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Because You Are Young

Kameron DeVasher

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Kameron DeVasher

Director of Sabbath School & Personal Ministries, Michigan Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

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Recorded

  • June 4, 2010
    7:00 PM
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Good evening. (Just a second, let me see if I’m doing this correctly. I’ve switched that switch on. Oh, wow. That is nice. Okay.) If you have your Bibles with you, please take them out. We’re going to be in 1 Timothy. We’re going to look at one verse tonight, one verse, very, very simple. One verse in the Bible, but I think it has some very, very important implications for our lives today. First Timothy, chapter 4 and verse 12. I’ll read it first from the usual Bible that I use, the New King James Version, even though I like how the NIV renders it. In fact, the title of this evening’s sermon is called “Because You Are Young,” and it comes from the NIV reading.

 

But I want to read 1 Timothy, chapter 4, verse 12, to you from the New King James Version, and it says…This again, this is Paul speaking to his young protégé Timothy, and he gives him this counsel as he’s leaving on his evangelistic work. He says, “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.” And I appreciate how that renders it, but I really sincerely appreciate the say the NIV puts that text, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example…in speech, in [life], in love, in faith and in purity,” these five areas, to set an example for the believers.

 

Before we begin, let’s bow our heads for a word of prayer. Dear Heavenly Father, Lord, I thank You so much for this week, this work week that is coming to the close and the beginning of these Sabbath hours. Thank You for this time that You’ve given us to come apart and be with You and to commune with believers. And right now, Lord, as we study Your Word, please send Your Holy Spirit to bless all that we do. Help us to each receive a message from Your Word tonight that will make us the people you want us to be so that we can finish Your work. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young.” What is the situation that Paul is addressing here? Paul has been traveling all around. He’s established many churches. He’s trained up this young Timothy, and he gives him this parting advice, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young.” Now, at first glance…Look closely again, though, it says…Who would likely be the people who would be looking down on him? It says, “Don’t let anyone,” but then it says, “But set an example,” for whom? The believers. So, likely, who are the people that could be looking down on young Timothy? The believers!

 

So, he’s not just saying the world is going to be…He said, “In the church, these people are going to look down on you because you’re young. Don’t let it happen. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young.” So, what is the situation? Are the believers in the apostolic church, were they just inherently mean? Do they just not like young people? Were they grumpy? Do they have a chip on their…? What is wrong with these believers? Is that what Paul is addressing here? It might be easy in our mindset to blithely pass that by and just say, “Well, you know how old people are. You know, typical, just looking down on young people, mean-spirited, cold-hearted, old people. Bless their hearts,” and move on.

 

But I think tonight we’ve got some lessons that we need to see in this text because as we break apart what Paul’s instruction to Timothy is, I think something should hit home with us, as young…And I say “us,” as young people. I see a sea of young faces here tonight, a rather shallow sea, not too broad and expansive, but I’m sure that’s going to grow as the Spirit leads. But still, young people all around, this advice is for us.

 

Let us consider the possibility, just the idea, the possibility that Paul’s warning was not primarily against the mean old people or the malice of the believers, but perhaps a caution about the maturity of Timothy, his protégé. Notice carefully Paul’s counsel. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young, but” (do what?) “set an example.” Who set an example? Timothy! Notice that Paul doesn’t say, “Look, when they look down on you, call them out for their mean spirit.” “You’re old and mean, and I don’t like you. You’re the reason the church is the problem because you’re old.” He doesn’t do that. He says, “Don’t call them out.” He said, “Check your own behavior.” When people look down on you, set an example.

 

Tonight, we’re going to explore the likely reason for that counsel. We’re going to see the wisdom of it. And I pray most importantly we learn some lessons for our day today. What would lead the believers to have a sketchy opinion of young people? What would lead the believers to have a sketchy opinion of young people? I believe we’re going to see that there are two reasons why they might have sketchy assumptions or presuppositions or opinions about young people.

 

First of all, there is some inevitable “behind the 8 ball” that comes with being a youth. You’ve got some inherent disadvantages to youth. For example, youth are ignorant. Okay, I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense; I mean that in just the factual sense. You know less. You’ve read fewer books. You have listened to fewer people. You haven’t been in as many classes. You don’t have as many academic degrees. You know less than older people – ignorance. It’s not saying it’s bad; it’s just a fact. You know less.

 

For instance, let’s look at Paul versus Timothy. Paul’s education: Paul was a multilingual Pharisee trained by the eminent Rabbi Gamaliel. It’s in Acts 22; he records it. Gamaliel is talking. Essentially Paul was a Jewish scholar. He was an international evangelist whose writing even his fellow Apostle Peter said, and I quote, “It’s hard to understand.” Paul had established a reputation as being a deep thinker and a prolific writer. He was a church planner, a convincing Christian apologist, and a powerful speaker. Timothy, on the other hand, was home-schooled. His grandmother and mother taught him; he came into the church, likely through a revival that Paul himself put on, and he was the apprentice to this Paul guy. He was tagging along with Paul, learning at the feet of a guy who had learned at the feet of other guys, and he’s trickle-down. And that’s okay, it’s good, it’s fair, but it doesn’t have the credibility. He doesn’t have degrees after his name. He hasn’t been to that school. He hasn’t been to that place. He’s just the guy who listens to the guy. He’s ignorant. He hasn’t been to as many schools, and it just wasn’t his thing.

