In my first post with the same title I addressed this issue by introducing the question, “Are we creating an environment that encourages a young person’s maturation, independence, and productivity, or are we creating an environment that further extends their childhood years of dependency, leisure, and laziness to the point that many believe they will earn a living as a professional Middle School student?”
With this question in mind we looked at the recent notion of adolescence and its psychological affects upon young people and our Western society by postponing adulthood to an undetermined point in the future yet to be determined.
But this has not always been the case. Young people have not always been placed in such a non-influential position. If we were to look back into history and observe a few select cases today, we would discover that “young people often accomplished great things” (Robert Epstein, The Case Against Adolescence, pg. 13). In my opinion, young people are still capable of doing so today.
With this in mind we’re going to look into 1 Timothy 4.12 and the call of God to young people in breaking this societal hold of low expectations and responsibility. For my next post we will look at this passage and the call of God to the Christian community in not looking down upon the youthfulness of young people. For now, let’s look at the former of the two points.
In 1 Timothy 4.12 we read…
“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, set yourself an example of those who believe.” What we see from this passage is a clear way for young people to go about earning the respect of older people and breaking societies hold of low expectations and a way not to. With both of these points I would like to begin with the latter first (thank you John Piper for a couple of these observations in your sermon, Let No One Depise Your Youth)
First, don’t be uncaring, unconcerned, dishonoring, or disrespectful to what older people think or say. For example, if an older person such as your parent or teacher is telling you something or asking you to do something and you don’t agree with them or want to do what their asking you to do, then don’t be harsh in your tone when talking back, don’t roll your eyes, click your teeth, smack your lips, or completely disregard everything they say or ask you to do.
Second, do not go against everything that your parents tell you as if you are not allowing them to despise you for your youthfulness.
For example, if your parents tell you not to do something, or not to spend time with someone, or not to go somewhere, then don’t! It’s that easy. If you are going against their instructions as if you are not allowing them to despise you for your youthfulness then you have it all wrong. This also goes for others in authority over you, such as teachers and coaches. If you are asked to do something or are aware of certain rules to abide by, then you need to do so without any question whatsoever.
These last two points derive from such passages like Ephesians 6.1-4 in the New Testament which says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” Do you want your life to go well? Do you want to live long? Then heed these words and strive to please Jesus Christ in this way, obey “yo” parents.
Before I make this next point you need to read the entirety of it so that you won’t come away with the wrong impression. Last of all, don’t go out of your way to find out what older people would want you to do and do that. Say what?
For instance, if you are playing a sport because you think your dad or mom will like you better, then you have it all wrong. This is not the way to go about earning their love and respect.
Does this mean we don’t do anything that they ask us to do? No, this simply means don’t pursue things in life thinking you will earn their respect, attention, and love, this is not the way to go about it.
If these 3 things are not the way to go about earning older people’s respect and not to allow them to look down upon us, then what are we supposed to do? As I said before there is a very clear and specific way to go about this in 1 Timothy 4.12. So let’s take another look at it.
What we see from this text is simple; young people are to set an example for the older believers. In overcoming the imposed limitations, both explicit and inexplicit, of older people and society in their expectations of you during your youthfulness is to demonstrate maturity in your life by setting an example in how to live for the honor and praise of the supreme greatness of Jesus Christ.
God is clearly calling young people out from low expectations and minimal responsibility to “show yourself an example of those who believe…in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity” (notice that I switched the verse around).
Regardless of your age, God can work in and through you in your life, the church, school, work, neighborhood, community, state, nation, and world. One’s age does not disable God from working in this way. If you are a young person you should not be discouraged from stepping out of this comfort zone to make a difference for the glory of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to wait until you are 18, or have graduated from college and have a full-time job to get serious for Jesus Christ. Your age is not an excuse with God.
Instead of older people and society looking down upon you for your youthfulness, live your life in such a way that will cause them to look up to you as an example on how to live passionately unashamed for the honor of Jesus Christ. Do not settle for the low expectations of this world, but live your life knowing that your actions will not only set an example for all people.
Neither time nor space will allow me to dig deeply into the 5 characteristics that young people are encouraged to set an example in; however, let’s at least briefly look at one of them, namely, conduct.
Through Paul, God is calling each and every single young person to set an example for older believers in your conduct. In a general gist, young people are called to conduct your life in such a way that you exemplify to the older population what it looks like to live like Jesus Christ.
This summer, through the months of June, July, and August, you will have a total of 92 days, which is equal to 21 weeks or 2,208 hours. That is a lot of time. What do you plan on doing with it? Do you plan on sleeping it away? Do you plan on using it in front of the television or computer? Do you plan on playing a lot of video games? What about hanging out with your friends? Is this all that you want to say that you did when you look back over your summer, nothing? This is basically what the world expects of you this summer, absolutely nothing.
Hear me out on this one, leisure is not sinful, evil, or wrong, but to spend your whole summer in it would be. So don’t go into this summer expecting the entirety of it to be vacation from responsibility.
I believe God is calling you young person to look at this summer as an opportunity to embrace the call of His Son Jesus Christ by doing something that will make Him look big and great in your life, family, church, community, nation, and world. This could be as simple as helping someone in your neighborhood, to being a friend to someone who doesn’t have many, to sharing your faith in Jesus with your friends, or volunteering at the church or shelter. There are so many things you can do that will make Jesus look like the biggest and greatest thing there ever was and ever will be.
We are told in the Proverbs from the Old Testament that “Even a child is known by his or her deeds” (Proverbs 20.11). How do you want to be known this Summer? As someone vacationing from responsibility fulfilling the low expectations of the world or as someone that has set an example by making a difference for Jesus? You decide.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6.10) and not in your own strength and might.