Dont let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for (others) in speech, in life, in faith, and in purity.
- I Timothy 4:12
Whenever the Atlanta Braves need a crucial win, Manager Bobby Cox tells the team to get on board early. More often than not, when they score early in the game, they win; when they dont, they are more likely to lose.
Bobby has a point, not only on a baseball diamond, but in life.
Its been a long time since the Apostle Pauls message to Timothy (see above) applied to me but, when it did, my friends and I had a built-in support system to help us live the exemplary life he suggested to his young friend. It was called church, and I dont mean for an hour or two on Sunday morning. We were also there for youth fellowship and another service on Sunday night, prayer meeting on Wednesday, and for special services in between.
My parents aversion to anything worldly meant there were also places we didnt go. Besides athletics and (non-worldly) music, the church filled in all the other blanks for my brothers and me, especially during the teen years. If the school scheduled a dance, we non-dancing young people held a social. We played games, ate our favorite foods, had a brief devotional, and went home at a decent hour. And though Im often asked by incredulous friends if I ever had any fun, I have to say I did. I didnt sit out the dances alone. There were dozens of us, and it was from this group that I formed my most lasting friendships.
I can hear the laughter now. If there are churches or organizations that offer their youth similar events today, they are vastly outnumbered by the pop-culture entertainment everywhere you look - or listen! Granted, its unrealistic to think we can isolate our children from whatever influences we may consider harmful. However, as someone has said, it is possible to insulate them.
Paul knew his advice to young Timothy was not an impossibility. Rather, his words were based on Biblical examples like the following who, under terrible conditions, trusted in the God they had learned about long before their trials began:
Joseph may have been Jacobs favorite son, but his brothers didnt like him at all. One day, when Joseph had been sent to check on his sheep-tending brothers, the older boys sold their little brother to a caravan of Egyptians, who then traded Joseph to an officer in the Pharaohs guard.
Joseph was only a teen-ager. He had been taken from his home and forced to live in slavery among those who didnt worship his God. Still, despite his circumstances, including an unjust prison term, he became that very example Paul would talk about many years later. Eventually, because of Josephs exemplary life, he became second in command to the Pharaoh, and it was largely through him that God established a new race of people called The Children of Israel (Genesis 37-50).
Daniel was also a teen-ager when he and other well-favored youth were taken from Israel to Babylon for leadership training in the conquering country. But when the rich food they were given didnt follow the dietary guidelines they had been taught in Israel, Daniel and his friends requested simpler fare - cereal, bread, fruit, etc. - instead. Fortunately for the young Israelis, when were found to be in better health than the richer-fed Babylonians, they were allowed to continue eating their own choice in food.
This wasnt the last time Daniel risked punishment and even death by challenging his superiors. Once, when he was caught praying to God instead of to the emperor (Daniel 6), he was thrown to the lions. Again, by standing for what he believed, not only was his life spared, but the young man God had chosen to be his leader overcame his circumstances and lived a long and influential life.
How can a young (person) keep his/her way pure? By living according to (Gods) Word (Psalm 119:9).
Oh, how this world needs more young people like Timothy, Joseph and Daniel, who didnt wait until they were adults to exercise their faith, but followed Gods ways while they were still young.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@ aol.com.)
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