There’s an interesting point about the apostle Paul that I never really knew until a seminary professor pointed it out to me (and a classroom of others) many years ago. Many times, Paul encouraged others to look to himself as an example.
- “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, ESV).
- “I urge you, then, be imitators of me” (1 Corinthians 4:16).
- “Brothers, join in imitating me” (Philippians 3:17a).
- “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).
- “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us” (2 Thessalonians 3:7a).
- “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
And, my all-time favorite verse talking about this is found in Philippians 4:9. Paul says, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” I love the certainty with which he speaks here. Just two verses earlier, Paul encouraged his readers to lift up every anxiety they have so that the “peace of God” (v. 7) will guard their hearts and minds. The inversion of that blessing is absolutely striking and intentional. The peace of God is a fantastic promise! How much more so is the God of peace? Are we living our lives in such a way that others will experience the God of peace by emulating us?
Will our lives be without mistakes? No. We see Paul’s anger flash when the Pharisee’s struck him. Still, even when mistakes are made, God is glorified in your repentance and in the rectification of whatever happened.
I have played basketball with students as a means to meet more students for the last 8 years. God has now blessed our ministry to have many students join me in this weekly activity. Students see me play and interact with everyone. They get to see ministry happening through conversations and acts of love and service. Unfortunately, last week, they heard me get far too competitive and vocal when fouled during a particularly close game. Now, this week, they will get to hear me apologize to other players and seek to make amends afterwards. Can we walk alongside our young adults in such a way that they can learn godly behavior and—even at times—how to make amends when mistakes are made?
I know many people hear or read Philippians 4:9 and think that Paul is talking about pastors or church leaders, but he is not. This admonishment is directed at every believer—just as the Great Commission from Christ is directed at all of us. I just recently read again Letters to the Church by Francis Chan, and I love how direct he is. Chan said, “If you can’t find a single person who looks to you as a mentor, something is wrong with you.”
This is hard, though, right? Cultivating this kind of relationship involves honesty and intentionality more than a drop-in Bible Study. Those of us who lead young adults must be aware of this life calling that has been given to all followers of Christ. And, we must be living a life that is worth passing on. We must pursue God in such a way that we would want to see it replicated in other’s lives. We must meet together and share life with individuals to give them the chance to see our style of living. We should show them a continual and fruitful devotional life, complete with prayer and corporate worship at a local church. And finally, we must show them how to reach the lost around us!
Conan Sherlin is the Baptist Collegiate Ministry Director at Nicholls State University in Louisiana. He lives in Thibodaux, Louisiana with his wife Christy and their four kids (Evie, Ada, Haddie, and Gilford). Connect with Conan via Twitter: @nsherlin10.