A Letter to Younger Christians
Dear Younger Christians,
Today marks my 29th birthday. As I sense my 30th birthday coming closer, I realize that I am no longer the 17 year old I was when I first felt God's call on my life. I have grown much since then, and I still have much growing left to do. In the meantime, I have learned much about how to minister in this world. I wanted to write a letter for those Christians who are younger than I to pass on what I have learned since then. You can take this as simple advice, or you can take it to heart. Either way, do not pass over what I am writing to you today.
Living the Christian life in a broken world is not an option. Jesus did not offer two roads to discipleship--one that just involves believing for the lay person and one that involves showing the world who Jesus is for those in ministry. The fact is that we all--whether called to full-time ministry or not--are responsible for living the Christian life. This includes you.
Don't expect this road to be easy. In fact, living for Jesus in the midst of a broken world may be the most difficult thing you will ever do. In fact, it is impossible to live this life apart from God's grace. Apart from His grace, we can do nothing. Look to Him each day as the Source of your strength. Don't neglect or reject discipline. There are always things competing for our time, but a routine of regular Bible study and prayer is far more important than anything else that may distract us.
Don't worry about pleasing everyone around you. You will never be able to do that. Don't allow those around you to mold and shape you into an image that dishonors Christ. Instead, be the one that molds and shapes those around you into the image of Christ. Along the same vein, surround yourself with those who have been Christians longer than you have. Learn from their wisdom and do not reject it. They will help keep you from getting bent out of shape. There is nothing wrong with being the youngest person in a group. While you surround yourself with those who are more mature in the faith, you should also find someone else who is less mature in the faith to minister to. The fact is that we Christians need each other.
Do not let anyone despise your youth. Just because you are young does not mean that God cannot use you. In fact, the Bible tells of many young individuals that God used in mighty ways. Look at the examples of Gideon, Jeremiah, Joash, Josiah, Timothy, and others. Perhaps many of the disciples were young, as well. Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young.
As you live the Christian life in the midst of this broken world, do not wait to find the perfect opportunity to minister. Minister where you are. Opportunities are endless. If you have a gift of singing, don't wait for a record label to come to you. Start singing God's praises wherever you find opportunity. In the meantime, do not limit your role in the church to a single area, such as music ministry. If there are opportunities to help in other areas, don't be afraid to consider them. If an opportunity arises at, for example, a homeless shelter, seriously consider taking this opportunity. You may never get a record deal, but you may impact countless homeless lives by showing them the love of Jesus.
Never try to live the Christian life alone. Jesus created a community of believers, and He intended for the Christian life to be lived in community. Go-it-alone Christians rarely grow very fast, and almost certainly would have grown faster in a community of believers. Even the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist speak to the communal nature of the Christian faith.
Honor God with your finances. This may not be what you want to hear, but it is important. I'm not going to tell you that if you give $10, God is going to multiply it 100-fold, because that is not biblical. So, what does tithing and honoring God with your finances do? For starters, it is the surest way to make sure that you are placing God first. Human beings have a strange attachment to money and "things". Once we are willing to release these things to God, it becomes easier to give Him any other part of our lives that we may have difficulty releasing to Him. By the way, honoring God with your finances does not just involve tithing. Giving 10% does not mean that you are not under an obligation to spend the other 90% in a way that honors God. Don't hold back from God.
Perhaps the most important encouraging word that I can pass on is to keep your eyes on Jesus at all times, but especially when times are hard. We will all face difficulties. The Christian life will not protect you from these difficulties. In fact, more difficulties will come precisely because you are a Christian. In these moments, do not let yourself be tossed around by your circumstances. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and let Him serve as an anchor for you during these times. This will not always be easy, but it has always pulled me through. I have confidence that He will pull you through as well.
As I end this letter, I have a strong desire to pray for each of you that reads it. I pray that God will be with you as you live the Christian life in this broken world. I pray that the Holy Spirit will give you guidance and direction concerning what you can do to minister to others and to honor God at this stage of your life, and every stage after this. Most of all, I pray that God's grace will work in you and that you may be molded into the image of Christ, which our world so desperately needs to see.