The Strengths of Young Men in Our Assemblies
I am writing to you, young men,1 John 2: 13-14 (ESV)
because you have overcome the evil one….
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
We all know well the story of David and Goliath. Even the youngest among us are familiar with the account. They’ve heard the tale, and they’ve sung the song.
Familiarity has (thankfully) not bred contempt. But as we read, we sometimes scan over the details and forget all but the basic morals that this story teaches us.
This morning I was reading through the filter of my present circumstances: Covid-19 (it’s effecting everything in our lives right now!) and being a mom of two young men, who are very likely close to the age David was when he faced Goliath.
How does this story remind me of young men? Specifically, spiritual and godly young men?
- They are strong. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually.
- They are enthusiastic. They are “up” for just about anything.
- Their faith is pure and not diluted by “experience” and caveats.
- Situations are very black and white. God and God’s reputation is on the line. There are no other factors.
- There are no limitations: I killed the lion and bear…what’s a giant who has defied the living God?
- They want to follow the lead of other godly men and women. Why is no one answering this challenge?
- They will boldly step into the gap, when there aren’t others to follow.
I so see the young men in my life in this story. Both my sons, and the young men at our assembly, and the other assemblies in our area.
I see their heart for the things of God. Their enthusiasm. Their pure faith. Their desire to serve God. Their frustrations when older men are dragging their heels.
The tough knocks of the Christian experience haven’t yet dulled their ardor, or added caveats to their prayers.
And frankly, do we want that for them? We shouldn’t.
We should want them to grow in wisdom and experience, but not to become jaded towards life, fellow believers, or God Himself.
As they grow up to adulthood, we desire that their faith matures like Abraham’s:
No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.Romans 4: 20-21
As they live through circumstances and see God work, we yearn that their faith would grow stronger. That trials would make them better, not bitter.
To an outside observer, the actions of David, and other youth, can look both impetuous and prideful. But, God was looking at David’s heart.
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
And when he had removed him (Saul), he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV) Acts 13:22 (ESV)
David had already passed the heart test. God saw his heart. Saw that David’s heart was like His own heart. That David loved the things God loves, and hated the things God hates.
Even though his brothers were accusing him of pride, it didn’t make it so. Though reflection may read impetuosity into his actions, that is never the lesson from this story that we make sure to convey to our young Sunday school students.
We focus on his faith in God, that propelled him to action. As we rightly should. We encourage this faith and action in our young students. Let’s continue to encourage it in our young men as well.
Go with God
Saul was afraid. He sat for forty days listening to this dismaying challenge being trumped to his troops. He didn’t go and fight Goliath.
But, at the moment of truth, he possibly did the best thing. He sent out the young man who had the faith to fight. He supported him, even arming David in his own armor.
His charge to David was, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”
Much could be said about that whole situation, but just focusing on the charge, the equipping, and the sending-what can we do? What can we learn to encourage the young men in our churches?
- Utilize the troops. A willing work force at our disposal? Why wouldn’t we use it? The youth desire to serve. Make opportunities for them. And not just “busy” work. God doesn’t ever just give us work to “keep us busy”. Let’s help them discern their strengths, talents and spiritual gifts, and encourage them to use those for the edifying of the saints in the local body, reaching the lost and for the glory of God.
- Make a safe place for failure. By failure, I mean both garden variety mistakes (like preaching a ridiculous sermon) and sin. This is crucial because they are humans, and sin, and they need to learn to live in the power of forgiveness and grace. We need to teach them that there is a road back to God for every sin. And the sooner they learn that, the better. A great verse that reminds me of this concept in Isaiah 40:30-31.
- Be careful of judging motives. God can judge the heart. We can only judge actions.
- Teach a growth mindset by setting a good example of a continued willingness to learn. One of the most influential men in the lives of the local youth has always been open to learning new things. I am regularly convicted as I interact with him. If he, as a believer of 70+ years still has things to learn, how much more do I have to learn? That spirit is convicting and contagious.
- Exemplify the power of servant leadership. It’s biblical but antithetical to what our culture teaches. The best leaders are not always the ones who are out in front.
When we do these things, this will be the experience of our assemblies:
…that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.1 Samuel 17:47 (ESV)