The saying goes, “Youth is wasted on the young.” It means that young people usually do not take full advantage of the blessings of youth. Older people know the value of youthful energy and vitality because age has taken these blessings from them. Therefore, God has charged older people in their wisdom and experience to guide and direct young people so that the blessings of youth will not be wasted (Titus 2:1-8).
Most importantly, the blessings of youth must be channeled into building a relationship with God that will last forever. Solomon wrote, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no delight in them’” (Eccl. 12:1). This passage goes on to describe symbolically what happens to men when “the years draw near” and age takes away the ease of movement, sight, hearing, and other physical abilities that the young take for granted (Eccl. 12:2-7). Perhaps when these things happen, it is easier for a person to be aware of his own mortality and therefore be more inclined to remember God. However, Solomon says that people should remember God before youth passes away.
Specifically, parents have the responsibility of placing the Creator foremost in the minds of their children and reminding them constantly of His ways. Parents should follow the wise directions given to the Jews, who were commanded to diligently teach the word of God to their sons “when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:6-7). Scripture compares children to “arrows in the hand of a warrior” (Psalm 127:3-5), which of course must be carefully aimed in order for them to hit their targets. Likewise, Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
However, too many Christian parents are failing to direct their children to remember the Creator. God is not of foremost importance in their homes, and the children’s behavior, language, and understanding reflect this. The children are not aimed toward God as a warrior aims his arrows, and they are not trained up in the way they should go. Yet these parents still expect that these “arrows” will somehow hit their targets and that their children will somehow find the way they should go.
Sometimes the reason for the parents’ failure is their low expectations for their young children. It is not expected that the child can possibly understand God’s word. Therefore, the child is not taught or required to read on his own. Neither is he expected to give attention to the reading of the Bible or sermons given during assemblies of the church. However, children are capable of understanding much more than we are often willing to admit. Paul wrote that Timothy had known the sacred writings from childhood (2Tim. 3:15). In school, young children sometimes study topics that even adults struggle to understand, and they are expected to give their best efforts to learn. Yet those same expectations are lacking when it comes to the things of God.
Not only are expectations often low for small children, but also for older children and teenagers. Young people are often exempt from participating in the work of the church. Priorities are placed upon school-related activities and jobs rather than the body of Christ. Young people miss assemblies of the church because of sports, extracurricular school programs, and jobs that are unnecessary. Young men are not encouraged to teach, preach, lead singing, or take part in directing the church in worship.
Sometimes the excuse is made that parents do not want to stifle the child. They don’t want to push the child too much and turn the child against the church and God. Is this a reasonable excuse for expecting almost nothing from the child? Can we expect this child to find his own way to God without a parent’s constant direction and training when the Scriptures advise us otherwise? It is a gamble with the stakes being the eternal spirit of the child.
Dear parents, please consider your children. What is there in the lives of your children today that makes you confident that they will be strong, faithful Christians twenty years from now? Are you training them in the way they should go or just letting them go their own ways? Having high spiritual expectations for your children does not have to be stifling or oppressive, but rather it should be loving and encouraging. You want your child to be close to God for all of his life and then for eternity. Do all you can to give that child the best opportunity. Don’t let youth be wasted.
Stacey E. Durham
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