On Australian television recently, an anguished father who had lost his son who had mysteriously fallen from a bridge, told the interviewer that his son was his hero. He admired his son and obviously felt a great loss over his tragic death. His words were an echo of the words of a very famous father, Bill Cosby, who also lost his only son when he was murdered after his car had broken down on a California freeway. Bill Cosby said with deep emotion that his son was his hero.
This year I was given a Bill Cosby book titled simply, Fatherhood, by my eldest son on Fathers Day. It is a very amusing book with some very good insights. The book was first copyrighted in 1986. It is obvious from reading the book that Cosby has a great love for his children and a very soft spot for his only son, which makes for very poignant reading when we realize that in just over ten years that beloved son would be dead. On page 159 Cosby finishes the book with these words: "Like all parents since Adam and Eve (who never quite seemed to understand sibling rivalry), we have made mistakes: but we've learned from them, we've learned from the kids, and we've all grown together." It is an interesting statement "we have learned from the kids."
As a parent of four boys ranging from age six to twenty three years, I can identify with the words of those grieving fathers. I don't think it is too strong to say my boys are my heroes. I respect them highly. Today young people are in a very complex and insecure world and they battle with issues that not only did many of us not have to face, but frankly did not even know existed. From my experiences with 23 years of pastoring, fatherhood, and currently teaching in high school, our children cope very well. They make mistakes and they drop the ball (who doesn't), but overall they handle life well. The book of Proverbs comments: "Even a child is known by his deeds, by whether what he does is pure and right." History and daily life is filled with the heroics of young people who courageously stand up for right principles and set compelling examples.
Joseph was 17 when he was standing up for God's values while in captivity in Egypt. King David was only a teenager when he volunteered to fight against Goliath. Joan of Arc was also a teenager when she led the French army to free the city of Orleans from the British in 1429. Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who courageously recorded her feelings in her now famous diary while stoically enduring hiding under Nazi occupation.
Every day, in every country, young people accomplish and courageously deal with the challenges of life. In 1998, Queensland bravery awards were given out for exceptional acts of heroism. Of the fifty-six awards, five were received by children under ten years of age. One recipient, Daniel Frew, was only six at the time when he made a one-hour trek to get help for his father and 12-month old brother trapped in a car wrapped against a tree. Daniel had a cut mouth and a bruised sternum! One of my sons works in a pediatrics hospital where sick children suffer from life threatening diseases. He tells me that he would rather care for children than adults. They complain less and are more grateful.
Christ told the people of His time a rather shocking statement. He told them to become as little children. It was shocking, as children had very little status in that society. Telling adults to become like these lowly children must have really upset some of the adults. What Christ was telling them was the kingdom of God was to be filled with people that had an uncluttered, guileless, humble outlook.
I remember an episode many years ago when one of my sons was running in his first school cross-country race at age eight. My wife and I had experienced a little athletic success at school and so were anticipating our son finishing well up. All the runners came in and still no son. Then appeared two runners, one with a sore leg and our son. I must admit I was feeling a little disappointed, until I heard him say to the other boy: "Well done, you finished, and that's the main thing." Eat humble pie and have a hard look at my adult outlook. As the old saying goes "out of the mouths of babes." In case that son reads this article, he later did reasonably well in teenage years in sprints!
The apostle Paul gave an instruction to a young minister and all young people, and adults alike should heed this advice. He said, "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity." In effect, Paul is saying to young people, Don't put yourself down in your own eyes. Realize you have abilities and a position that can be an example to others. Don't have the cop-out attitude of "I'll do it right when I grow up." Why devalue the importance of your example and character? You can impact positively on peoples' lives by your example. Paul is also saying indirectly to adults that we should learn from them.
The church needs the dynamics and power that its youthful members can give. A balanced congregation needs the courageous example of young members who face life with gusto and who know what is right and live it to the full. A church full of young people really has personality and life, and stimulates and motivates the whole congregation. There is nothing more exciting to be around youth that love life, have goals, and who reflect true values.
It is tough today for young people, but with the strength of God a young person can reach great heights and have an impact on the lives of so many people. The church has always needed its young heroes.