A Challenge to Today's Christian Youth
by Matt Costella
©Fundamental Evangelistic Association
Consider this ...
Many people tend to think of today's youth as the leaders of tomorrow. But Scripture never places us in such a category. It never instructs us to wait until we are more mature or knowledgeable or skilled before we begin to take God's Word seriously and consider what plans and purposes the Lord has for our lives. According to God's Word, we are to be leaders even today who earnestly desire to honor and serve our Lord in all our thoughts and actions. Paul told Timothy, a younger man in the faith, ;"Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim. 4:12). God specifically commands us, as young people, to be leaders—to lead by example. We are to understand God's instructions to us and let the world watch us grow in our spiritual walk with the Lord.
As a young person myself, I am burdened for the church in the days ahead, and I am burdened for today's youth who must not only strive to live exemplary lives right now (that is, a life that is an example for others to follow), but who will one day attempt to serve as faithful leaders within the body of Christ, the church. I am burdened because it is not getting any easier to live in this world. I am burdened because young Christians today often fail to understand that God desires to have a close, intimate relationship with them right now, a relationship that only comes about when we obey the Scriptures. Sadly, many young people often feel as though God will only use them or speak to them through His Word when they grow older. Yet this is certainly not true!
I know that many adults do not always provide the right examples for us to follow. Some are downright hypocritical. Others do not even seem to care what God's Word has to say at all. Others may truly desire to follow Christ but find themselves more interested in what some individual has to say or what some program has to offer rather than what God's Word teaches. Today, as many older believers tend to disregard the teaching of God's Word in order to be accepted by others, we who are younger are witnessing this tragic compromise, this disregard for Biblical truth.
Often, many of our peers (or maybe we ourselves) are following in the footsteps of our errant elders and copying their unscriptural attitudes and philosophies of ministry. Maybe we feel as though we should worship and unite with others even though they do not agree with us concerning what the Bible teaches. Maybe we feel as though we should join a "cooler," more "alive" church. Maybe we feel that we should live like the world, act like the world, talk like the world and dress like the world in order to witness to the unsaved. Maybe we feel as if our outward actions do not really matter to God as long as we are sincere and our motives are pure.
Yet despite the mixed signals and poor examples often set by those around us, young and old alike, God wants us to honor Him, obey Him and lead by example. The Word of God is not silent concerning the conduct of young people and their role in the church and in society. I believe that as young people today, we must seriously consider what God's Word has to say to us. Are we measuring up to what God wants us to be? Are we just following the crowd, or do we stand out as those who desire to be faithful and holy despite the hypocrisy and compromise all around us on the part of both adults and other young people?
I understand the struggles and pressures faced by young people today. Having been educated in both Christian schools and public universities, I certainly understand the unique tests and trials that accompany those younger believers who attend either Christian schools or public ones. Even those who are home schooled are not exempt from peer pressure and from the pressure of the media to conform to the standards and lifestyles of the world. All of us are bombarded by television programs, commercials, music, billboards, video games, magazines, newspapers and movies that give us the impression that to rebel against all authority is cool; that parents are old, out-of-touch "has beens" who do not know what they are talking about; that sex, lust and immorality are perfectly acceptable as long as one is honest and responsible.
We are being targeted whether we realize it or not! Advertisers today specifically target our generation. They slyly pressure us to buy their products so that we can feel stylish and cool. We are constantly pressured by the media to conform to the standards of the world and to be accepted by the unsaved within society. Why? Because it is financially beneficial to them. They use us for our money and could care less about our physical or spiritual well-being. Sadly, even young people who profess to be saved are largely responsible for pressuring other Christian young people to live like the world, act like the world, talk like the world and dress like the world. How are we to respond to these pressures?
