In 2 Timothy 3:10-11, the apostle Paul reminds Timothy, “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, and suffering that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra – which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.” Having spent much time with Paul, Timothy knew he was the real deal. Time and time again, the Lord rescued and sustained Paul and no doubt Timothy as well. For years, Timothy watched as Paul modeled a life of faith and the power of God over every obstacle.
The point I want to make is that effective teachers will “practice what they preach” and inspire students through their life and example. Good teaching can only go so far. However, good teaching coupled with a godly example will be much more effective. In 1 Corinthians 4:16-17, Paul writes, “I urge you then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.” Paul knew that sending Timothy was the same as going himself. Having observed Paul over and over, Timothy was essentially a duplicate of his mentor. He knew the man. He knew his ways. He knew His Lord. We might say that teaching and modeling go hand in hand. Paul writes later on in 1 Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). The only reason Paul could say with credibility “imitate me” is because he was following Christ. If a Christian leader or teacher is not following Christ, how can he expect that of his students?
Paul’s instructions for Titus were much the same. “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8). Paul makes sure to mention the core pastoral component of teaching, but it is stated in tandem with being “a model of good works.” The teacher’s credibility to teach and lead always correlates to his life and example. Paul lived and modeled a gospel-centered life and expected Titus and Timothy to do the same. If you are a pastor or a Christian leader, let’s remember that God expects the same of us today.
“The preacher’s sharpest and strongest preaching should be to himself. His most difficult, delicate, laborious, and thorough work must be with himself. The training of the twelve was the great, difficult, and enduring work of Christ. Preachers are not sermon-makers but men-makers, and saint-makers. Only he who has made himself a man and a saint is well trained for this business. God does not need great talents, great learning, or great preachers, but great men in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God. He needs men who are always preaching holy sermons in the pulpit, and living holy lives out of it. These can mold a great generation for God.” E.M. Bounds