With my disability, I’ve had to give over mowing the yard to my boys. I hate that – I really enjoy mowing and the boys just do not mow as I would like (this summer I was embarrassed to death by my yard, but the boys did the best they could to help Papa, so I kept my mouth shut). Summer before last, I wanted RJ to mow a patch of grass not far from the road. I told him how to do it, and he didn’t do it properly. I told him again how to do it, and he still didn’t get it right. I was so exasperated that I just had to leave him for a little while and walk back in the house. When I told Tammy what he was doing, she – wisely – looked at me and asked, “Justin, did you tell him or did you show him?” I hadn’t bothered to show my son how it was done, but I expected him to know by my teaching. Life doesn’t work that way.
Jesus didn’t simply come and tell us how to live, but He lived it first: “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). Notice the word order: “Jesus began to do and teach.” I have serious doubts that’s by accident – Jesus did and then He taught. Paul did the same thing: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak” (Acts 20:35).
The power of an example goes a long way. In my life, I’ve been blessed with good examples. Space would prevent me to write about every positive example I’ve had, but I wish to highlight some important examples which have shaped my life.
Dad, aka Randy Imel, taught me much through the years, but I’m thankful that he taught me to do funerals. Funerals are the most difficult task a preacher is asked to perform. Dad does funerals like a pro; I’ve watched and learned from his example.
Mom loved us boys, and she taught us to love our children. My favorite memory of Mom is one morning when she woke up sick as a dog. That was bad enough, but I was performing a magic routine in the school’s talent show. Mom told me that she wasn’t going to be able to come, and I was crushed (I was somewhere between 7 and 8 at the time). When I walked out on that stage guess whose face I saw first? Yep, Mama was sitting there. That taught me sacrificial love.
Nannie taught me one of the most important lessons of all: a love of University of Kentucky basketball. She loved the game, and she loved her Wildcats.
Brother Underwood suffered from polio as a child, and he was crippled for the rest of his life. But, he preached the Gospel faithfully in the United States and abroad for many years. He used crutches the entire time I knew him, but he never allowed his physical handicaps stop him from doing the Lord’s work. Little did I know how much that example would come to mean.
Tammy has more patience than Job and as much forgiveness as God Himself. She has taught me gentleness and kindness and forgiveness.
My father-in-law must be one of the most even-tempered men I’ve ever known. Nothing ever frightens him. Nothing every frazzles him. He keeps his emotions under control and tries to do right.
Bill has taught me service. Bill serves every opportunity he has. Bill serves tirelessly. Bill doesn’t care who gets the credit . . . hmmm, that’s not exactly true: he wants God to get the credit.
There are some people whose names I dare not put on the Internet, but they have taught me about generosity. Some people have been very kind to me personally and have helped me financially far more than I ever deserved. I’ve mentioned benevolent needs to others and they’ve opened their wallets to take care of those needs. One of the privileges of being a preacher is seeing people work behind the scenes. I’ve been challenged to be as generous as possible because of the example of others.
Examples can do a great deal. I’m grateful, very grateful, for the examples I’ve seen in my life. Who has blessed you by example?
As I see the example of godly people, I see how they have walked with God, and they encourage me to walk with Him all the more.