How old are you?
The youth to which this department is directed will answer, “Why, I am a young man or a young woman.” There may even be a few younger readers who recognize that they are yet children. And many older readers will reflect on the question and once again realize that the years are slipping away and that they are no longer children or young people, but fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, maybe even great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers.
Yes, in natural life our physical ages vary greatly. But did you ever stop to think and realize that our spiritual growth also varies and corresponds to our physical growth and age? The apostle John was aware of that when he under the inspiration of the Spirit recorded for us the Word of God in I John 2:12-14.
“I write unto you, little children
because your sins are forgiven you
for his name’s sake.
I write unto you, fathers, because
ye have known him that is from the
beginning. I write unto you, young
men, because ye have overcome the
wicked one. I write unto you, little
children, because ye have known the
I have written unto you, fathers,
because ye have known him that is
from the beginning. I have written
unto you, young men, because ye are
strong, and the word of God abideth
in you, and ye have overcome the
You see, in normal life there is development, whether we are speaking of our natural life of the body or of our spiritual life. When there is life, one grows and develops; stagnation and decay are indicative of death. That is why if one is pale, listless, having little or no physical and mental development, he gets worried and goes to the doctor. But do we have that same concern: for our spiritual life? When God first instills within us the principle of new life we are not suddenly full-grown and perfect. No, but we must grow and increase in spiritual knowledge and faith.
The question to you young people is this: Since I am as the young men in the text physically, am I also as these young men spiritually? In this article we will try to answer that as we compare ourselves to the three different groups of the text.
Let us first look at the child and see whether or not we have advanced beyond that stage. The age of childhood is an age that is characterized by being receptive. A child is on the receiving end of everything. Physically he receives from his parents all of his earthly needs, such as food, drink, clothing, and shelter. Mentally he is nourished with food for the mind, which he receives readily because, at this age, he can remember and memorize very easily. Similar to a sponge, he soaks everything in.
Now, his attitude must be in harmony with these characteristics in that he is silent and willing to learn. We look upon some children as little monsters, very unnatural, when they assume the attitude that they know it all and must educate their parents. A child must not command, but must obey.
What is true naturally is also true spiritually. A child must reveal an eagerness to learn. Thus, John can “write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.” Is not that the beginning of one’s spiritual, conscious life? Indeed, we learned that when the name of Christ was revealed to us. We love that name, we know that name, and in that name are conscious of our sins, but also of forgiveness. So here, also, we see that Christian virtue of obedience. A child knows when he is disobedient and cannot rest until he knows that he has been forgiven.
Thus, the child must know that he is a beginner and he must learn to listen. In this way he develops into a youth. That is where you find yourself today, young people. Do you reflect in your life what the apostle has to say about youth, “young men?” Or do you find yourself immature, having neglected your spiritual life so that there was not much development? Or do you find yourself overstepping your bounds in order to play the role of your parents?
Let us take a look. The period of youth is the period characterized by strength. I realize that a grown-up man is also strong, and in a way stronger. But the older man’s strength does not simply overflow, looking for something to do. But this overflowing strength can be seen in youth by the very way that he walks and carries himself. However, youth has a problem; he does not know what to do with what he has. One may work hard all day and expend much effort and energy. But does he now stop and rest? Why, no, he instead trots off, flexing his muscles and engaging in one strenuous exercise or another.
The same thing holds true mentally. Do you ever become stumped by the problems of the day? On the contrary, you have not yet met a difficulty that you could not overcome or a problem that you could not solve. You know all the answers on the basis of which the rest of your life will be without bump or wrinkle.
In harmony with this natural period of strength is the spiritual side of your life. You have grown in grace, truth, and in knowledge. In your grasp you have the basic principles and have tasted the beauty of God’s Word. Now, too, nothing seems too difficult. Filled with spiritual energy you are ready to fight the battle of faith and overcome the evil one.
The Evil One! Where you find Christ you find the forces against Christ. Where you find strong faith you will find also strong opposition. The more faith exerts itself, the more intense is Satan as he goes about as a roaring lion. Did you ever wonder why the devil seems to work hardest of all among the youth? This is where exuberance of faith is displayed; and Satan works hard to persuade you that you are condemned in your sins, without hope. But God preserves His covenant youth and gives them the assurance that the fact that they know their sin is the testimony of the Spirit in their hearts that they are children of the light. If Satan loses ground in one area he turns to another, such as presenting to you all the enticements of the world. Is not it a temptation to take Sunday off, as the rest of the world does? The devil tells you that this is one day that you can have to yourselves. Why waste the day by going to church and Young People’s Society? But you as covenant youth know that one’s real joy is in communion and fellowship with God and His people and that the fleshpots of Egypt give no satisfaction.
Finally, the old mud-slinger will appeal to your reason. Remember how you seem to know all the answers and seem to have all things figured out? Satan appeals to your powers of reason and encourages you to use it to his advantage. He asks what reason you have for believing that there is a God. Reason gives you no knowledge of God. However, you tell him that the Bible tells you so. He retaliates by telling you that reason will tell you that you have no basis in logic for believing the Bible. How do you know and how can you prove that His Word is truth? Your answer will be that this is given to you by faith. Yes, indeed! Do not let that old deceiver lead you to believe anything different. By God’s grace you will remain strong. The apostle reveals that to you here, “I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” The apostle knows your strength and the battle that you are waging. But at the same time he knows and is assured of your victory, that you will advance to spiritual fatherhood just as you have already advanced from spiritual childhood. That you are advancing is sure because in battle one does not remain stagnant, but grows in strength and knowledge.
But you are not spiritual fathers yet. No, you are youth. Hence, you must learn to respect your parents, your teachers, your consistory, and all others who are in the latter state, that is, spiritual fatherhood. You must know your place. Certainly, you do not want to act like a child anymore. But neither do you assume the role of a parent. Your parents must be seen for what they are and for what they have. God has given them stability, wisdom, and real practical knowledge. They must guide and teach both the children and the youth. They have experienced both and have many years behind them. At times you may be provoked by their slow action, their firmness, their apparent inflexibility. But they are the wiser, the more experienced, the more deeply Christian. They “have known him that is from the beginning.” This refers to Christ as the eternal Word, signifying that they have advanced from the simple knowledge of the child who knows that his sins are forgiven, through the heat of the battle of the kingdom as youth, to arrive at the deeper knowledge of God’s covenant. Knowing that God sent Christ into the flesh that we might be perfected in one is a knowledge that gives one quiet and calm wisdom in which there is no wavering or uncertainty.
In conclusion, young people, do not be discouraged. You are in the heat of the battle; you are struggling for faith. But the battle is only proof of your strength. Ye have overcome the wicked one, and the Word of God abideth in you.