Join with others in following my [Paul's] example,
brothers [and sisters!], and take note of those
who live according to the pattern we gave you.
I am so thankful for people who have been examples of godliness in my life.
People who reach out and act out the love of God are refreshing and energizing agents. So many times in my life, God has provided a great example to me at just the right time to give me a boost. Whether that person simply reminded me with their actions that God cares about me, or whether they snapped me out of my selfishness with an example of how I should behave instead, I am always thankful to see an example.
It is difficult to put into words the gift that strong, godly believers are. It is so much easier to go on trying to live right, and more importantly, trying to have a functional relationship with God, when you can see another faulty human being who is already doing it. The key might be that seeing an example activates our imagination and reminds us of the possible. When we see someone else doing the thing we dream of, we are able to see ourselves sticking our feet into their shoes (because we can see their shoes!) and consider the possibility that we can do it if they can. It instills hope into our hearts. Sometimes that is all we need to get moving in the right direction.
How much more powerful it is to SEE someone doing the right thing than to be TOLD about doing the right thing!
And what's best about people who are godly examples, is that they almost never notice the impact they are having. It is out of a humble heart, not from self-righteously trying to prove themselves - they are not doing what they do to show off, unless it is to show God off. They are just fulfilling their "moral obligation" to God.* But sometimes examples need to be thanked for what they do, because encouragers need more encouragement than anybody else.
Thank you to all the people who have been an example to me. Because of you...
...Lives have been transformed when you refused to give up on them, and now I have a better chance of being persistent to the same end.
...I know it is possible to truly love people when they are unkind - I can see that love is a commitment, an action, NOT A FEELING.
...I know what it means to think of others interests and not just my own.
...I no longer let my emotions and my thoughts rule my life, but I know I can confess God's truth instead, and be free.
...I know what hospitality is, and that with practice I can put others before myself, welcoming them in my home.
...I have been urged on to intercede for people faithfully.
...I know what a pure heart looks like, free of bitterness and selfishness.
...I have seen what it is to take care of the sick.
Because of you, I have felt the love of Christ at the times I least deserve it.
*I recently listened to a really great lesson called Our Obligation to God, and I recommend it. But if you don't hear it, just think of this: God is our Father. Imagine your earthly father or mother. They give us everything we need for life and more. We don't have any legal or technical obligation to them, but what adult child would not show their love (through action!!) to their parents, or take care of them in their old age? Morally, we have no other choice than to treat our parents well and do what we can to show we love them. We could never pay them back for or deserve what they've done for us, but it would be wrong not to serve them in some way. It is the same with God!