First, we all must realize that the ideas and philosophies of the world are completely opposed to God's will and plan for us. The world tells us to "live it up" as young people while we can. The immorality and worldliness embraced and practiced by many of our peers are often excused even by those who are older than us who say, "They're just kids," or "They're only young once... let them live and enjoy all the world has to offer while they still can." But notice what the wisest man who ever lived wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Ecclesiastes 12:1. King Solomon wrote: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth." Notice that Solomon did not say: "Live it up while you are young, and later on you will have the opportunity to serve and glorify God." No, he said exactly the opposite. He tells young people, "Now is the time to focus on your relationship with God, the Creator of all things."
The attitudes of the world in which we live completely contradict the exhortations found in God's Word. Even in 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul does not tell Timothy, "Since you are young, you have God's permission to live a wild lifestyle if you will promise to live for Him when you get older." Nor does Paul tell Timothy, "While you are young, give the older generation a reason or an excuse to get on your case about the way you are living and acting." On the contrary, the apostle commands Timothy to do exactly the opposite! This young man is instructed to live a blameless life and be an example to others so those who are older will not have a reason to look down on him.
Second, we must realize that the older generation who often "gets on our case" is not solely to blame. Many young people today do everything in their power to rebel and shock those who are older. Our generation frequently gives our elders good reasons to criticize our attitudes and behavior. But Paul tells Timothy: "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example."
See, we find from this verse that Paul tells Timothy to silence those who would be critical of his age by living an exemplary life. When Paul says, "Let no man despise thy youth," he is telling Timothy, "Don't let older men and women look down on you simply because you are young." How is Timothy to enforce this command? He must not give them a reason to do so. Instead, he must live a life that is blameless and be an example to believers and unbelievers alike of how to honor and please God. To be an example "of the believers" means he is to be an example to other believers as well as to those who are unsaved.
In the New Testament, Paul also addressed another young man, Titus, and told him, "In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you" (Titus 2:7,8). As a young man, Titus was to be an example, a pattern, to all other believers in many areas of his life including his doctrine, his speech and his sincerity. Living an exemplary life was not only honoring to God, but it also stopped the mouths of those who would be critical of him simply because he was young.
No one today can claim that young people do not have the ability to be leaders, to be righteous, to be holy or even to understand the teaching of the Word of God (correct doctrine). No, both Timothy and Titus were urged to be examples in all areas of their lives. Paul trusted Timothy to the extent that he even commanded him to stay in the city of Ephesus in order to "charge [command] some that they teach no other doctrine" (1 Tim. 1:3). That was certainly a big responsibility for a young man!
First Timothy 4:12 is such an important verse, for it gives us six areas in which we as young people are to be examples to other believers and unbelievers. As you look carefully at each point, search your heart and ask yourself whether or not you are measuring up as a Godly example to other young people and older individuals alike. We must be an example of the believers:
We need to be an example to others in our speech. To be an example "in word" involves our choice of words, the content of our words and the delivery of our words. Our vocabulary must be free from the swearing, cursing and filth that permeates the hearts and minds of the unsaved. Scripture tells us that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matt. 12:34). Therefore, when our tongues spew forth cursings or filthy, unseemly words, we know that a spiritual problem exists within our hearts that goes deeper than that which simply comes out of our mouths.
As believers, we should never imitate the vile language of the unsaved. Rather, we should desire for every word that we say to be acceptable in the sight of God (read Psa. 19:14). We must keep in mind that one day we will be held accountable for our words, even if we say them without thinking first (see Matt. 12:36). Therefore, we should be certain that we "let no corrupt communication proceed out of [our] mouth" (Eph. 4:29).
Not only must we be an example in our choice of words, but we must be sure that the content of our speech is wholesome and edifying. When we open our mouths, do we tend to rip apart certain individuals who come to our mind? Is our speech full of gossip and harmful backbiting? Is our conversation pleasing to God, or do we tend to repeat the latest off-color joke to our friends in order to get a laugh? We must consider these questions. God's Word tells us that when we are saved we are to "put off ... filthy communication out of [our] mouth" (Col. 3:8).