 

A modern-day equivalent of Paul would be like a seminary-trained professor and world-renowned evangelist. All the churches have heard of him; they all received a Pauline epistle, you know, and no one has received a Timothy epistle. He’s kind of a home-schooled kid, maybe a self-supporting institution kid, you know. Nothing wrong with it; it just doesn’t have the same accredited, bonified…It’s just not right there.

 

Experientially, by the way, Paul has been through everything. In fact, go to your Bible, 2 Corinthians, look at this, 2 Corinthians, chapter 11, Paul is never, if nothing else, bashful about explaining his credibility. Second Corinthians, chapter 11, starting with verse 24, Paul goes ahead and lists out his experience, his resume of having been there and done that and had that done to him. Second Corinthians, chapter 11, starting with verse 24, he says, “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep,” verse 26, “in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren,” verse 27, “in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness,” verse 28, “besides,” he’s saying that’s the extra stuff that I’ve done, “besides,” verse 28, “the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” He’s like, “I’m ministering to all these churches, this is my district, and then I got shipwrecked and beaten, and my own countrymen have…,” he’s been there and done everything.

 

Timothy, on the other hand, is the one that Paul always has to write to, to say, “Come on, don’t be timid. Don’t abandon me like the other people. You can do it, little buddy. You can really do it,” you know? “Don’t be ashamed. You have not been given the spirit of fear,” you know? He’s trying to hype him up.

 

Two different levels of experience. Timothy’s being sent out for the first time; Paul’s being poured out like a drink offering. He’s been there and done that, and Timothy just hasn’t. He’s inexperienced. He’s “behind the 8 ball” already. It makes sense. Because of Timothy’s age and, therefore, his automatic lack of academic background and ministerial experience, the believers had some legitimate reason to question his authority over them. It’s legitimate for them to question it.

 

Paul understood this, that they would be watching him closely and scrutinizing his every move. That cautious posture towards youth leadership, by the way, is not a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing to be cautious of youth leadership. It would be irresponsible to turn the church blindly over to uneducated and inexperienced youth.

 

Now, having said that, of course, on the other hand, it’s unbiblical and unchristlike to use their inexperience and ignorance as a reason not to associate with them or not to train them up in the way that they should go. There’s a balance that must be struck, but it must be carefully struck. Mature disciples become so through the process of discipline. That’s what the word “disciple” means, someone who has gone through the process of discipline. And discipline seems like a harsh word; we don’t like that word; especially young people hate that word discipline. We don’t like it. It sounds mean. You know, we don’t even use it anymore? A disciple now is someone who has been discipled, right? We’ve made up a word, completely soft because discipline sounds mean and harsh. But that’s what it is, a disciple has been disciplined.

 

Timothy needed that. Paul was doing it. He’s sending him out, and these other people are saying, “Okay, we got a new guy, we’ll trust you, but we’re going to keep you in check. We’re going to scrutinize; we’re going to watch.” Paul says, “Don’t let them look down on you but set an example.”

 

The Bible is packed with guidance for parents and leaders to train young people for positions of responsibility. Timothy was a disciple of Jesus because Paul, along with his own godly mother and grandmother, had disciplined him in the faith. When Timothy went out, it was an extension of the ministry of Paul, which itself was an extension of the ministry of Jesus. Therefore, it is Paul who explained that we are all ambassadors for Christ. He said, “You’re not representing yourself. You’re not representing youth culture. You’re representing Jesus Christ. Get your act together.”

 

Thus, we see here that Paul is not telling Timothy, “Look, just be yourself, and if people don’t like it, call them out on their mean spirit.” He never said, “Just be yourself.” He said, “Be better than yourself.” Yourself is sinful and lazy, don’t be that guy, which brings us to our second concern.

 

All the stuff we’ve been talking about, ignorance and inexperience, is inevitable. It’s all of us. No one comes out of the womb knowing it all and having done it all. If that was the case, that would be creepy at the best, you know, it’s weird, okay? You expect young people to need to go through a process of training and discipline and growing and immature phases of life, but that’s reasonable. That’s a reasonable concern.

 

Believers have the right to be cautious of young people for those reasons, but there’s a second thing, and this is where we’re going to spend the rest of our time talking about, an unacceptable concern: Foolishness. Ignorance and inexperience, understandable. Foolishness? Come on.

 

Go back to our text, 1 Timothy, chapter 4. We’ll skip down just a little bit, but 1 Timothy, chapter 4, we saw…Of course, our text is verse 12, “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.” But look at verse 13, and, again, I’ll come back here in the New King James. It says, “Till I come,” notice that he was going to come back and check on him. Then he says, “I want to know that you’ve done some stuff in the meantime.” Paul wasn’t just letting him go willy-nilly. He said, “I’m going to come back. I expect these things to be accomplished.” “Till I come, give attention to reading,” education, keep your learning going. He said, “Give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” And look at verse 14, “Do not” (what’s the next word?) “neglect.” He said, “I’m going to come back and check on you, and in the meantime, I want you to read and stay in the doctrine.”

