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.1 Timothy 4:12, NKJV

It’s painful to watch a young person make bad decisions. For the observer, there is a temptation to rush in with counsel and support, while others are eager to proclaim “I told you so.”

Whatever the motivation, there seems to be an abundance of advice after a person makes a mistake, and a scarcity of it beforehand. Some people don’t offer their wisdom because it might offend and damage a relationship. Others don’t think it’s their place because they don’t hold a position of authority.

In times of timidity, we need to follow the example of the apostle Paul. He didn’t back down from conflict, especially when it concerned the mentoring of his spiritual son Timothy. In 1 Timothy 4:12, he gives Timothy five key points on which to focus his Christian life: what one says, how one lives, how one loves, how one demonstrates his faith and how one maintains his purity. In this first of five parts, we’ll take a look at the importance of letting your communication reflect your Christian values.

In What You Say

If Paul were alive today, his letters to Timothy would likely have been a series of emails or texts. Maybe Paul would have hawked his tents on Etsy. Online entrepreneurship aside, it’s clear that people communicate vastly different in the 21st century than in Paul and Timothy’s time. Since the advent of the smartphone, communication has become even more immediate. Consider the following:

Forty-six percent of Americans now own a smartphone (Pew Internet & American Life Project: Smartphone Ownership Update. Sept. 2012). Sixty-three percent of U.S. teen-agers communicate by text (Pew Internet & American Life Project: Teens, Smartphones & Texting. March 19, 2012). This far surpasses communication by other means – phone calling by cell phone (39 percent do that with others every day), face-to-face socializing outside of school (35 percent), social network site messaging (29 percent), instant messaging (22 percent), talking on landlines (19 percent) and emailing (6 percent).

More than 2 trillion text messages were sent in the United States in 2011, which equates to 6 billion messages daily.

The immediacy of cataloging your life in text, images and video gives the impression that it is somehow temporary and doesn’t count as meaningful communication. But it does count. Every phone call, text, note, status update and chat over coffee matters in this life and in the next.

Paul offers this advice.

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.Colossians 4:6, NASB

When you allow your speech to be seasoned with grace, you remove the emphasis from yourself – what others think of you, how to win the approval of others – and replace it with what God thinks of you.

Talk About It

Find one person today who could use your influence and share Colossians. 4:6. Talk about how you can be an example in what you say.

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