on your own - look to God! Cling to Christ! He will help you. Youth brings passions that are not easily controlled. Yet they can be controlled, with the help of God's word. Study it! God will respond if you earnestly seek the truth. You may not see results on day one, but you will grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Matthew 5:8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
1 Peter 1:22 "Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart..."
Love, faith, conduct, speech, and purity are all wrapped up together. They all affect one another. How can we practice what Paul commands in 1 Timothy 4:12?
1) Studying the Word of God - the answers are found there, and the Holy Spirit works through the Scripture to sanctify us.
2) Prayer - Fellowship with God is necessary for a change in heart, which leads to change in conduct, speech, etc.
3) Fellowship with believers - there is no better way to practice loving your neighbour than to put yourself in a position to do so.
Psalm 24:3-5 "Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation."