"I've come to the conclusion that 14 year old boys are completely brain dead," he said. I inwardly smiled, because I was 14 when he became my coach, but he wasn't finished. "Fourteen year old boys can think about four things at any given moment, and only four: food, girls, X-box, and fishing."
We laughed a little bit together at the direction my generation has gone (I'm not sure he totally realized he was talking to a teenager himself at the moment), but his observation got me thinking. Honestly, I've worked enough kids ministries, three of which were for guys only, that I can fully attest to what my coach said, minus the fishing. We weren't fishing with these guys, so fishing never came up.
But he was 100% right. After working as a leader in something like seven multi day kids ministries, I've seen the same thing, over and over. With the guys, it's food, girls, and X-box. Don't ask me what the girls talk about, cause I haven't the foggiest notion.
But what went through my mind as he was talking to me was one of the verses that made Lauren and I decide to start this site, 1 Timothy 4:12, "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure the salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you."
Admittedly, Timothy was not 14 at the time Paul wrote him. In fact, he was a church leader, so we can at least guess he was in his twenties. He was still, however, young enough that people looking down on his because of his youth was common. I've been in some leadership positions over adults before, and believe me, it's uncomfortable. This is what Timothy was going through, and what Paul was assuring him to stay strong in and to not shy away from being the authority he was called to be.
So what does this passage say? Well, first off, it tells us not to let anyone look down on us because of our youth. Most of us would like to stop there and have some pastors preach sermons on why adults shouldn't look down on us youth, but that's not what Paul does. Paul didn't write the letter to the church telling them all to get in line under Timothy. He wrote to Timothy giving him truths that would help him get in the position of no longer being looked down on for his youth!
Instead of telling the adults to shape up and respect Timothy, Paul tells Timothy to take responsibility and earn respect through being an example. Work to become an example in love, faith, and purity. Don't take it easy and mope that we're not taken seriously. Study, invest time, and simply stay true to what the Bible tells us. As we grow in the faith, we become taken more seriously as we learn the wisdom that we get through experience.
This is one of the guiding texts behind the entire concept of YFM. Lauren and I had a lot of conversations about starting this blog, and at the end of the day, we wanted to show teenagers that following Christ radically and leading a life of holiness is not for later or when we're older or when we finally get taken seriously. It's for now.
My challenge to you teens (and myself with you) isn't that you stop any attraction to the opposite gender, drop your video games, starve yourself, and throw away your fishing gear. My challenge to you is that "in everything you do, do all to the glory of God"! Yes, fellow teens, I am challenging you to live holy lives while you invest in friendships (even with the other gender), while you play your video games, while you eat, and while you enjoy nature with your fishing rod. To live a holy life means to live a life separated to God.
As teenagers, we are capable of so much more than girls, food, and X-box. Paul tells us we are capable of being an example to the believers and we do this through study and God's work of sanctification in us. Paul's challenge is one that has been echoed so many times by others, the Harris brothers in their book Do Hard Things and John Piper and his book Don't Waste Your Life being the first to examples that come to mind.
We live in a generation of teenagers who are utterly wasting their lives away with their girlfriends, their game consoles, and their pizza boxes. The challenge as Christians serious about Christ is to step out in faith and follow Christ, in love, in hope, in faith, and in purity. It's a call to step boldly forward and follow Christ in sanctification and into whatever calling he calls us, not when we're 20 or when we graduate, but right now, where we are, in the small things or the large ones.
Let no one look down on you because of your youth. Teens, don't live lives that cause others to look down on you for your youth. Step up, pursue Christ, and follow Him!