Over 60,000 subscribers
The Power of Example
Some of the world’s top squash players used to practise at the squash club where I play. I remember well the first time I saw at close hand a high-level squash game. It was the son of one of our regular group of players, who at the time was ranked number 11 in the world. He came to practise at our club with the number 2 in the world.
We all watched in amazement. We had never seen anything like it. In fact, if that was ‘squash’, what we played should be called something else!
Watching them always raised our game. Suddenly we realised that it was possible to return practically any shot your opponent could serve you, however good they were. We saw how important it was to get back to the middle of the court after each shot. We watched how deep they hit the ball. We noticed the shots that they avoided playing.
When we went on court after that, we astonished ourselves by how well we played. Of course, we did not play anywhere near as well as them. But, inspired by their example, we played a whole lot better than usual.
During my Christian life I have found the same pattern. For example, I had the privilege of working for Sandy Millar for nineteen years. Through watching his life and hearing him preach I was always inspired by his example. Even though reaching the level of those who are examples to us might not be possible, hopefully it inspires us to raise our game.
A Christian is someone who believes in Jesus, puts their faith in him, knows him and lives ‘in Christ’. It is also someone who follows his example.
There is no greater example in human history than the example of Christ. Paul writes, ‘Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Supremely, we follow the example of Christ. However, there are other examples which can also help us. In each of today’s passages we see the power of example.
1. Example of othersProverbs 20:5-14
How we live affects others. We look to others for an example. Others look to us as an example. This happens whether we like it or not.
Nowhere is this more the case than with parents and children. I have noticed how many of my father’s eccentricities I seem to have picked up. Of course, parents provide examples in more serious ways too: ‘The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them’ (v.7).
Parents who live lives of integrity bring great blessing to their children. Billy Graham said, ‘Integrity is the glue that holds our way of life together. We must constantly strive to keep our integrity intact. When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.’
No one has ever lived a perfect life apart from Jesus: ‘Who among us can be trusted to be always diligent and honest?’ (v.9, MSG). Nevertheless, we can all seek to live lives that are good examples.
Parents need to demonstrate faithfulness to each other, treating one another with patience and respect, resolving disagreements with grace, supporting one another in hardship and not being drawn into inappropriate relationships with other people. ‘Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?’ (v.6).
Another area where we can show an example is by drawing out other people’s thoughts. ‘The purposes of the human heart are deep waters, but those who have insight draw them out’ (v.5).
I often think of this verse in the context of an Alpha small group host drawing out the thoughts of the people in their group. This is the art of a good conversation facilitator, the skill of the interviewer and an extremely important task for parents with their children, as well as friends with one another. There are great depths to every human being. The skill is to draw out those depths.
Lord, help us to live lives that are a good example to others. May those of us who are parents be a good example to our children. Help us to demonstrate purity, faithfulness and industry.
2. Example of Paul1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1
‘People do what people see,’ writes John Maxwell, the leadership expert. ‘The more followers see and hear their leader being consistent in action and word, the greater their consistency and loyalty. What they hear they understand. What they see, they believe!’
Paul writes, with what might seem to be great audacity, ‘Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ’ (11:1). The first half of that sentence is dependent on the second half. Paul’s example is only worth following to the extent to which he follows Christ. He is bold enough to say and believe that he does. That in itself is a wonderful example to follow.
This verse concludes a section in which he has urged the Corinthians to ‘flee from idolatry’ (10:14). They are to keep themselves pure as they participate (in the communion service) in the body and blood of Christ (v.16). This is the focus of their unity: ‘We all partake of the one loaf’ (v.17).
When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness – Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is’ (vv.16–17, MSG).
Even though we are free – ‘everything is permissible’ (v.23) – we need to be very careful how we act because ‘not everything is constructive’ (v.23c). ‘We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well’ (v.24, MSG).
There is a certain paradox in the Christian life. We have amazing freedom in Christ, but we are to use this freedom for the benefit of others and for the glory of God. ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’ (v.31).
Paul encourages us that everything we do must come under the heading and must fit in the category of being ‘to the glory of God’. The whole aim of our lives should be to use our freedom to seek God’s glory and the good of others.
This is how the apostle Paul led his life, even as he tried to ‘please everybody in every way’. ‘For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved’ (v.33). This is the context in which he wrote, ‘Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ’ (11:1).
Lord, thank you for the example of Jesus. Help us to follow that example as Paul did. Help me, Lord, in whatever I do, to do it all for the glory of God. Help me not to seek my own good but the good of others. May the purpose of everything I do be that others may be saved.
3. Example of leaders2 Chronicles 5:2-7:10
All of us are called to be examples. However, some have a special responsibility. We see in this passage how Israel was called to be an example to the world. They were given special blessings by God. They were called to be an example to other nations who would be attracted by their good reputation. As a result, people from all over the world would come to know the Lord (6:32–33, MSG).
Jerusalem, in particular, was chosen as an example ‘for my Name’ (v.6). God also chose as particular examples David and Solomon to rule his people Israel (6:6–7:10).
But it was not just David and Solomon. Other leaders also had a responsibility to lead by example. The Levites had a particular leadership role in the worship of the temple (5:2 onwards). The trumpeters and singers also had a leadership role (6:13).
Solomon leads by example in worship and prayer. ‘He knelt in full view of the whole congregation, stretched his hands to heaven, and prayed’ (v.13, MSG).
He tells others about God’s greatness and worships him with thanksgiving. Solomon’s prayer of dedication shows that Israel would often fail in this role. He prayed many times that God would forgive when they turned back (vv.21,25,27,30,39).
After Solomon prayed, ‘God so filled The Temple that there was no room for the priests! When all Israel saw the fire fall from heaven and the Glory of God fill The Temple, they fell on their knees, bowed their heads, and worshiped, thanking God’ (7:3, MSG).
Today, under the new covenant, we are God’s temple (1 Corinthians 6:19). As Joyce Meyer writes, ‘God wants to display His glory in and through us as dramatically as He did in the physical temple of Solomon’s day. When God’s glory is manifested in your life, others will look at you and say, “Wow, what a great God you serve,” because the power of His goodness toward you is visibly evident to them.’
Lord, thank you that you call us all to be examples. Even though we so often fail you are merciful and forgive us. Thank you that we know what they did not know – that forgiveness is possible through the blood of Jesus Christ. Thank you that Christ is our Saviour and Lord. Help us to follow the example of Christ.
‘Do not love sleep or you will grow poor ’. Oh dear!