Finally, the delivery of our words must also be honoring to God and exemplary before the world. Unless we speak intelligibly and articulately, we will immediately lose the respect and attention of those to whom we are speaking. We must be good communicators. When we pepper our sentences with the latest slang and slurs or when we mumble under our breath or speak so quickly that people cannot understand what we are saying, we will not be able to gain the attention of those with whom we wish to communicate. By not communicating articulately, intelligently and clearly, we can forfeit an opportunity to not only be a good example but to present the Gospel to the lost or to edify another believer who needs to hear a word of encouragement.
The Bible provides us with a good example of a young man who carefully chose his words, spoke the truth and clearly articulated his message. In 1 Samuel 3 we read about Samuel, a young man whom God specifically used to be His spokesman to the nation of Israel. In verse 19, God's Word says, "And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground." Samuel gained favor in the eyes of God and of men (1 Sam. 2:26) because he served the Lord and plainly spoke the very words God had given him to speak. Had Samuel ruined his testimony through filthy language, slanderous gossip or unintelligible speech, this young man would not have been able to be used so mightily for the work and glory of the Lord.
We also need to be an example to others in our conduct. To be an example of the believers "in conversation" involves our conduct (behavior) and our lifestyle. How do we act around other people within our church or society, whether young or old, saved or unsaved? Do we try to be as difficult, as cool, as rebellious, as wild or as nonconformist as we can possibly be? Or do we conduct ourselves in a manner that sets us apart from the world and causes others to see something different in us? When others observe our behavior, can they conclude that we are young people of integrity, discernment and knowledge? If not, then we must change!
In Ephesians 4:22-30, God's Word tells us that when we are saved, we are to "put off the former conversation [the way we lived and acted prior to our salvation]" which includes lying, anger, stealing, filthy language, bitterness, wrath and evil speaking. We must act differently than those who do not know Christ, for the Holy Spirit indwells us and is grieved when we live like the world. Under no circumstances are we to imitate the world. Those Christians who think they can be like the world in order to reach the world for Christ or who think they can remain attached to worldly pleasures, attitudes or behaviors without experiencing the disapproval of the Lord are only deceiving themselves, grieving the Holy Spirit and bringing reproach to the name of Christ.
Not only are we to be examples in our conduct and behavior, but in our lifestyle as well. As believers, our interests and our priorities must be aligned with the revealed will of God as found only in His Word. Rather than being drawn to the amusements of the world, we must see to it that our lives honor and glorify our Savior. Once again, God's Word declares that we are to be holy "in all manner of conversation [lifestyle]," that is, we are to be separated from the world and set apart unto Christ in every area of our lives (Rom. 12:2).
So many young people today profess to know Christ as their Savior, yet they try to stay as close to the world and its pleasures as they possibly can. "Christian" rock music, "Christian" tattoos and body piercings, "Christian" concerts and now even "Christian" bars and night clubs are all aimed at allowing young people to "Christianize" the sins of the world. But the Word of God declares that the world and all therein is "darkness" rather than light. It commands us to "love not the world, neither the things that are in the world" (1 Jn. 2:15). Although we are in the world, we are not of the world. The Bible says, "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 Jn. 2:16).
We must not embrace the world system and its vain pleasures once we have become a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). God is light; the world is darkness. Our love, loyalty and allegiance will go to one or the other. Light and darkness cannot coexist. Love for the things of the world and love for Christ are completely incompatible.
Perhaps this area of conduct and lifestyle is the most difficult area for most of us as young people to conquer through obedience to the Word of God. But once again, the Bible provides us with an account of several young people who exemplified what it means to be blameless in conduct and lifestyle even though the pressures they faced were far greater than any pressures we may encounter today. They proved that a Godly lifestyle can be accomplished!
