In the early years of the Christian Church the apostle Paul was inspired to write an encouraging letter of commendation to a group of people who were the right kind of examples to their family and neighbors. "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father... so that you became examples to all... who believe." (I Thessalonians 1:2-3, 7, Revised Authorized Version). Often the little things we do make a big difference in the way others see and respond to us. Making guests feel welcome in our homes, sending an encouraging card, giving the attendant at the store, restaurant or gas station a courteous smile, offering a polite word to someone who accidentally steps on our toes or pushes in the shopping line. All such actions add up to a life of helping and caring for others. All of us need to back off once in a while, step out of the dense forest of our daily responsibilities, and take a close and realistic look at ourselves, our labors and our accomplishments, and our daily example.
Why our example is important
After a friend of mine purchased a used car, I asked, "What model is it?" "It's not a model," my friend retorted, "it's a horrible example." Are we models of God's ways or are we horrible examples? Our words and examples need to match up, they must not conflict. The old question applies here — "Do you practice what you preach?" As Christians we must practice what we say, what we have been taught, otherwise we become a false example, a false witness of God's way! Christ should be our example in everything we do. "For even here-unto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps" (I Peter 2:21). I will never forget reading Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's statements in the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course many years ago about the character and example Christ set for us to follow: "Jesus Christ was a perfect spiritual man. But he did not go about using mushy language. He was not a girlish, effeminate, sentimental or emotional weakling. "He was a strong, virile, masterful, yet kind and gentle man. He possessed leadership, strength, purpose, supreme strong will — and yet these masculine qualities of strength and power were perfectly blended with wisdom, judgment, knowledge, understanding, justice and also patience, compassion and mercy. He was filled with peace, love, and faith. "And his will, strong as it was, was totally yielded and obedient to God. All this was the character of God. He is our pattern. We must imitate him — copy him." Christ possessed leadership. What kind of an example does a leader set? The stamp of a leader is credibility. As future leaders in the Kingdom of God we must practice credibility in our daily lives. Although it is sometimes difficult to achieve and maintain credibility, the steps are easy to identify and teach: • Always tell the truth. Failing to do so indicates an intention to deceive — whether planned or not. Any inconsistency between what you believe and what you hope another, will believe, because of what you do or say, destroys credibility. Example: see Proverbs 26:18, 19. • Admit your mistakes. We are all still human and make mistakes. Why pretend otherwise? When we say, "I was wrong" it tends to strengthen our credibility when we say. "I'm right." • When you don't know or understand something, admit it, say so. Remember God is going to hold us accountable. The small advantage that might be gained momentarily by bluffing is far outweighed by the possibility of losing credibility. • Always keep your promises. I might add even if it hurts. The reaction to an outright lie or a forgotten promise may range from rage to annoyance, but breaking a promise makes the other person, mate or child or acquaintance, feel cheated or forgotten. Credibility is believability on the highest level. One of the highest compliments any of God's people worldwide can hear is, "If he (or she) says so, you can bank on it." We should hope that Christ will look on us this way and say when He returns, "Well done, thou good and faithful-servant" (Matthew 25:21). Example is contagious. Our conduct will be imitated by those with whom we work, play and worship. Most important, our children imitate us. If the parent or leader has set a poor example, then everyone in the family or group pays the price for it. Don't" do as my father jokingly said to me as I was growing up: "Don't do as I do son, do as I say!" Rather, follow Abraham Lincoln's advice, "There is just one way to bring up a child in the way he should go and that is to travel that way yourself." Example can be used as a tool to help build the family team, both physically and spiritually. It always inspires growth. Never forget, a good example is worth a thousand sermons. Let's spread the word with our example.