"Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted....Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition.…" (I Cor. 10:6,11)
"I'd like to be an example to others." We've all either said or at least thought this. Well, as a matter of fact, we all are. The question is: What kind? The children of Israel, as described in verses five through eleven of this chapter, were not the kind of examples one would want to emulate. Their murmuring, fornication, idolatry, and lusting were a shame that has lasted over 2000 years. This is not to say that as a nation they had no redeeming qualities, of course. I am simply pointing out how sad it is that Paul feels the need to warn the Christians at Corinth lest they repeat their offenses and experience the judgment of God, as well.
On the other hand, others in the Word of God (Paul himself, for one) are given as examples worthy to follow. Paul tells Timothy it is possible for even a young person to be an example in word, conversation (way of life), charity, spirit, faith, and purity (1 Tim.4:12). And Peter reminds us that it was Christ who left us an example of how we are to suffer injustices (1Pet.2:21). There are others in the Word of God, of course, as well as a host of men and women down through Church history who have challenged us by their lives.
My point is that we need to be aware that, in the future, someone is going to use each of us as an example of something. The question is, will our name be evoked as a challenge to love and serve God faithfully; or will it serve as a warning of the consequences of sin, or the sorrow of a wasted life? What we do today will determine how we are remembered.
Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass,
A book of rules;
And each must make—
Ere life is flown—
A stumbling block,
Or a stepping stone.
—R. L. Sharpe