In Daniel chapter one, we find that Daniel and his three young friends remained true to their God despite being taken captive and subjected to pagan beliefs and practices. They were strangers in a foreign land who found themselves separated from their families and friends. They had every opportunity to begin enjoying the sinful, worldly attractions and entertainment that surrounded them in the land of Babylon, for there were no Godly adults to tell them what to do or what to refrain from doing. Yet they refused to defile themselves with the pleasures, foods and amusements of the pagan Babylonian lifestyle. Why? Because their convictions were their own. Other young Israelites were also taken captive, but they gave in to the pressures to conform to the wicked Babylonian lifestyle. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did what was right because they were young people with personal conviction. God rewarded them for their separation from the world. Their behavior and lifestyle remained exemplary throughout their captivity. We need to remember this account of Daniel and his three friends when it seems as though it is impossible for us to be different from the world or even from fellow Christians who are following the world.
We also need to be an example to others by showing love and concern for the well-being of other believers and unbelievers. The word "charity," or "love," in this verse does not speak of affection or friendship, but rather of an unselfish, sacrificial love for another. This agape love (agape is the Greek word from which our English word "charity" [or "love"] is translated in this text) means that we love our fellow Christians to the extent that we sacrifice our own time, comfort or popularity in order to build them up in the faith.
When we truly love others as we should, we will sometimes need to reprove and correct them when they begin to move in the wrong direction, even though doing so might cause them to feel resentful toward us. We must understand that this agape love is not shown by doing what the one we love desires, but what is needful for them. This is the same love Christ had for us when He died on the cross for our sins. As ungodly "enemies" of God (see Rom. 5:8-10), we did not want Him to die for us. But because He loved us so much, He died for us anyway because He knew that was best for us; He knew we needed a Savior, a Substitute to pay the price of our sin on Calvary's cross. First John 4:10, 11 says, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation [the wrath-removing sacrifice] for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another."
If Christ loved us to such a great extent, should not we love our Christian friends in like manner? For example, when we see a friend begin to hang around with the wrong crowd or begin to grow indifferent or apathetic towards the things of the Lord, we must confront him in a kind, gentle manner and inform him that he is heading in a destructive direction. Of course, our friend probably will not appreciate it at the time and perhaps may not appreciate such concern and reproof for many years to come. But our prerogative is to love them; and true, sacrificial, selfless love will lead us to warn our friends about their potentially destructive behavior or attitudes.
Not only must we love our Christian friends, but we must also love the unsaved. We need to be an example of the believers by telling others about what Christ has done for them. I believe we especially need to give this message to other young people who will often listen to what we have to say but will rarely listen to other adults. What a marvelous privilege it is to be able to share the life-changing message with others—that Jesus died for their sins and that through trusting in His substitutionary death and resurrection they, too, can possess peace with God and a personal relationship with their Creator.
Jesus Christ Himself is the perfect picture of a young man who loved all men. As a young boy, He obeyed His parents and honored them in everything He did. As a young man of only 33 years old, Jesus suffered a cruel death on Calvary's Cross. Do we love others as Jesus loved all men? Are we willing to even suffer rejection and scorn in order to help our Christian friends and to witness to those who do not know Christ?
Not only do we need to be an example of the believers in our speech, our conduct and our love for others, but we also need to be an example to others in our inward attitudes. To be an example "in spirit" means to not only outwardly do what we know is right and honoring to God, but to do it with the right attitude. Often, when parents, teachers, pastors or employers tell us to do something, we do it because we have no choice but to obey. Yet inwardly, we are frustrated, irritated or outright angry about what we are commanded to do, and we let everyone know how we feel through our less-than-joyful response. Our facial expressions, our mannerisms or even the tone of our voice often reveals the attitude of our heart.
We all can think of times when we have ruined our testimonies before other believers or even unbelievers, not because we failed to be responsible or obedient, but because others noticed that our attitude was downright ugly. God's Word teaches us, on the other hand, to do everything to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). The apostle Paul tells us, "And whosoever ye do, do it heartily [that is, with your whole heart], as to the Lord, and not unto men" (Col. 3:23). It is impossible for us to genuinely do everything to the glory of God and simultaneously possess a bad attitude.
