If you are anything like me, then you are finding those early teenage years to be filled with anxiety, awkwardness, pressure, and physical deformities that you are sure every single person in the world is talking about behind your back. You are somewhere in those teenage years, so you know for sure that you are not a boy anymore, but you are also not sure if you are a man yet. So where are you in life? Where are you going? Where have you been? What kind of man will you be someday? And what are you going to do with your life until then?
I still ask the same questions, and I am in my twenties. From the time we are twelve and until some time at around twenty, we are all inevitably, uncontrollably, and undeniably trapped on a bridge leaving boyhood and entering manhood, with our feet on neither shore.
Although this time in life may feel like it is slow and uncomfortable, and rather pointless, be assured that how you handle yourself now will greatly affect what kind of man you are years in the future. If we establish ourselves in the Word of God and seek to make our lives as wholly Christian as possible, it will all be rewarded once we make it past these depressing teenage years. You can trust me on this one, boys, because I am only beginning to leave my boyhood behind and, so far, I like what I see on the horizon.
The first and greatest of all the concepts that must be understood before we get into this lesson series is found in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Understand that if the fear of the Lord is just the beginning of knowledge, if knowing God is just the first step toward true wisdom, than we cannot say we know anything of value unless we begin with Him and His Word.
Let us consider how God uses young men in the Bible. It becomes tempting at times to degrade ourselves and say that we are too useless to God. After all, what would God want with a man who is too young to have a driver’s license, too young to vote, and too young to even get a job to earn money to put into the collection plate? What possible good could a young man do in the service of the Lord?
If you are asking these questions, then take great comfort in the fact that God uses all of His children if they obey Him. God finds a purpose and a function for every part of the body, whether small or great, old or young (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). So you may not be able to serve God in the same ways that your father and grandfather do, but you can serve Him in other equally important manners. God cares about young men, and He does not leave the Bible silent when it comes to advice, aid, comfort, strength, and stories about other young men with the same weaknesses, fears, and potential as you!
“Then I said, ‘Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.’ But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak’” (Jeremiah 1:6-7). Some historians believe Jeremiah was only fourteen years of age when he was called to prophecy before the adulterous people of Judah. Others estimate that he was more likely eighteen to twenty. In any case, that is a very young age at which to be called by God and commanded to bring the message of imminent doom to thousands of people who would surely hate you.
Realize also that what God asked Jeremiah to do ended up costing him everything. It was never easy for this man to prophecy to such a stubborn, obstinate people. At every opportunity, the Judeans refused to listen to him (Jeremiah 43:2-3, Jeremiah 44:16), found ways of confusing his prophecies (Jeremiah 18:18, “Come on and let us strike at him with our tongue and let us give no heed to any of his words”), and even attempted to take his life (Jeremiah 26:1-9)! Jeremiah ended up spending a great amount of time in prison, and, even worse, thrown into a deep pit with only mud and refuse at the bottom (Jeremiah 38:6). He spoke of this experience in Lamentations 3:55, “I called on Thy name, O Lord, out of the lowest pit.” And by the end of Jeremiah’s life, he had been kept in shackles and taken to Egypt by force (Jeremiah 43:6), where he died by stoning. Now that is a lifetime of woes, which is why Jeremiah is most often called the weeping prophet. Do we ever have the same kind of courage that Jeremiah did? How would we face tribulations like these?
This account of young Jeremiah should help us realize that God has a job for all of us, even the very young and immature. It is so easy sometimes to think we are useless to the Lord simply because we do not know the Scriptures as well as our parents, or we are too young to lead singing, or we are unable to defend the Gospel as quickly and effectively as older Christians. But we cannot let our “youth” become an excuse for poor service to God. It did not work for Jeremiah, and it will not work for us.
Elihu was a very young man during the lifetime of Job. He is described as being a number of years younger than Job or his three friends (Job 32:4). We read about him starting in Job 32. Although much of what he spoke to the old man Job was arrogant and unwise, a true sign of his age and his misunderstanding of the true nature of God, we can learn a lesson from the respect that he tried to show to those who were older than him. Notice what he says in Job 32:6-12. He was so hesitant to speak in the company of older, supposedly wiser, men because he did not want to leave his place as the least of all of them. If only all young men could learn to hold their tongues as long as Elihu did!
We can all learn a lesson from him. Often, young men want so badly to impress their elders that they will say or do anything to make themselves look mature. In Bible classes, they make (usually) pointless observations. In public prayers, vain repetition and long words are thrown in. In their Bible study, they make assertions and believe doctrines without any Biblical backing because they are so eager to discover new truths or see old truths in a more modern way than their elders. Basically, young men just want to talk about things that are too big for them!
