Life can be likened to a canoe trip on a river which constantly changes. Here and there the trip is slow-moving and pleasant; you have time to consider the wonders of your surroundings—the beauty of the shore, the trees, the mountains, the sun and enjoy the trip. Then, suddenly, the river can turn into a nightmare of white water. Somehow, you have to steer your frail craft through dangerous rapids that could at any moment cause you to turn over.
We are always changing, and the world is always changing. How can we remain true to Christ as we navigate the turbulence of change? We should first understand those changes, and second, be equipped to deal with the spiritual challenges of each period of life.
Developmental psychologists today usually divide adulthood into three stages: early adulthood; middle adulthood, and late adulthood. Each stage has its own “developmental tasks” and spiritual challenges. The Bible deals with the special temptations and tasks of each stage. We shall deal with the Early Adulthood (18—29 yr) in this issue.
The young man faces several “developmental tasks” like selecting a mate (or adjusting to unmarried status), learning to live with a marriage partner, starting a family, rearing children, learning to relate to the children of others, managing a home etc.
Then he faces and “age-thirty transition.” Many men develop a “restless vitality” when they reach this age. They feel they have not accomplished all they want to accomplish and must make some changes. The Bible recognizes the category of “youth” and gives special instructions to those in that age group, because young men face many spiritual challenges.
Young men must decide whom they will follow.
Being young means making decisions—about marriage, children, and employment. Those decisions can be confusing. One thing will help the young man make the right decisions: choosing to follow Christ. Once that decision is made, all other decisions will be made in keeping with that one big decision.
“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
Men who do not decide to follow Christ in their youth may find it harder and harder to turn to God as they get older.
Young men must flee youthful lusts
“Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
Of course, a man can be tempted to commit fornication or adultery at any age. Older men may fall prey to lust because they mistakenly feel they are too old to be tempted. (1 Corinthians 10:12) “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” When men are young, however, their sexual drive is at its peak. Therefore, young men have a special responsibility to watch out for temptation and to keep lust out of their heart.
Young men must begin to mature
In a sense, the business of being young is to get over it! That is the major task of being young is to mature, so that one is no longer guilty of behaviour that would be classified as “childish”. That is not a popular idea in today’s world, were many are slow to give up the “freedom” of their youth.
Paul, in contrast, said, “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”. (1Corinthians 13:11)
When Paul told Titus to “urge the young men to be sensible” (Titus 2:6), he used a word that he had already used of older men (Titus 2:2) “that the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience”. He did not say, “Let the young men act foolishly, enjoy life, have a good time, and live for pleasure.” The business of youth is to give up childishness.
What are some” childish things: we must give up as we grow up?
Hedonism—the idea that pleasure is the greatest good in life.
Instant gratification—the inability to see beyond the moment or recognize that momentary pain (work and sacrifice) will have long-term benefits.
Selfishness—the tendency to see the world only in terms of what personal benefits it (or other people) can provide, rather than, at some cost to oneself, seeking to become part of a larger cause for the greater good.
May the youths in our congregation continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ to become the future leaders of His church.