That’s one of those verses you should memorize and quote often. Just don’t forget the second part—but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
Like all scripture, I Timothy 4:12 is living and active and a double-edged sword—see, with the empowering idea that you don’t have to feel inferior to older Christians because you’re young comes the responsibility of living a life that is the sweet aroma of Christ. Despite Kurt Cobain’s insistence that teen spirit smells like an apathetic girl who’s over-bored and self-assured and proud to know a dirty word, we know a better way. A better smell, if you can get over the awkwardness of putting it that way.
I’m bothered by what’s going on with teens today. (How often do you hear an adult say that?) What’s bothering me though isn’t the teens, it’s the way so much of our culture underestimates you, marginalizes you, encourages you to live in small ways until your real life begins. Do you ever wonder if you’ll get credit for thinking the big thoughts, doing the hard things, living passionately for Christ?
I recently stumbled upon a great book called Do the Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations. Maybe you’ve read it, but if you haven’t, I think maybe you should. Written by two teen brothers, Alex and Brett Harris, the book rails against our society’s tendency to ignore the potential of teens.
Disillusioned by the growing “myth of adolescence”—the idea that adolescence is a time suspended between the innocence of childhood and the respectability of adulthood within which not much will be accomplished—the Harris brothers found real-life examples of teens making differences in our world.
What impressed me the most is that they don’t really differentiate between those things that we would call HUGE changes—like being pivotal in digging wells that provide villages with the first clean water they’ve ever had—and those things that are really small changes—like helping the elderly in your town with difficult tasks. All changes made in God’s name have powerful ripple effects that we can’t begin to understand or calculate.
The book captures what I have found in the amazing teens around me. (Don’t miss Jacklyn Vanderpool’s article in this issue! She and her family were given a People Magazine Heroes Among Us award last year for the hard things they do around the globe.) There are teens that, maybe now more than ever, have taken stands of faith in our culture. They are leaders. They are creative problem-solvers who are finding ways to be Jesus on earth to those who need him. I am blessed to worship at the A&M Church of Christ with hundreds of Aggies and a large and active youth group. These kids amaze me continually with their willingness to serve mankind. They are fearless. One day they’ll be working with underprivileged kids in our area and the next, they’ll hop on a plane to Haiti or Nicaragua or Thailand.
I talk to the Aggies for Christ students a lot about what makes them different from the students who come to college looking for the next party. You know what they all tell me? It’s just habit. Yep, to them, it’s that simple. They were like you as teens—they sought out good examples, they kept their paths straight, they looked for ways to stay in God’s word, and they tried to live their faith out loud, even as kids.
I know from speaking with Christians all over the country that the teens in their churches are equally as amazing. You guys rock…really. I want you to take advantage of this rare, beautiful opportunity to serve God now, right where you are, and know that you aren’t alone in your efforts. Far from it, despite what the world tries to tell you.
Don’t allow anyone to tell you that you are to settle into a comfy chair and Wall-E your existence away, breaking through your bubble only to text friends. Know this—entire lifetimes will be shaped by the disturbingly low expectations we place on teens. Ignore that and look instead at the lofty expectations your Maker has for you. He knows you are filled with the same power that created the universe and He is desperate for you to harness it and use it. What are you going to do?