 

“Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.” “Do not neglect,” Mmm! Like Daniel, in whom his enemies could find neither corruption nor negligence. You know, negligence is not, like, evil; it’s just lazy. He said, “Don’t do that.” If you look up the synonyms for negligence, you’ll find carelessness, inattentiveness, casualness. He says, “Look, if you want credibility with the believers, don’t be negligent. Be on top of your game.”

 

Far too often, and, again, I’m one of the youth; I can speak here, okay? This is where the, “I’m going to stay some stuff to you, but I love you.” Of course, I don’t know you personally, so you know I can’t be attacking you personally, but I’m loving you as a group of people, okay? But I’m going to say some stuff. Is that all right?

 

Far too often, youth and young adults compound the inherent problems they might have by allowing those to be an excuse for foolishness. Paul tried to drill into Timothy’s mind this important lesson. It’s one thing to have people think less of you. You can’t control their assumptions, and they have an inherent right to be cautious of you. It’s one thing for people to think little of you. It’s another thing altogether to prove them right with your behavior. The last thing we need is to have people prove poor assumptions correct. Confirming the stereotype helps no one.

 

What I’m about to discuss with you could be rehashed and rehearsed and restated by other groups, every subculture in the world, in fact, whether it’s nationality or ethnicity or any other people grouping. Every subculture has some really great uniquenesses that should be celebrated and some stereotypical shortcomings that need to be addressed, okay? Now, I can’t speak for other people groups; I’m not going to try to. I’m not going to be that guy, but, for the ones that I’m a part of, I can speak, so I’ll speak on the behalf of one of them.

 

I am from the South. Now, I got chuckles just for saying that is the hurtful thing, you know what I’m saying? I’m like, “I’m from the South,” and already like, “Ohh, okay, all right.” You have a picture in your mind. I know what the American consciousness thinks of Southerners. I grew up in the Heart of Dixie, okay? I understand it, I understand it. Like it or not, a Southern accent is not received as a sign of sophistication and intelligence. Nobody here is like, “Oh, did you see that thing over there,” like, “Oh, he’s smart.” Nobody does that. Nobody does that, okay?

 

Every time, every time some natural disaster, you know, a tornado touches down in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, somewhere in my home area, okay, when a tornado touches down, there is terrible damage. I cringe because they send a national news team down to interview someone, and you know who they pick. Every single…nine times out of ten, they’ll pick the most stereotyped-confirming personality they can find. “Hi, reporting from the South. I’ll prove it…” You know. It’s horrible. It’s horrible. He’s got stains on his undershirt, which is the only shirt that he’s wearing, right, with that country accent with two teeth, one is just really, really struggling to stay on there. And he’s right next to his Camaro that somehow survived, right? The house is gone, but the car is good, up on blocks, rusted out and everything like that. And people look at me like, “Oh, you’re from the South, too.” Ahh! I don’t know him, okay?! I don’t know him, but it doesn’t matter. He ruined it for all the rest of us.

 

I’m from Nashville, Tennessee. I don’t necessarily like country music, but there’s an assumption there, right? I’m a white male who grew up south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and I’m not interested in NASCAR. I don’t have a favorite driver, and I sure don’t have his number emblazoned on the rear window of my truck. I don’t even own a truck! But it doesn’t matter. As soon as I’m from the South, they don’t see me, they see that guy that they interviewed. He’s killing the rest of us.

 

So, let me bring it back to this other subgroup that I’m a part of: Adventist young people. This is the honesty part. We laughed before; here comes the truth, all right? Let’s just be honest. Far too often at Bible conferences, prayer meetings/retreats, you know, leadership summits, youth and young adult Sabbath School classes, academy and college campuses, just out in life in general, when you run into Adventist young people, far too often you see examples of stereotype-confirming bad behavior. You cannot expect to habitually show up late to everything that you do, have an A-plus potential but bring home C-minuses, dress merely for shock value, giggle when somebody’s up front, you know, be texting through the whole meeting and not this text, you know? Skip church because, “I’m just so tired.” Use foul language, which, by the way, it’s like, “I don’t use foul language, I have veggie swear,” stop it, please. “It’s alphabet swear, I only use the first letter,” wink, wink. Stop it. You’re killing us.

 

Do all of those behaviors and then somehow magically expect to be taken seriously by the church family, it’s a daydream. Your conduct undermines your credibility. Your conduct undermines your credibility. When you demonstrate through your behavior that you don’t take your own spiritual life seriously, you have absolutely no right to be surprised or offended when others don’t think of you when it comes to positions of spiritual leadership. “Why don’t they have more young people on the board?” Because when we do, they don’t show up. I’m talking from personal experience right here in the state of Florida, folks. I’m an associate pastor at a church with 1,000 members, a whole lot of them are retirees, but we have a K-12 school, we’ve got some young people who I know could be good leaders.

