It is not uncommon for people to say “Oh, it’s okay, you’re young, and you’re supposed to make mistakes.” But is being young really an excuse for inappropriate behavior? Does being young excuse someone from making wise decisions? And how do you want adults and your friends in the Church and in school to view you? It is true that through words and action we all are teaching people how they should see us and treat us.
I did not grow up in God’s Church. But I wish I had. Why? Because I have done many wrong things in my life. For example, I have been in prison, spending almost six years there. I hope that does not shock you. Believe me when I say that being young will never be an excuse for making poor decisions!
I have experienced many bad things in my young life. And it was all in the name of youthful pride, lust and experimentation. I thought I was untouchable! I once truly lived like the consequences didn’t matter. Skipping class, drinking, smoking—you name it and I probably did it. All of these things in one way or another led me down the path that eventually got me almost six years in prison and a strike on my record.
But now to the positive
I was reading my Bible in my cell one day and came across some extremely interesting words in 1 Timothy 4:12. I remember it clear as day. At that very moment something immediately changed in my thinking towards myself. Paul told Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (New International Version).
At that moment I realized that being young (I was 20 at the time, now 27) is never an excuse for being rebellious and behaving irresponsibly.
Paul told Timothy to be an example to the brethren in specific ways. That hit home with me—what about you? Are you consciously trying to be an example to those in God’s Church, as well to others, in your speech, by the life you live, by your faith, love and purity?
Paul was teaching Timothy how to be a good, responsible and respected young leader. Our pastors, elders and deacons are older men. Do you think you possess the necessary character to lead your peers in your local congregation? Why or why not? That’s something to ponder.
This passage showed me that being young or old doesn’t qualify or disqualify us from being a part of the leadership in the Church, school or work; your personal conduct determines being used further by God. Our spiritual maturity counts with God.
Reading this verse in prison filled me with a sense of excitement! But more importantly, as a young man, it filled me with a sense of duty. I was inspired to truly live a godly life and knew that in order to do that I had to take 1 Timothy 4:12 both personally and literally. And to my surprise, doing that radically changed my life.
Being a Christian in prison and beginning to live by this verse not only gave me favor among those who held other beliefs (both younger and older men), but God even gave me great favor with the people who didn’t believe in Him. I was able to prevent people from being physically harmed by others and even had a positive effect upon some staff.
I can honestly say that on a very small level I can relate to the great favor and mercy that God gave to Joseph and Daniel. But despite this favor I was still constantly in emotional pain and physical discomfort because I was still incarcerated. I was still a prisoner being held against my will. No, being young is never a good excuse for living a sinful life.
You reap what you sow. Yet it is human nature to think you’ll be able to control the outcome. I’m sharing with you my experience so that you won’t have to make the same mistakes I did. What you and I can control is our own actions. Then ask God to take care of us each day of our lives.
Be bold, courageous and the ambassadors of God He wants us all to be. And do it every day. Take joy in the very privilege that God has given us to be able to know and grow in relationship with Him and to be called into His Church at such a young age. Set good patterns for your life now. Be wise and make intelligent decisions based on God’s laws. You will never regret it.
Really seek God in your youth and your latter days will be even more blessed. Ecclesiastes 12:1 reminds us to “remember your Creator in the days of your youth . . . ” (NIV).
What you can learn now, took me years of pain and brought me literally to tears. Don’t make being young an excuse for getting involved with people and things that you know you should not. I promise you, you’ll always regret it. It might not happen today or tomorrow, but I’m still dealing with the consequences of decisions I made when I was a teen and young adult.
God says to honor your parents in the Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20:5). As you do, you will begin to be an example to the brethren just as Timothy wrote. And by the way, when was the last time you thanked God for your parents taking care of you all of these years?
I have learned Galatians 6:7 is a living law, including when we are young: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”
I spent most of my youth living the opposite direction of God’s way of life. I learned the hard way. Remember your Creator now in the days of your youth and you will be richly blessed!