But understand what Solomon says in Proverbs 13:3, “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Sometimes talking just for the sake of talking is not the best idea! When in the presence of older, wiser men – in a Bible class session, at a meal, in the company of a preachers and elders – we must keep our words few and listen. Listening to real wisdom is better than trying to speak our own faulty wisdom.
Samuel’s mother Hannah was barren, unable to bear children. But by a miraculous intervention she bore a boy and named him Samuel, which means “because I have asked him of the Lord.” Because of her appreciation to God, Hannah dedicated the boy’s life to the temple service and gave him up immediately to Eli so that he could be trained.
There are a few valuable lessons that we can learn from Samuel as a young man. First, notice that he was constantly growing and maturing in the Lord, even when all kinds of evil surrounded him. Even in the temple itself, sinful people were in great power. Eli’s two sons were corrupt priests who would use a long fork to steal meat as it was being prepared for sacrifice. “Thus the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for the men despised the offering of the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:17). But even as these crooked priests were around Samuel every day in the temple, their bad influence never deterred him from growing as a servant of God. “Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the Lord and with men” (1 Samuel 2:26).
The example of Samuel shows that even when we are living amongst the vilest sinners of the world, we can still obey the command to “let your light so shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). You may have bad teachers at school who do not agree with your Christianity. You may have very negative peers at school. You just might even have a parent who is not a member of the church. But even with these negative influences in your life, you can grow up to become a strong Christian. Samuel had bad people in his life, too, and he was a man who was pleasing to God.
We could say that Samuel was a leader and not a follower. What kind of person are you? A follower is the kind of man who will go with others into sinful activities. A leader will reject those sinful activities and lead others into righteousness. The greatest temptation is to become a follower – its easier, its more fun, it takes less mental discipline or investment. “You shall not follow a multitude in doing evil” (Exodus 23:2). It is clear that just because something is being done by everybody else does not mean it is right!
A couple hundred years before Josiah was even born, a man of God prophesied about him and his righteousness. Take a look at 1 Kings 13:2, “And he cried against the altar by the word of the Lord, ‘O altar, altar, thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, a son shall be born the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’’” In God’s great providence and wisdom, the prophecy came true in 2 Kings 22. After generations of evil kings, dictatorships, wars, and blatant apostasy in the worship of idols and foreign gods, finally a man came who was after the heart of David.
What makes Josiah most significant is how young he was when he became king and made his reforms in Judah. He was only eight when the crown was placed on his head and it was only in his eighteenth year that he found the Scriptures in the chamber of the temple (2 Kings 22:8). You can read about how quickly and completely he reformed the wayward people of Israel in 2 Kings 23! It took only the shortest possible time for Josiah to tear his clothes and vow to reinstate the forsaken Law of God – and what is more impressive is the fact that he changed the entire nation! Imagine how difficult of a task it would be for any one of us to change the entire population of our home state and return their hearts to the service of the Lord!
Timothy is usually the first person from the Bible we think of when we are talking about young men. Although, during the New Testament era, the definition of the phrase “young man” could mean any man from teenagehood to about forty years, some scholars have asserted that Timothy was not more than eighteen years of age when he began to follow Paul. The evidence for this is because both his mother and grandmother were still alive at the time when the second epistle was written to him (2 Timothy 1:5).
Paul wrote to him once, “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” (1 Timothy 4:12). Do we sometimes let people look down on our youthfulness? Just because we may only be a teenager, does this make us any less a Christian? Does it make us any less useful to God? When a fourteen year old boy reads from the Bible, does that take away some of the wisdom and authority of that Scripture? Surely not. The point that Paul makes to Timothy is that as long he is serving God wholeheartedly and in complete doctrinal truth, he should not care about whether or not others look down on him because of his age. Read the exhortation that he gives to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13-16.
It becomes so tempting for adults to discount the words of a young man simply because of his age. Perhaps some of you are considering becoming preachers, like the young man Timothy. My advice to you is to never get discouraged by the words of an adult. Accept criticism graciously, take advice when it is offered, be respectful of those who do not appreciate your stand for the truth – but do not ever get discouraged from preaching! I suppose if Timothy cared more about what others thought of him he would have quit preaching shortly after beginning. I hope that no young man who considers preaching will quit simply because of what a few people say about his preaching.
God has a purpose for each of us, no matter our age. For young men, God has asked us to listen to wisdom and rebuke and to accept the chains of servitude in whatever form they may come. It is a heavy responsibility to be a Christian. We have been entrusted with the riches of the Gospel of Life, and it is our responsibility to preach it to the best of our abilities.
God does not expect each of us to change the world. He does not expect us all to convert a thousand people by the time we are thirty. God simple expects us to do our best and to give Him the first fruits of our labor.
As young men we are faced with all kinds of difficulties and temptations. We have a great deal going against us, including fear, feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and an incomplete knowledge of God. But what we have going for us is even greater than all of those things! “In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snare of death” (Proverbs 14:26-27).
“He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).