Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.
—1 Timothy 4:12–14
Paul had earlier referred to Timothy as a “son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2), and now he displayed his fatherly love for the sometimes-timid young man. Offering words of encouragement, Paul reminded the young pastor that the gift in him was a gift from God and not to be neglected.
In these verses, Paul is not only an instructor but also an example for us to follow. In him, we see the beautiful picture of older, more seasoned saints encouraging the younger saints, and the younger saints seeking instruction and encouragement from the older examples.
It has been well said that the church is always one generation away from extinction. This reminds us of our sober responsibility to preach the gospel. But it is also true that within the church exists the constant danger of generational disconnect, or, as it has been labeled, a generation gap. This is a two-way street, and a generation gap can be avoided only if both generations participate in open dialogue. The older members must be willing to the reach the younger ones, and the younger ones must be willing to learn from the older. But the reverse is true as well, in that the older must be willing to learn from the younger. Older members may not need to be taught the great precepts of the faith, but rather the struggles and concerns that plague the hearts and minds of the younger generation.
Is there a younger person in your life that you can impact today? Reach out to them, talk to them, encourage them. Young men and women, is there someone who has a little “snow on the mountaintop” (that’s code for gray hair) whose life’s lessons you can learn from? We all need to remember the devil is the one who promotes statements like “I just don’t get this younger generation” or “The older generation just doesn’t get it; things are different today.” The fact is, the gospel is no different today than it was on the day of Pentecost.
Paul gives us an example of how the truths we hold dear can span the generation gap. Encourage one another and learn from one another, he says, for there should be no generation gap in the family of God. But rather, generation to generation should be passing on great truths in love from one to the other.
Find someone to encourage today that you may not normally see eye to eye with. Learn something new from that person, and also take the time to be an encourager in the faith!
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