To be an example of the believers in spirit means that we not only do all to God's glory with a proper attitude but it means that our inner-man conforms to the will of Christ. Are we selfless, meek and humble, or are we proud, arrogant and boastful (see Phil. 2:3-4 and 1 Peter 5:5-6)? To be an example in spirit also means that we are sincere in everything we do (Josh. 24:14) and that we are forgiving toward those who have wronged us or falsely accused us (Eph. 4:32). The deeds of our spirit involve all our innermost qualities and characteristics. We must be sure that we are doing what is right for the right reason. A pure, selfless spirit will result in an attitude that is glorifying to God and edifying to those around us.
An excellent Biblical example of a young person who exemplified a proper spirit is David. Although Samuel anointed David to be king of Israel when he was just a youth, David never let his prestigious position go to his head. Prior to actually becoming king of Israel, David continued to honor the present king, Saul, with an upright spirit despite the fact that Saul was jealous of David and had even tried to kill him. Although David once had the opportunity to kill Saul as he slept, he refused to do so and, instead, he cut off a portion of Saul's robe as a sign to the king that he could have killed him but that he chose to spare his life instead. However, knowing that Saul was still God's anointed king, David's conscience bothered him because he had even gone so far as to cut off a portion of Saul's robe in the first place (notice 1 Samuel 24:4-6). David respected and honored Saul. He was a Godly example of what it means to possess a humble, righteous spirit despite difficult circumstances.
As Christian young people, we also need to be an example to others in our faith. This means that we must know what we believe and we must know why we believe it. The word "faith" in this verse does not simply mean that we have a belief in something, but that we are firmly convicted in our belief. We are to know and study God's message to us, His Word, and we are to be fully persuaded and convicted that His instructions to us are our final authority in all matters of life.
However, it is important to realize that we cannot have true convictions unless we truly know what God's Word has to say concerning how to live our lives. If someone questions our beliefs, can we show them from Scripture the basis for our beliefs? We need to set aside time each day to not just read the Bible, but to study It! Do not neglect studying God's Word simply because you think you do not have enough time. One famous preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, once stated, "I would rather let my soul soak in half a dozen verses of the Bible all day than rinse my hand in several chapters." The point is this--be sure to study God's Word, and do not rush through It. Oftentimes, we begin a Bible reading schedule, and after a few weeks, or even a few days, we are behind and simply give up reading the Bible altogether. When this happens, or perhaps if this is the case right now, forget the failed attempt and move on--start reading and studying the Bible again today! Even if you can only manage to get through a few verses each day, it is important that you do not neglect to daily walk with your God by reading His Word and communicating with Him through prayer.
Our personal walk with God is more important than anything else in this world! If our daily time of personal, quiet fellowship with God is neglected, then we will fail to be the kind of Godly examples we need to be in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith and in purity.
Sadly, many young people and older people alike have lost their faith and their confidence, either in the truths of God's Word or in the world around them. They feel as though they cannot believe in anything anymore. People have failed them. Churches have disappointed them. Friends and family members have used them and deserted them. They feel like it is no longer possible to be certain about anything. Their hopelessness and lack of confidence is evident in their lifestyles, their music, their books, their appearance and their beliefs.
Other professing Christian young people sometimes feel that what they believe is not even that important. They think God's Word is not entirely applicable to them, or they cling to the idea that the truths contained in God's Word can be altered and changed as culture and society shifts all around us. They are not grounded in the truths of God's Word. They echo the pleas of the compromising adults who are urging all denominations or all religions to forget their differences and join together in common cause. This unscriptural attitude that disregards Biblical doctrine for the sake of "unity" permeates our society today at all levels, even among youth.
Still other young people feel that everything is fine with their lives. They feel as though they do not need a close relationship with Christ, or perhaps they think that they actually do possess a proper relationship with Him when, in reality, they do not. These young people quickly throw their "faith" out the window when it is not convenient or advantageous for them to hold to it. They know what God's Word says on a particular topic, but they are not willing to obey It and apply It to their own lives.
