Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believer in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12—NIV)

Being young is not a sin. Those who have passed their youth are often envious of the opportunity that youth brings but not in the least sad that the dangerous waters of youthful naïveté have been navigated

Youthfulness is not just for the chronologically young. With a guarded heart, maturity can often retain some of the luster of youth into old age. A sunny outlook on life that searches for good, clean fun, a clear conviction that God has a purpose for every obstacle, a selfless wish for joy to be had by all within your reach are just a few of the general characteristics referred to as youthfulness.

No matter how many candles are on the birthday cake, there will always be those who criticize your youthfulness. Some criticism is unfounded or unbalanced, but other criticisms may have merit. Paul engaged Timothy to set boundaries that will go a long way to make it hard for critics of his youthfulness to have factual foundation and proof. We all would do well to revisit the boundary markers in our own life so that freedom and a youthful head may exalt with worthy purpose.

Since people take notice of youthful ways and Timothy was called to pastor a church, Paul challenges him to be exemplary. His testimony was to be held up before all. Most young people do not court review of their life choices and often it is what they seek to avoid under parental oversight. Maturing youthfulness is unafraid of critical review because it has a clear conscience and wants others to follow in its steps.

The following verses stress why seasoned, youthful believers willing to be a godly example are so important. Verse 12 states the importance of an example worthy of following, verse 13 stresses the importance of decisions leading self and others, and verse 14 identifies the importance because of his cost to others. This all lends meaning to the sense of gravity felt from the seriousness of verses 15 through 16.

What sort of conduct establishes healthy, godly, and reasonable boundaries? Paul sets six in place for Timothy. These boundaries will lend credence to the exemplary merits of Timothy’s youthful traits.

Youthful godliness is to be an example to every one else of these six things: 1) What you say ("in word"), 2) What you do ("in conduct"), 3) What you give ("in love"), 4) What you support ("in spirit"), 5) what you believe ("in faith"), and 6) What you keep ("in purity"). These boundaries will help you define righteous living for all to see. When youthful boundaries provide an example worthy of all to follow, then youthful godliness has reached its goal.

There will always be people who like to take potshots to bring others down to their level. For your Lord’s sake, do not give them an easy target by dropping your boundaries, and most definitely do not be one of the ones taking the potshots. Build upon the boundaries God has marked off in verse 12 and make your youthful godliness worthy of emulation that God may receive the glory. Trust and obey.