 

So, like, recently, nominating committee comes up. I want to put some young people on here. I want to get their voice heard, right? So we call and we confirm with them, and when nominating meeting comes up, they don’t show up – not one time. We have a group called the Youth Council. Youth and youth leaders want to get together and talk about ‘youthy’ stuff, youth, youth, youth, youth. We just love throwing that adjective around. All of a sudden that gives you spiritual street cred, one with the youth team, “Ooh, cool.” But you don’t ever call a meeting. You haven’t done anything. So, what does the nominating committee do? Eliminates the committee. It is not because old people are picking on the young people. You didn’t do anything! Your conduct undermined your credibility. You’re the guy in the interview, and it’s killing the rest of us.

 

It’s like wearing a big sign around your neck that says, “Hey, punch me in the face,” and then getting offended every time you get a black eye. The behavior of Adventist youth oftentimes is the sign around our neck that gives our reputation that black eye. We’re already behind the 8 ball with ignorance and inexperience. Don’t compound it with foolishness. The stuff that’s in your control, control it.

 

By the way, Satan has a counterfeit for everything that God does. Everything that the Lord has established, the devil has a counterfeit to counteract it, right? There’s the true Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? There’s a false trinity, the dragon, the beast and the false prophet. In Satan’s false trinity, you know, God would be replaced with Satan himself, you know, Christ with the antichrist, and the Holy Spirit…You go through all the things, and he has a counterfeit for each and every little thing that God does. Counterfeit worship, counterfeit day of worship, counterfeit faith, justification, instead of being grace, it’s cheap grace that turns into licentiousness. Instead of sanctification, it’s works righteousness, which is legalism. He’s got a counterfeit for everywhere you are. And he has the same thing for youth.

 

Satan has a counterfeit youth mentality. God’s Word says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example.” Because you’re young, set an example. Satan says, “Because you’re young, live it up! Go crazy!” Society tells you this is your time to be out of your gourd. Be insane. You want to experiment with alcohol, do it when you’re young. You want to show up late to stuff, do it now! Nobody’s really expecting anything anyway. Pierce something! Go nuts! Get a tattoo. It’s sure not going to look good when you get older; it’s only good for now.

 

I’m telling you, this is society. It’s saying, like, “Look! This is your time!” Sow your wild oats. Get out there and go crazy. Be irresponsible. Run up your debt card. Do everything you can because you’re young, and you only live…once. In fact, you’re only young once. By the way, that’s a true statement, right? Satan didn’t make that one up. He plays with the truth, too, right? You are only young once. And Satan says, “Spend it!” Go to Vegas and live crazy until you’re, like, I don’t know, 40.

 

By the way, don’t you see Adventists doing that? They come back to the church when they have kids. “I’m trying to get my act right,” Blah, blah, blah. Where were you for the last 20 years? You’re killing us.

 

Christ and Satan both understand the truth of that statement, “You only are young once.” Both Christ and Satan know that character is formed, and eternal decisions are nearly irrevocably established during the crucial years of youth. Both are fighting desperately for your allegiance during this critical period. The psalmist instructs, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your,” what? Youth. He said, “Remember it now, in the days of your youth.” Now, we use that phrase, but notice the rest of the sentence. We know that part, but listen why he says so. “Before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” Notice carefully the reason given as to why we should make a firm commitment to the Lord in the days of our youth, and it’s not because you might die, which, by the way, you might. I mean, I really don’t want to darken your day too much, but this could be your last. You might die. You should get right with Jesus right now. But that’s not what the psalmist says, and that’s a very good reason, but that’s not his reason.

 

And in the day and age in which we’re living, Jesus will come soon. Amen? And that’s a good reason to get ready. The End-Time events are all around us. Jesus is coming soon. You should get right with the Lord. It only makes sense, but that’s not what the psalmist says. He says, “Remember your Creator now, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” The most important reason why you don’t put off tomorrow what you should do today is because the person that you are tomorrow is not the person you are today. We change, we grow, we develop in one direction or the other, and if you’re this close to making a decision for Christ today and you don’t, you’ll be this close tomorrow, and this close the next day. You are a different person. By beholding, you become? (Changed.) And if you don’t focus on Jesus Christ in your beholding, you will be changed. So, what in the world makes you think that if you can go a few years without beholding Christ that some year, at the end of those years, you will want to be Christlike?

 

You won’t want it anymore. You will have no pleasure in them. You push away the Holy Spirit, you push away the Holy Spirit, and all of a sudden, you’re a person without the Holy Spirit. There’s a reason Satan wants to win the youth, because that’s when eternal decisions are made.

 

In contradiction to Satan’s plan for our youth, God expects great things from young people. Society expects nothing from young people. They are consumers. They are the next shiny gadget; sell it to them. They’ll eat the food. They’ll do whatever it is you put out in front of them. They’re consumers. They just live for self, for self, for self. And God says, “I expect great things out of you. Get up and do something.” He says, “I built you; I designed you. You were fearfully and wonderfully made, now put it to action.” In contradiction to Satan’s plan, God says, “I expect great things from you.” The same encouragement that Paul gave to Timothy about not hiding behind the label “youth,” the Lord Himself gave to Jeremiah.

