Most every one of my sermons is geared toward adults. Yet it’s presently on my heart to write a message to teens and young adults. Though my ministry is to adult jails and prisons, I also have the privilege of ministering in juvenile institutions from time to time. Add to this that my wife and I are raising eight children, and I think I’m qualified to comment on issues specific to this younger generation. Plus one time I was a teen and a young adult! Here’s what I wish to say to teens and young adults: You can have it all, provided you go God’s way.
Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New Living Translation. This passage is a common text often quoted by the secular and spiritual. Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. 2 A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. 3 A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. 4 A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. 5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. 6 A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. 7 A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. 8 A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace. 9 What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.
Here is what I see from this passage: There is a provision by God for a person to have it all, in the proper time.
Let’s consider three areas that can be drawn from the passage in Ecclesiastes, and apply them to our lives, here and now. These are goals that teens and young people can desire, should desire, and can attain, in the appropriate time. Let’s consider the three and then look at a roadmap to get there.
- Educational Achievement – school, college, trade school, apprenticeship
- Material Possessions – money; property
- Family Success – courtship and marriage, intimacy, children
Educational Achievement – a teen or young person often doesn’t appreciate the value of a solid education. A high school diploma is to be sought. A high school diploma is the door of entry for myriad opportunities. As a young person my report cards often said “Bobby should try harder, he should talk less and he distracts other students from their work.” I was in my first year of college before I came to Christ, and at that time I had no vision for education, no work ethic, no direction, and no plan. I learned almost nothing in High School (except how to swear).
After coming to Christ the short story is that I earned four college degrees, was the class valedictorian, and preached the commencement address (at a secular college). As a young person this is your season to focus on education. You can do well in high school, you can do well in college. Distractions include parties, smoking, drugs, promiscuity, dating, and watching endless DVDs. Due to my earlier poor decisions it took me until age 29 to graduate from college. Most people graduate four years after high school. I took the long road. But that road was made complete when I started going God’s way. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts regarding educational achievement:
|Earn a high school diploma
|Drop out of school
|Enroll in college
|Waste time, goof off, or despise learning
|Get a library card, start reading
|Talk sassy to the teachers
|Be polite and thankful
|Skip classes or be tardy
Material Possessions – teens and young people, if they jump the gun, can put themselves in a deep hole of debt that can take years to climb out of. There are principles in the Bible about material prosperity. The number one principle is the principle of giving. Here young people, lacking wisdom and experience, think it best to hoard all they get so they can buy things, go out to lunch or dinner, and watch movies. But this is not the correct way.
God has made all things for us to enjoy, but many young people never get to enjoy them, even after they get older, because they refuse to go God’s way, and they consume everything upon themselves. The end is an empty sack, full of regrets, disappointments, and confusion. They watch others enjoying material things, but they don’t get to. The young person can set themselves up early on for success by learning the principles of giving, of sharing, of budgeting, of making a plan, and of saving.
|Learn how to give and share
|Get into debt
|Learn how to budget and save
|Squander what you do have
|Embrace “delayed gratification”
|Think money grows on trees
|Read books on money management
|Follow the example of irresponsible people
Family Success – this is the area where teens and young adults are most vulnerable, as the temptations for today’s teens and young adults are much greater than they were for my generation. The temptations of my generation exceeded those of my parents’ generation. It just keeps getting worse, and teens and young adults, who don’t have wisdom, perspective, or training in restraint, can make the mistake of their lives by jumping the gun.
God Almighty has placed a natural attraction toward the opposite sex within us, and it’s in God’s plan for his creation to enjoy the pleasures of this life – provided we go God’s way. Teens and young people have no business engaging in the intimacy reserved for married couples. There is a season of life for this, and it’s not for teens or the unmarried, or for those without the ability to fulfill their responsibilities.
|Study in school, work hard on the job
|Play the dating game
|Understand actions have consequences
|Put yourself in a compromising position
|Know the difference between love / lust
|Think anyone cares more for you than your family does
|Reserve yourself for your future spouse
|Think you can get away with anything
There will be a time when the young person, having had a requisite measure of educational success and having accumulated material possessions, will turn toward the God-given natural desire to find a life partner, their spouse. When that time comes, consider these factors and recommendations:
- Young adults should have a role model, a mentor, someone who has long-term family accomplishments.
- Acquire good books on the subject of courtship, marriage, and raising children.
- Seek out pastoral counseling, do what the pastor says, hear what he says, he has experience, you don’t.
- Personality – is the other person an introvert and you’re an extrovert?
- Dispositions – is the other person naturally trusting and you’re naturally suspicious?
- World View – does one of you think the end justifies the means while the other has a strict moral code?
- Faith Heritage – is one a consistent Christian and the other Christian in talk but not in deed?
- Family Background – did one come from a dysfunctional background and the other stability?
- Recognize the difference between dating and courtship.
- Dating implies no commitment, involves many different relationships with many different people, and has no intention of a long-term future.
- Courtship is where the focus is on finding a spouse, getting to know one another, understanding compatibility and future plans. It has strict boundaries, has noble intentions, and honors God.