But as young people today who are exhorted to be examples "in faith," we need to believe in Christ, believe the Bible, be grounded in our faith and be ready to be faithful to our Lord no matter who or what disappoints us. God tells us in His Word to "grow in faith" (2 Thess. 1:3), to "follow faith" (2 Tim. 2:2) and to "hold fast the profession of our faith" (Heb. 10:23). We need to allow our unwavering faith in God and in His Word to be seen by all! God has promised to never leave nor forsake those who come to Him on His terms. We may fail God at times by our lack of faith in Him and in His Word, but He will never fail us.
Sure, we might feel like we are all alone at times as we stand for the truth and serve Him as an example "in faith" when no one else seems to hold the same Bible-based convictions that we do. But we must never forget that faithfulness and obedience to our Lord will always bring joy and reward while disobedience and compromise will always bring chastisement and regret.
Gideon is a prime example of a young man who remained faithful to God despite difficult circumstances. He is listed in Hebrews 11, the "faith chapter," as a young man who "out of weakness [was] made strong" (verse 34) because he followed God's orders even though they seemed to be unreasonable by man's standards. Even today, we may feel that it is unreasonable for God to require us to separate from worldly pleasures and amusements or from worldly friends who have no interest nor regard for the things of the Lord. But our separation from these only makes us purer vessels that are "meet for the Master's use."
Remember, God has a plan and purpose for our lives today! But in order to be used by God, we must be separated from that which draws us away from Him and separated unto the Lord Himself. The cost is worth it! Gideon heeded God's seemingly unreasonable commands and won victory after victory as a result.
Finally, we read in 1 Timothy 4:12 that we need to be an example to others in our purity. You probably guessed it—this refers to sexual purity, which God explicitly requires of all believers. All young people today, including Christian young people, face extraordinary pressure to become sexually active. We are surrounded by music, television, magazines, books and games that all urge us in some way or another to express ourselves sexually and to delve into that which God has forbidden at this stage in our lives. Without reservation, the Word of God explicitly forbids sexual activity outside the bounds of marriage, despite the fact that the society in which we live readily accepts fornication and immorality as "normal" and even glorifies it.
Paul explains God's will for our lives in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4. He writes, "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication." He continues to tell us that we must "know how to possess [our bodies] in sanctification and honor." While we might not yet know God's will for our lives concerning our future spouse, schooling or occupation, we do know that God's will for our lives right now is to "abstain from fornication."
Not only are we to "abstain from fornication," but in 1 Corinthians 6:18, God specifically tells us to "flee fornication." This means we are to turn and run from the opportunity, should it arise, to enter into a sexual relationship with another individual outside the bounds of marriage. Why is God's Word so forthright concerning this matter? Because It tells us in the next verse that our body "is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in [us]." It continues, "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." If we are saved, our bodies belong to God, not to ourselves. Therefore, we must be sure that we never use our bodies in any manner which brings shame and dishonor to our Master. Sexual activity outside of marriage is not only shameful and dishonoring to God, but it ruins our relationship with Him and carries with it a host of other long-lasting problems as well. It is impossible for us to remain in God's will and simultaneously defile our bodies through the sin of fornication.
Paul also tells us in 2 Timothy 2:22 to "flee youthful lusts." In the previous verses, Paul states that in order to be used by God, we must separate ourselves from that which would defile our minds and bodies. If we do separate from all unrighteousness, including sexual immorality, God says we will "be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work" (2 Tim. 2:21). God knows that we as young people especially tend to face sexual pressures, and His answer to us is to "flee" from that which would corrupt our bodies. Run away!
Again, God's Word tells us about a young person who exemplified what it truly means to be sexually and morally pure. Remember Joseph? First, his jealous brothers sold him into slavery. Then, his master's wife attempted to seduce him. How did Joseph respond? He turned and ran away from her. The Bible says he "fled, and got him out" (Gen. 39:12). Joseph knew the difference between right and wrong and said, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Gen. 39:9). Joseph realized that to commit fornication was "great wickedness" and a "sin against God." We must, like Joseph, do what is right for the right reasons. We must flee from immorality and refuse to use our bodies as "instruments of unrighteousness."