 

Go to Jeremiah, chapter 1. In Jeremiah, chapter 1, there are some very famous verses here. Look at verses 4 and 5. These are verses that everyone knows. This is the simple stuff. Verse 4, “Then the word of the Lord came to me,” this is Jeremiah writing about himself, “came to me…’Before I formed you in the womb I’” (what?) ‘“knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.’” We know that text. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” We love that.

 

But look at the next verse, verse 6, “Then said I: ‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a’” (what?) “‘youth.’” He said, “Lord, come on, you certainly don’t expect that from me, I’m young!” Nobody expects things from young people. And he was literally saying this to the Lord. And, you know, I’m glad the Lord didn’t say, “Ah, you’re right. My bad.” Typical young people. “Lord, I’m so scared.” Shh. “I’m tired.” Shh. Listen to His response. Verse 7, “But the Lord said to me: ‘Do not say, “I am a youth.”’” Does that to mean lie and tell people you’re older? No! He’s saying, “Don’t use that as an excuse not to do My work. Don’t come to me with, ‘I’m a youth.’” He said, “Don’t say I’m a youth. I know who you are. Remember, I just told you I knew you before I formed you. Don’t tell me about you. I tell you about you.”

 

“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go.” I love the idea of the Lord, like, “You told Me…I will tell you some things. You’re going to go.” Look at this, “You shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.” (“Not your own words, don’t just go being yourself. I don’t want you to be yourself. I want you to be My ambassador.”)

 

“Whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces,” young people. “‘Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,’ says the Lord.” Verse 9, “Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.’” This is what we need from Adventist young people, to have God’s Word in their mouths, then I would trust them to open their mouths. But every time they open their mouth and their words come out, “Shhhh! You’re not ready yet. I will not give you that leadership position. You are not a deacon yet.” “You are not on the board, my friend; sit down.” “You will not be on finance committee.” “I do not trust you.” It’s not because I don’t like you, because you don’t have the Lord’s Word in your mouth.

 

“Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you.” It goes down, to verse 10, “See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms,” youth leadership, “to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant.” The same expectation, by the way, that the Lord had for Jeremiah, he put on many, many other people in the Bible in their youth, Joseph, David, Daniel, many, many others. In the time of their youth, the Lord used them to do great things because they had His Word in their mouths. They were not afraid of their faces because the Lord was with them. They were ambassadors for Christ. They did not let anyone look down on them because they’re young, but they set an example.

 

The good news is that’s not just in Bible times, by the way. We find the same expectation of greatness from youth in more recent years. Take a look at some of the ages of our most influential Adventist pioneers. Of course, we know Ellen White basically had the Jeremiah experience, called to be a messenger of the Lord at what age? 17. After two older people turned it down. “It’s fine. I’ll use a girl. I’ll use a young one. I’ll use,” what is she called, “the weakest of the weak.” Put the words in their mouth, don’t be afraid of anybody, 17 years old. But did you know that James White was an ordained minister at 22? And during his first winter of preaching at the age of 22, a thousand people converted to Millerism? During the winter? Just sayin’, for those native Floridians, we’ll explain winter to you some other time. They’ll be diagrams, and we’ll do something, but, I mean, you’ve got to know there are places in the world where…John Loughborough committed to Adventism, converted to Adventism, when he was 20 years old, and by that time, he had been an iterant preacher for three years. J.N. Andrews got a little late start on iterant preaching, didn’t get started until he was 21. But by age 26, he was the first to identify Revelation 13’s beast from the earth as the United States of America, age 26.

 

Annie Smith, probably heard of her, maybe, I don’t know. She died at the age of 28, Uriah Smith’s little sister. Her death is not the important thing. It’s sad, of course, that she died at 28, but in the last three-and-a-half years of her life, she wrote over 45 articles for the Review and Herald and The Youth’s Instructor. In fact, she still has in our hymnal today three hymns – in our hymnal. Most Seventh-day Adventist youth don’t know the songs in the hymnal. We don’t read The Adventist Review, and we probably couldn’t read what’s written in The Youth’s Instructors from back in the day. She was writing them, 45 articles. Of course, her brother Uriah Smith became editor of what is now The Adventist Review at the shocking age of 23. Editor of The Adventist Review. They said, “Who could be our best…You’re our man,” a 23-year-old.

 

By the way, I did a little research, all the way back to, like, the 1960s. All the editors we’ve had have gotten the job in their mid to late 40s. One got it when he was 40, that is good, but most of the other ones are like 49, and then they stay a long time.

 

John Harvey Kellogg, the director of The Battle Creek Sanitarium, our very first healthcare institution, he was the director of that at age 23. They said, “Who’s our most able person?” A 23-year-old, “Come forward.” Wouldn’t it be shocking…A couple years ago, it broke on the Adventist news network that one of our divisions has elected a 38-year-old to be its division president. And the saddest thing was that news broke on the wires. Like, “Oh, my word! A youngin’, 38!” I was thinking, like, a 100 years ago, how comical would that be. “Stop the presses, James! There’s a 38-year-old!” Like, “Oh, he’s old.” You know, “Why is that news,” you know?

