Teaching by Example

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The strongest influence on our own children, our Bible school students, and the believers in our churches is our example. It speaks much louder than our words.

Dear Sister,

In this letter, I would like to share a few thoughts with you that I have found to be very important in serving the Lord.

Did you know that even if you never presented one lesson in a Sunday school class, God specifically chose you to be a teacher? You see, there is another way of teaching besides lecturing. It’s the one Paul describes in 1 Timothy 4:12 and Titus 2:7: “ ... be an example.”

The most powerful teaching is not with words, but by example. Our lives are designated by God to become models for others to observe and learn how biblical truth is translated into everyday life.

Jesus revolutionized our understanding of God by what He did after His sermons: touching lepers, taking time to embrace and bless children, walking away when people tried to make Him king, washing the disciples’ feet and praying for those who crucified Him.

Likewise, Paul trained his co-workers and converts by his example: going back to the place where he was stoned to preach again, singing praises to God at midnight after being beaten and jailed and fervently praying for the churches and writing letters to them—while waiting for his execution in a Roman prison.

The strongest influence on our own children, our Bible school students and the believers in our churches is our example. It speaks much louder than words.

Our example reproduces in others what we are ourselves. The pattern they see in us, good or bad, becomes their teacher. If we put God first, they will too. If our walk with the Lord is consistent, our faith unshakable, our lives free of bitterness and our hearts full of forgiveness, that’s what those around us will become as well.

But believe me, our negative attitudes, our insincerity, our carelessness and our secret greediness for money and material things will transfer just as strongly. And it bears enormous consequences for God’s kingdom. Those who are taught by your example will pass the same on to others. Take a good look at the things you don’t like in your children, co-workers, Bible school students or church members and ask yourself: “What did I contribute to create this?”

We are automatically teachers as long as just one person observes us! My dear Sister, that’s the thing we most often forget. For those of us who are married, it is easy to complain in the privacy of our heart or in front of our children that the ministry is robbing us of the good things in life. Even if we never put it in words, the atmosphere we create is incredibly destructive and teaches volumes to those watching us.

That’s one of the main reasons why many children of Gospel workers resent their parents’ ministry and choose a secular job rather than serving the Lord.

When our children were born, I decided that I would not allow any resentful attitude to take root in my heart and that I would never talk negatively about serving the Lord in front of Daniel and Sarah. Yes, there were times that I cried when my husband had to travel so much and we three were often alone. But I always told our children, “Jesus is worth it, and we are privileged to help others come to know Him.” I made sure that they knew I was in total agreement with what my husband was doing.

“Follow my example” was Paul’s invitation to the Christians. Please read 1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17 and 4:9, and 1 Thessalonians 1:6–7 and 2:8. Paul didn’t write this because he felt he was perfect, but because he knew he was genuine in his faith and pursuit of Christ.

I believe the Lord desires that each of us come to a place where He can point to our life for others to learn what it truly means to follow Jesus. Perhaps by reading this letter, you have discovered an area in your life where your example created un-Christlike attitudes in others. Bring this area to the Lord in prayer and, by His grace, change the direction you were going. Be humble, and confess to your children or co-workers that your influence taught them the wrong thing. Most of all, let them see how Jesus has changed your heart.

Dear Sister, I sincerely hope this letter is an encouragement for your walk with the Lord. May God bless you and fill your heart with His peace.

Your Sister,

Gisela

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