I challenge you to think about some radical questions. What does the world say today about the teenage life? Is what the world says about this life right? Have you and your parents bought into this lie in some areas of your lives? How does God call you to live in your teenage years?
Maybe when you read these questions you do not want to face them because this does not sound like much fun. These are some serious questions that require you to do some soul searching.
I am writing about this, not to make your life more miserable, but in order that you might know the joy of serving the Lord! After all, Scripture says in Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” “Blessed” means happy, joyful. True joy and happiness are found in godliness.
I challenge you to think biblically about the life of a teenager. God’s Word calls you to love and serve Him by loving and serving others. His Word calls you not to waste these years with riotous living, but to enjoy your teenage years with a life of glorifying God. Yes, this is the way to enjoy your teenage years.
I used the word “teenager.” A teenager is a person between the ages of thirteen and nineteen years old. If you fall into this category you attend school; you probably have a Facebook account with many friends; you probably have a cell phone (if you do not, you are trying to convince your parents that you need one); and you text more than you talk on that phone. Did you know that the term “teenager” is of recent origin? The word itself has been around for only about seventy years. The term is not a bad one, and I do not object to using it. But what has happened is that, in our society, another age-class has been formed. In addition to children and adults, we now have teenagers.
What characterizes the teenage years? In the world today, the bar is set low. How low? Maybe at your knees, or even lower. The teen years are seen as a vacation from responsibility and seriousness. The world today does not expect competence, maturity, or obedience from its teens. The world says that the teen years are for goofing off and having fun. It is the time to be a slob, to be irresponsible, to rebel against your parents, to party, etc. The world expects teens to experiment with drugs, alcohol, smoking, and sex. To illustrate just how low the world sets it expectations for teens, I refer you to some suggestions I read online recently for what parents should expect of their teenage child:
~ Make your bed every day.
~ Be able to take a message on the phone.
~ Clean your room every week.
~ Do a daily chore (just one), like taking out the trash.
~ Make sure the gas gauge stays above a quarter of a tank.
The article includes an encouragement to parents: “Please do not feel that your teenager should be doing all of them.” Really? A teenager should not be expected to do all of these things? I hope that you are as outraged as I am that parents would not expect more from their teenagers than this. Certainly your parents expect more than this of you. Many of you probably have a job (or want one), pay for your own gas and maybe even your own car, make your bed and clean your bedroom, and do many chores around the house.
What I have seen is that many teens in the world today think the ideal day is to sleep in until at least 10:00 a.m. After grabbing a pop tart or a bowl of cereal, they check their phone, text their friends, play some video games, spend the afternoon by the pool, and then go out with their friends until at least midnight. Meanwhile their room is such a mess you cannot tell what color the carpet is, and they complain when mom suggests they mow the lawn or weed the garden. May you aspire to much more than this, because God calls you to do so.
We must evaluate this biblically. Is it true, biblically, that the teenage years are all about having fun and goofing off? Is it true that God gives you a free pass in your teen years to live irresponsibly, and that He calls you to live responsibly only when you are older? The Bible’s answer, of course, is no! God calls you to godliness, responsibility, and leadership. He calls us, surely, to exercise these virtues when we are adults. Your youth is the training ground for this. The teen years are for training in godliness, responsibility, and leadership. This is why God has given this time of life to you. You will not find in Scripture any use of the words teenager or adolescence.
You will not find, either, a reference in Scripture to this separate period in a person’s life between childhood and adulthood. There is only reference to children becoming adults. Paul speaks of this in I Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Paul builds on this in I Corinthians 14:20: “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.” Our culture says, “Be mature in evil, but in your thinking and behavior be childish.” Being irresponsible and living to play is childish. Your teen years are a time of transition from childhood to adulthood. It is a time in which you should strive for godliness and holiness. It is a time for spiritual growth, as you grow and change also physically. If you live as children in the teen years, then you waste this time. There is also the likelihood that you will continue to live as a child well into your twenties and thirties.