 

During the keynote address of the Sabbath School and Youth Convention on July 10, 1907, General Conference President A.G. Daniells reminded participants, quote, “Some of the strongest and grandest missionaries of this last century were men who went to their mission fields under 30 years of age. We have a very definite, well-defined message, and why should not our young men go out, strong in God, fortified by His Word? Why should they not become giants of strength among our people?” This was in 1907. He’s like, “Most of our missionaries used to be under the age of 30, but now we’ve got all these old 30-somethings running around out there. Where are the good old days when it was young people running the work?”

 

Today we have a different picture. And, again, this is all in love, okay? Apparently, there was a certain time in our church history when you were a child, you know, you’d go through cradle roll and then youth and then you were an adult. Youth and adult, pretty simple transition. You grew up, then you were up, that’s it. You progressed through the children’s divisions, you know, and I don’t remember them in order. It’s cradle roll then (audience, “kindergarten”) kindergarten then (audience, “primary”) primary and then (audience, “junior”) junior, then? (audience, “Earliteen”) And then? It gets fuzzy, earliteen then youth then? Uh, I see you added one. It used to go youth then adult. But if you realize now you youth then collegiate then young adult then contemporary then…And you think I’m making this up. It’s not just local churches. This is institutionalized. We now have a Collegiate Quarterly! (This is recorded? Ahh! Ah, you got to go out for a cause. You might as well make it a good one, all right?)

 

By the way, you assume that collegiate means college, right? You’re in college; that’s when you need that, which I don’t know why collegiate people, if they can get a master’s degree in something else, can’t study an adult Sabbath School lesson, I don’t know what the deal is, but…I don’t know what’s so hard about it, but you would assume that the age definition would be, “If you’re in college, you have the Collegiate…” Anybody know what the official definition of a collegian, a young adult, in our church is? (Audience member, “18 to 30.”) 18 to 30? You low-balled it. 35. 18 to 35! Still not ready for that Adult Sabbath School Quarterly.

 

Let me put this in perspective for you, okay? By the end of this summer, my wife and I will have a combination of five college degrees, two bachelor’s and three master’s. We’ve both had professional careers for ten years. We own all of our cars outright. We own our own home. We’re going to be having a child in several weeks. I don’t remember off the top of my head, but that’s going to get me in trouble right there. But do the math of it. If we had gotten married right after college, we could have had a third grader by now. That’s how old we are, right? And all of this, with three more years left in the Collegiate Quarterly. I’m an associate pastor of 1,000-member church of retirees and by technicality I should not be in the Adult Quarterly. What in the world has happened?! What’s wrong with our youth?!

 

Well, here’s my best explanation. I believe that someone just looked at you and called you stupid. Let me explain. Again, I don’t know you personally. I spent eight years teaching in Adventist academies, and I would teach beliefs, and we would always get to…I really loved teaching those classes, but the one that really struck me, the one experience I had that really struck me that I use for these things here, is when I went to freshman Bible class, and I was asked not to teach from The Desire of Ages, the life of Christ. And I said, “Well, okay, we’ll use the Bible as our primary textbook, and then The Desire of Ages as our secondary textbook. These will be our textbooks for studying the life of Christ. And not coming from a mean place in his heart, but the administrator explained to me that we can’t teach freshman out of The Desire of Ages.” And I said, “Why not?” And he said, “Because they’re young.” And I said, “What do you mean? We’re all young. Young’s a relative term. Define it for me. What do you mean?”

 

“Well, research has shown that Ellen White’s writings are written on an eleventh-grade level. So, when they’re juniors, expose them to the writings of Ellen White, not as freshmen. But the good thing is, though, we have a rewrite of The Desire of Ages. Teach from this.” And I read it, and it’s all right. I had a friend teaching at the elementary school down the street, and she taught fifth and sixth grade, and she was teaching, using that book with her fifth and sixth graders; they loved it.

 

I was like, “Okay, well this is ninth grade, right? We can take that big leap, right? We’re ready for this, and if there are some big words they don’t know, well, they’re in school! We’ll teach them the big words.” You know? What better place to learn the big words than in a classroom? By the way, challenge your Bible teachers to teach you the big words! Sorry, we’re skipping ahead.

 

I said, “Well, look, ASI is sponsoring these Desire of Ages, you know. I can get them for less than two dollars apiece. I’ll buy a classroom of 30 out of my own pockets; 60 dollars, I can splurge. This other one is like 12 bucks.” It was only in hardback then. “No, no, we need…” I said, “I can’t even sell you in a financial argument to get this in here?” And so I finally got an okay, let me at least give them the option. Let me at least present them both. “Okay, fine,” thinking that no one’s going to choose to read The Desire of Ages. Of course, you’ve got to present it correctly.