Young adults have a natural desire to be with the opposite gender. This is God-given, but it has to be at the right time. How many young adult girls, either in their teens or early twenties, with hopes of college and a good future, have allowed themselves to engage in the intimacy reserved for marriage, and have become mothers, mothers whose lover exited the scene, leaving them to be single moms, who work at minimum wage and miss what God had for them because they didn’t wait for the time appropriate. The story of Bristol Palin is such a picture. I name this name, young people, to give you a real illustration of a young girl who said that if she knew then what she knows now she never would have taken that first step. She became pregnant at age 17. It was a national embarrassment to her mother, the former candidate for Vice President of the United States. The father of the child promised marriage, but backed out (typical), and went on to pose in pornographic magazines. She says she doesn’t even know who he is anymore. And Bristol will have this father of her son in her life for the rest of her life, since they have a child together. Here’s what Bristol is quoted as saying:
“I remember sitting on the couch with one of my best friends and Levi [her boyfriend], and I just couldn’t spit it out. I was like, ‘Mom, Mom.’ I was bawling my eyes out. She was like, ‘What’s wrong?’ And I was like, ‘I’m pregnant.’ And she was like … Oh my God” From that point on, her life took turns she didn’t particularly anticipate. “I thought I would be somewhere warm at college with my friends. But that was deﬁnitely not possible with having Tripp,” she says. Rather than attending a warm school, she is working as a medical assistant in a local dermatologist’s office while taking business classes at a community college. “I don’t ever have time for friends or anything like that,” she says. “It’s just like, there is a hockey game tonight that I want to go to but I can’t. Or, I do have to go to work today, because I’ve got bills to pay.”
In the above quote Bristol touches on the three items all young people want: Educational Success, Material Possessions, and Family Success. Bristol and tens of thousands of young adult girls like her in the same situation can still recover and go on to have a happy life, but it’s not what they expected. The good news is found in Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Let me not discourage anyone who has taken a path they now regret, your life is not over – far from it! It is a bright day in the kingdom of God! Let us not lose sight of that. Let us also not lose sight of the fact that there is a proper time for everything. If young adults will recognize that there are times and seasons for all things, they can have everything they want, and more!
Teens and young adults, hear my words. If you’ll serve Christ Jesus, the savior of the world, if you’ll believe God that you can have it all, all you ever want, in God’s good time, if you’ll believe that and act like you believe it, and put your faith in your creator and savior, I promise you that you’ll never regret it. You’ll be a man or woman one day who will be known for courage, for wisdom, for accomplishment, and you’ll be the one sought out for wise counsel, the one who looks back upon a life of accomplishment, joy, satisfaction, and contentment. All because you behaved properly, and because you went God’s way, and because you trusted him to provide all good things.
Consider the closing words of the text from Ecclesiastes above, 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.
God has indeed made everything beautiful for its own time. For its own time! God has planted eternity, dreams, hopes, vision, in the human heart. You and I cannot see what God has prepared, we don’t see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end, thus we have to trust him. We have to trust God. 1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
Let me sum up the three areas young adults desire and give my own testimony in these areas:
Educational Success – Five of my children are now through High School. My oldest child recently graduated from the University of Washington and is starting graduate school – on the fullest scholarship provided by the university of her choice. My oldest son is a sophomore studying engineering, two other daughters are at the university pursuing double-majors. All four college children are pulling straight A’s. Learning is a way of life for our household. My kids have taken a road far easier than my road. I started out not going God’s way, but by the love and mercy of God made the correction and he blessed my path, but it was still a harder path than it needed to be. This is what we want: Joshua 1:7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. This is what we don’t’ want: Proverbs 17:16 It is senseless to pay tuition to educate a fool, since he has no heart for learning. Be a learner teen and young adult. Use this season of your life to gain instruction.
Material Possessions – As I write this I’m over fifty years old. Let me agree with what King David wrote when he was older. Psalm 37:25 Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread. In over thirty years of marriage we have never, ever been in financial trouble. Never been called by bill collectors. Never been on food stamps. Never been on welfare. Always been able to work and keep employment, sometimes working two and three jobs at the same time. My kids learned to work while going to school. They focus better because they have to manage their time well. Regarding debt, consider this: Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. If you don’t have the money for something, then you don’t deserve to buy it. Our family prizes giving. And when we give God blesses. I’ve been to Africa twice and India twice on missionary trips, all thanks to God’s blessing and the kind support of friends and relatives. We have taken two motorhome trips across the country, all paid in full. We have a home with no mortgage. We pay our bills. This is God’s way, and when we do it God’s way we can have it all.
Family Success – I’ve been married to the same bride for 31-1/2 years. We have eight kids. I pay no alimony, no child support, I see my kids every day, and I’m involved in their lives. One of our children is married, and she and her husband did it the right way, God’s way. They are compatible, they received counsel, and they had a period of courtship. My other two oldest daughters have young men now in their lives. There are boundaries. I’ve had long talks with each of the young men and they know how I feel and what my expectations are. They are on board with this. More than once we’ve had family discussions regarding the opposite sex, and I have discussed such matters individually with my kids. As a father I want the best for my kids and I want to be involved in their lives, through their education, career work, courtship, marriage, and adult lives. Consider these two scripture passages: 1 Corinthians 6:18 Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Ephesians 5:31-33 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. So which way will it be teen or young adult? Will you chose the path where you sin against God and your own body to your own harm, or will you wait for God’s mate for you, for your spouse, and live in Christ’s plan? You can indeed have it all if you go God’s way.
The scripture say in Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Young adult, you can have it all, in God’s time.