Some Final Thoughts:
It certainly is not becoming any easier to live for the Lord and maintain a consistent testimony for Christ in this evil world. The world is not becoming a more righteous, moral place to live. People in this world, including many Christians, are certainly not encouraging nor supporting those of us who desire to become more grounded in our faith or who purpose to honor Christ through holy, separated lives. On the contrary, Satan is trying to do everything he can to discourage us, to make us feel alone, to pressure us to "loosen up" and to persuade us to be more accepting of other religions, beliefs and philosophies. But we must remember that we are called by God, right now, to be examples of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith and in purity. Consider these final thoughts:
First, hypocrisy on the part of those who are older than us is no excuse for us to "throw in the towel" and conclude that our relationship with God is not important. Neither is disobedience and compromise on the part of those who are older than us an excuse for us to follow their bad example and to believe that God is not entirely concerned about our obedience to Him. Just as it is wrong for the unsaved to refuse to believe in Jesus Christ due to the hypocrisy of many believers, it is equally wrong for Christian young people to feel as though they do not need to be genuine, sincere and obedient because some older believers come up short in this regard.
Second, we must remember that we do not need to be raised in a Christian home or experience the support of Christian parents or family members in order to honor God and walk close to Him. Many Christian young people who come from broken homes, who live with abusive parents or who have never received a word of encouragement or support from their families are being wonderful, Godly examples "of the believers." They draw upon the Lord for strength and look to His Word for encouragement, help and instruction.
Neither do we need to be a part of some large church or "successful" youth group in order to walk close to God and fulfill His will for our lives. Of course, if you are blessed with a Godly pastor and a Christ-honoring youth group, be sure to be supportive of your church leaders and participate in your church activities. But we must remember that God honors and addresses in His Word individuals, not programs or youth groups or "successful" youth ministries. In fact, identification with such is often a hindrance to a God-honoring Christian walk and witness because what occurs in many youth groups and youth programs is actually a reproach to the cause of Christ.
Remember, God speaks to us through His Word as individuals. He works with us as individuals. We do not need to be a part of a large, "dynamic" youth group, ministry or program to be blessed by God and used for His purposes. Nor does our home environment need to be the "ideal" situation. We are individuals. God speaks to us individually. We must possess a personal, individual relationship with God. We are individually responsible for our walk with Him.
Third, remember that God is not calling some of us into full-time Christian service, some of us into part-time Christian service and some of us into the "Christian reserves" when we get older. No, He calls each one of us into service for Him at this very moment. We need to act now! Tomorrow may be too late! Christ could suddenly wipe out our existence or return in the Rapture when we least expect it, and we need to be ready to face Him and give Him an answer for what we thought, said and did (or failed to do) while on this earth.
Fourth, be sincere in your walk with God and your conduct before others, but be sincerely right. Do not base your sincerity on what someone else is telling you or on your own emotional experiences. Rather, find out from the Word of God how to live the Christian life and genuinely possess a relationship with Christ. God tells us we are to "be sincere and without offence" (Phil. 1:10). This means we must be sincere and blameless before God. Sincerity alone is not enough. We are to serve God "in sincerity and in truth" (Josh. 24:14). Trying to muster up sincerity through emotionally-charged music, videos or even preaching is shallow and futile. True and lasting sincerity must be based entirely on God's unchanging Word.
Finally, never give up. When we fail the Lord in various areas of our lives (and we all will certainly fail Him at times), get back on track through prayer and Bible study and keep purposing to please Him in everything you do. Keep striving to be an example "of the believers." Jesus Christ earnestly desires to help us, walk with us and strengthen us in every area of our lives. All we need to do is to obey Him and yield ourselves to Him and to His will. Difficult times will come--loneliness, anxiety, peer pressure and discouragement will look us straight into the eyes at times. But God is always faithful to us. Purpose to remain faithful to Him.
Fundamental Evangelistic Association
2251 East Beechwood Avenue
Fresno, California 93720 U.S.A.
Telephone 559-298-4574 : Fax 559-298-4185