Saturday, December 29, 2012

Young People

Young People


Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” – 1 Timothy 4:12-16

Young people get a bad rap, and I’m not talking about their musical tastes either!  I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard people say “What’s this generation coming to?” or sigh and say, “Young people, these days!” I’d retire and move to the beach!  Please people! Open your eyes! Not all young people wear their pants to their knees, talk like thugs, and do drugs.  Some of them, in fact, are standing strong in their faith in a time that it’s so much harder to do than ever before.  We need to give them “props” for being true to who they are and standing for what they believe in.
I know a few young people who are doing things the right way.  They’re attending church, feeding on God’s word, living a life that respects God and themselves, and it shows up in how they are blessed. In fact, I know a certain church where just about any Sunday morning, you’ll find a group of these young people gathered in the altar praying for each other.  Let me tell you…that’s a sight that puts a knot in this old throat every time! 

But then I know a few who have turned from the good life, and let themselves become entangled with the wrong things and the wrong people.  Do we now throw the baby out with the bath water?  As much as you’d like to say  “no, of course not!”, that’s often what our churches do.  Consider what your own church does, what your own heart does, when they become pregnant at 16, get arrested for DUI, end up kicked out of their parents homes, or worse?  Do we really stand up for them and help them, or do we despise their youth, throw up our hands and say “it’s not my kid!”  We are to minister to the WORLD – and not just the ones our age. 
Do you want to know what the problem with our young people is today?  We’ve allowed them to live up to OUR expectations.  Shame on us for not holding our kids to a higher standard!  Raising kids does not stop when they become teens.  It’s NOT okay for them to have sex outside of marriage.  It’s NOT okay for them to move in with their boyfriend/girlfriend.  It’s NOT okay for them to party all weekend.  It’s NOT okay for them to get arrested.  It’s NOT okay for them to disrespect their parents or themselves. And it’s NOT okay for US to turn a blind eye to the whole thing.  When we, the church, start holding them accountable for their behavior, instead of proclaiming “they’re just sewing their wild oats”, we’ll see these that have gone astray return to their roots!  God corrects the ones He loves (Proverbs 3:12), and He expects us to do the same.

Not all of us, including the writer, were a saint at 16.  Some of us needed grounding and God’s word to find our way.  Remember that?  Remember those that gave you guidance?  How grateful are you for it today?  It’s the responsibility of the church, young and old, to instruct our youth, whether they are inside or outside your church walls.  We have to be the ones that teach them how to regain the good life when they’ve allowed life to go bad.  We have to encourage those that are still walking in their faith to stay on the rocky, but right, path. 
Paul knew one of the good guys, Timothy.  Timothy was a disciple of Paul’s, and young.  We don’t know how young, but young enough that Paul could see a potential problem with his youth affecting his ministry.  In 1 Timothy 4:12-16 we hear Paul tell him “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

Young people, it’s a hard life to be a Christian today, but the benefits are worth it.  You have to show it to those your age and the older folks that are watching.  They need to see your strength in God’s word, your good conduct both in public and private, your love toward others, your spiritual strength, your faith that CAN move mountains, and your purity.  In other words, live wrong-side-out, showing everyone what’s inside your heart.
Paul goes on to tell Timothy how to keep himself strong in a world that expects him, because of his youth, to be weak.  He tells him to “give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you… Meditate on these things, give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all…for in so doing, you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”

Young friends, here’s how it works.  What goes into your head goes to your heart.  Give attention to God’s word, fill your head with it, meditate on it, and your heart will be renewed, rejuvenated, and your life transformed.  The mouth may fill the belly - but the head fills the heart. And your head and your heart will be filled one way, or another!  If you choose not to fill your head with God’s word, the world will fill it with other ‘stuff’.  You can either take control and fill up on God’s word, or allow the world to fill you up and make you who it wants you to be.  Choose carefully. This is the fork in the road you were warned about.  There’s only one road to truly successful living, and this is where you have to choose it.
Paul goes on to tell his young friend, “Don’t neglect the gift that is in you”, for your salvation did not come cheap.  Friends, the Holy Spirit in you will guide you if you listen.  All mistakes come from one thing – deciding to do what you want instead of what He says.  Mistakes cause setbacks, troubles, self-disappointment, and others to lose confidence in you. 

Young friends, consider the cost of your choices.  By doing things the right way and staying true to God and your faith, you have so much to gain in blessings alone!  So many of us at your age didn’t start on the right path, and our bucket of blessings can’t become as full in our older age.  You also have the unique ability to influence others your age whom are without Christ so they will be saved.  We’re old, “outsiders”, the “parents”, the opposing team, and more often than not, they won’t listen to us.  But you have the chance to lead others to Christ simply by doing what you’re called to do – live for Him! 
We all learn by watching others.  That’s how we learn to walk, talk, and find our ‘swag’.  It’s how trends and fads are started.  Skinny leg jeans, which are not comfortable, became popular because someone who wore them had others looking to them for fashion tips.  Ugg(ly!) boots became popular because someone wore them that someone else saw as a role model.  Crocs (don’t judge!) became a best seller because someone influenced others to buy them. 

You’re always selling yourself – whether you want to or not.  What’s your brand?  What’s your trademark?  Consider what you sell when you sell yourself.  Is what you're selling worth the price you paid for it?  Would you want others to buy the life you have?

Older folks like me, stand up for your young people.  Don’t let them be judged incorrectly, and be every so quick to correct them and keep them on the right path.  The “not my child” excuse will not hold up in Heaven.  God called us to be disciples.  There are no excuses for not doing the job. Correct with love those that need it before they neglect the great gift that’s in them, choose wrongly at the fork in the road, and walk away from God and joyful living. When they’re our age, they’ll thank you for loving them enough to tell them the truth. 


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