In the Scriptures there are many examples of teenagers who grew in godliness and responsibility. May these examples encourage you to reject the thinking of the world about the teenage years. The first example is David. When David fought against Goliath, King Saul called him a “youth.” This means that physically he was not considered a grown man. He was a teenager, transitioning from being a boy to being a man. Do you recall the amazing things David did as a teenager? As a teenager, David was responsible and godly. Read I Samuel 16 and 17 (maybe you could use this for your young people’s Bible study this year). When David was in his early teens, his father entrusted to him the care of the sheep. This would be like a farmer entrusting the running of part of his farm to his teenage son, or like a father entrusting the running of his business to his son. David was away from home days at a time, shepherding his father’s sheep in the mountainous pastures in Judah. This was no slack job. He stood between predators and his sheep to protect the sheep. He had to be alert constantly. He did not have the luxury of sleeping until late in the morning. During the quiet times, David did not simply relax, but he composed songs, played musical instruments, and sang. This music was not the music of the world, but as a teenager he loved to sing praises to God. Imagine this young man singing Psalm 23, while he cared for his father’s sheep. By the grace of God, he was a responsible, godly young man.
After Samuel anointed him king, David received another important job—playing his harp for King Saul, to calm his troubled spirit. As a youth, David was entrusted with this important work in the palace of the king. He was given this job because he was known as a responsible and godly young man. This job of playing harp ended when Saul led Israel in battle against the Philistines. Jesse, David’s father, thought nothing of sending his teenage son on a journey of 8-10 miles on foot to bring food to his brothers who were fighting and to check on their welfare. What do we learn about David from this event? First, as a responsible young man he was entrusted with this duty. Secondly, he was a godly son who obeyed his father without arguing.
God used this godly teenager to give a mighty deliverance to Israel over the Philistines. In his love for God, David was outraged that Goliath defied the armies of the living God. He went to fight the giant, but not in his own strength. David was a young man of faith who confessed, “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine” (I Sam. 17:37). David was strengthened by God for this battle against the enemy, and God gave him the victory.
This history teaches us about Christ, because David was a picture of Christ. Because this is true, it also teaches you as young people what it means to have the mind of Christ.
Daniel and his three friends are another biblical example of teenagers who were godly and responsible (another book of the Bible worthy of study in a young people’s society). They were taken to Babylon probably between the ages of 14 and 16 years old. Satan worked through Babylon in an attempt to conform them to the ungodliness of their society. They were given Babylonian names, a pagan public education, and the luxurious food of the land. But by the grace of God, Daniel and his three friends, without parents or grandparents looking over their shoulders, chose to serve the living God. They refused to eat the king’s meat. They refused to bow down to the idol gods of Babylon. And they regularly prayed to God facing toward Jerusalem. God gave to them, as young men, important positions of rule and leadership in the kingdom of Babylon.
It would be easy for you to think, “Yes, but that was David and Daniel and his three friends. They were exceptional men.” Before you go any further in that thinking, remember that they were teenagers who faced temptation and sin. Do not set them up on some pedestal so that the way they lived is impossible for you. It is not impossible, because it was all God’s grace. These young people were not without sin. But the lives they lived as servants of the living God should be the lives you strive for also.
What is this life that God calls you to live? These examples of godly teenagers, as well as other passages in Scripture, describe for us this godly life that young people should live. This is not a time in life for you to do what makes you feel good. It is not a time of life to coast and goof off, with drinking and drugs, with constant amusements, with the movies and violent video games that fill your minds with sin. It is not a time for a young man to lust after young women because of how their bodies look. It is not a time for young women to put their bodies on display with immodest dress. It is not a time to date to have some fun without thinking about marriage. It is not a time to experiment sexually. It is not a time to procrastinate and to dillydally, so that parents and classmates cannot count on you to get things done.
Godly teenagers are responsible. They get things done, even the things they do not want to do. They learn to keep their rooms clean, do their homework, help out around the house, and work hard if they have a job. Godly teenagers are obedient. They obey mom and dad without arguing, set a good example for their siblings, refuse to indulge in all the sinful pleasures the world has to offer, and encourage their friends to live in godliness.
Here are a couple of other Scripture passages to ponder. II Timothy 2:22: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Hebrews 10:24, 25: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
I do not mean to say that in our churches we do not have young people who are living responsibly or godly. We do. We have many. I have seen it with my own eyes. I remember taking an energetic group of young people from Loveland to the mission in Spokane in a fifteen-passenger van on a nineteen-hour ride to be an encouragement and help for a conference they were having in Spokane. I have seen young people stand up with conviction against the ungodliness around them. But it is not easy. For those who are struggling and living in sinful, childish ways, may you be awakened to serve the living God as teenagers. For those who are striving to be responsible and godly, may this encourage you to continue. This is the way to enjoy your teenage years. “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…. But his delight is in the law of the Lord” (Ps. 1:1, 2).