 

So this is literally what I…I said, “Okay, we’re going to be studying the life of Christ. Of course, the primary textbook is going to be the Bible. The secondary textbook is going to be this fantastic work by…Well, you’ve heard of it. You’ve heard of The Desire of Ages. Everybody’s heard. Did you know there’s a rewrite? “Oh, yeah, okay.” So I said, “Which one would you rather have?” They all said the rewrite. I said, “Why?” Exactly what you…”The words are smaller,” “The sentences are shorter,” blah, blah, blah, “The print is bigger,” “Maybe there’s a picture.” Whatever it is, you know. Invariably, by the way, more kids have read Steps to Christ in my classroom, not because they love the book, because they had to read one Ellen White book, and it’s always the shortest, right?

 

Two books, and I said, “Okay, but let me ask you this question: Why was this rewrite commissioned? Why did they rewrite it in the first place?” I said, “Did you try to read the other one; it was too hard, and you went to the press, and you said, ‘Please, please, please help me read this book? I can’t read it…I…’ Is that what happened? Did you try and fail?” “No.” I said, “Have you read any of her books?” The urban legend is that, “I can’t read it.” And I said, “Okay, riddle me this, those of you who are second, third, fourth generation Adventists, which one did your parents read at your age? Which one did their parents read at your age? They didn’t even have this other one, and somehow, they made it through, and they’re still in the church, putting you in church school. It must have worked. And if you haven’t read it and tried and failed, and asked for the rewrite, I mean, why did they rewrite the book for you?! Because somebody just looked at you and thought you were the stupidest Seventh-day Adventists ever. And the last thing you want to do is confirm that assumption. Don’t be like, ‘Thank you for calling me stupid and fixing it.’ Don’t be those people! I DARE you to read this book.”

 

Then we opened up to 1 Timothy, chapter 4 and verse 12, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young.” “Someone is looking down on you, and you are buying the lie! Prove them wrong! Read the hard book. If there’s stuff you don’t understand, we’ll go through it together. We’ll read it page by page, word by word, sentence by sentence, but you’re going to learn.” And they all did. And they’re all fine. It’s okay.

 

And as harsh as this example is, and I understand—you shouldn’t call kids stupid. But that was my whole point. Someone is calling you stupid. Don’t get mad at me. I’m the one showing you what’s happening. We’ll get to the point of who we should be mad at in a minute.

 

But as harsh as this example is, at least we know it’s not new. Paul was addressing this with Timothy 2,000 years ago. People expect less of and look down on young people for no other reason than they’re simply young. In fact, go back to the New King James Version. If you have the King James or New King James Version, go back to 1 Timothy, chapter 4, and look at the wording of this. The NIV has the soft version. First Timothy, chapter 4, look at verse 12, “Let no one,” what’s the word? Despise! Oh, my word! What’s another word for despise? Hate! Don’t let anyone hate youth because of you!

 

You can imagine the people. It’s like, “Well, you know, Timothy, he’s a good enough guy, but come on. He’s young, and you know how young people are.” He said, “Don’t let that stop you. Don’t let that continue.” Is it possible that young people had developed such a bad reputation that automatically the idea of a young leader coming into their congregation would set people off and like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! We hate that idea,” because of the reputation that young people had? Is it any different today?

 

Far too often young people and those who work with young people are notorious for wanting to be cool instead of wanting to be Christlike. When youth need something deep, they get something dumb. Instead of offering young people something solid from the Word, they’re offered something silly from the world. And young people are like, “Yay…!” Paul says, “Don’t you dare let that happen. Don’t let anyone, don’t allow it to happen. And you’re in control of it,” he tells Timothy. He said, “The old people are going to think what they’re going to think. Youth reputation is out there, but you change their minds. You set an example.”

 

And, by the way, before we throw youth leaders too far under the bus, this is tempting, but I am one, too, so...Perhaps it’s worth considering that maybe they have tried a deeper more serious thing, and it was the young people who grumbled and rolled their eyes and complained and whined. And maybe the silly nonsense that we see going on, they just know their target audience. Maybe the reason they show you cartoons is because you act like a cartoon. Just a thought, maybe.

 

Every time the adults are in the sanctuary having Bible study or prayer meeting, the kids are down in the gym having game night and pizza times. “Ah, it’s just kids. You know how they are. It’s youth. It’s young adults, you know, they have to go to the mall or something, go putt-putt golf. We’ll be in here studying our Bibles.” Paul says, “Don’t you dare let that happen.”

 

So, here’s my message tonight. Young people, the cards are stacked against you. Sorry. Inherently you have not been to as many classes, you don’t have a head full of knowledge, you haven’t studied as many things, you haven’t read as many books. You are comparatively ignorant to those older than you. That’s okay. No one expects any different. That’s all right. And you haven’t been there. You haven’t done that. You are not calm. You are not collected. And, my word, you are not cool. Don’t pretend that you are; you are inexperienced. Be okay with that. And if you have a good church family, they’re going to be okay with that, too, and they’re going to teach you, and they’re going to take you on visitation. They’re going to make you a junior deacon, and you’re going to be okay with it because you’re going to learn some stuff. You’re going to learn how the organizational structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church works. You will understand where the tithe dollars go. Some of you are thinking, “Hmm, I don’t know where the tithe dollars…” Talk to your treasurer. Ask them. Go sit in on a finance committee. Learn! It’s okay.

 

By the way, wanting to learn how the church works and wanting to be prepared for a position of leadership will get you in that position of leadership much, much faster than complaining about not being in a position of leadership. Nobody’s like, “Who should we put in leadership?” “Well, there’s this one kid who complains all the time.” Trust me, I’ve been on nominating committees; nobody has that conversation. Nobody has that conversation. It’s bad enough that we’re behind the 8 ball with the inherent stuff; don’t compound the problem by adding foolishness to the mix.

 

So, my advice is exactly word-for-word what Paul said, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young, but set an example…in speech, in [life], in love, in faith, and in purity.” The Seventh-day Adventist Church, more than anything else, needs a revival and a reformation. It needs an army of young people rightly (what’s the word?) trained, willing to be trained, ready to be trained, ready to take those positions of leadership when they are prepared. What we need is some righteous indignation amongst our youth for the years of being treated like they’re stupid.

 

Again, don’t get mad at me for telling you. You know who you should be mad at? First of all, yourself. If you’ve been that person that’s the interview guy, you’re killing us. Please, for the love of mercy, stop it. Okay?

 

Second of all, if you have recognized that trait in yourself, and you are walking in the straight and narrow path but you still by association are guilty because of your friends, talk to them. Fix your friends or step away from your friends, but your reputation is tied directly into those with whom you associate. Okay? And if you and your friend group get your act straight, and you’re dressing right, and you’re acting right, and you’re behaving right, you’ve cleaned up your language, you’ve got your head on straight, and you’re still getting fed cartoons and silly nonsense, talk to your youth leaders. Respectfully, winsomely, but decidedly speak to them. Don’t be afraid of their faces, but let the Lord speak through you. Give them this message.

 

What we need in the Seventh-day Adventist Church are Adventist young people who will step up and be upset in a godly manner. You remember Job’s friend Elihu, the young one? All of Job’s problems and everything, and he had these other friends who were giving him advice, and they would make up stuff that was nonsense, and it was terrible, it was awful, but, you, know, “Well, you’re old, and you should speak first.” And finally Elihu had had enough. We need Elihus in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

 

Here are his words, or here’s the book of Job, “Now because they were years older than he, Elihu had waited to speak to Job. When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, his wrath was aroused. So Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, answered and said: ‘I am young in years,’” and I love this, “‘and you are very old.’” And he goes on, he said, “I am young in years, and you are very old; therefore, I was afraid, and dared not declare my opinion to you.” This was wisdom on his part, by the way. “I said, ‘Age should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom,’” and they should. “But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding. Great men are not always wise, nor do the aged always understand justice.

 

“Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me, I also will declare my opinion.’ Indeed I waited for your words, I listened to your reasonings, while you searched out what to say. I paid close attention to you; and surely not one of you convinced Job, or answered his words…I also will answer my part, I too will declare my opinion. For I am full of words; the spirit within me compels me. Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent; it is ready to burst like new wineskins. I will speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. Let me not, I pray, show partiality to anyone; nor let me flatter any man. For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away.”

 

Lord, help us to forget how to flatter people. And if we’ve never done it, don’t ever learn. You just say what you need to say with conviction, with spirit, with a godly winsome character, with an affect that says that you’ve been with the Lord, and you stand for the right, though the heavens fall. This is what Paul is telling him, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young,” because, my friends, I believe with all of my heart that Jesus is coming soon, and we’ve got a work to play. Satan knows, and the Bible says literally, “He knows that his time is,” what? Short! And he knows the energy and the zeal of youth, and if the older people, the experienced, knowledgeable people in the church, got together with the younger, impressionable energetic, zealous people in the church and they work together, we could finish this thing!

 

Do you think there is any coincidence that Satan wants to keep the age groups separated? You ever hear of the Elijah message? Turning hearts of the fathers to the children, working together, step by step, a united force, a well-trained army that includes youth! Finishing the work in this generation.

 

It’s a difficult task. You’ve got some inherent, unavoidable, understandable concerns with youth; that’s okay, let those ride. Acknowledge them. Teach me. Show me. Give me the education. Give me the experience. I’m willing to learn. But, my friends, the thing that you can control, control. Control. Do not compound the inherent with the unacceptable. Don’t use ignorance as an excuse for stupidity. Don’t use inexperience as an excuse for foolishness. It’s a difficult task, but we have a great God. And the same God that called Jeremiah, that called Joseph and Daniel and all of those Adventist pioneers, wants to call a final generation of young people that will step up and say, “Here I am. Educate me. Here I am. Train me. Here I am. Send me.”

 

If that is your prayer, if that is your prayer, will you stand with me as we close for a word of prayer? Dear Heavenly Father, Lord, I thank You for this Sabbath day that is beginning. And, Lord, I thank You for the young people in this room. I thank You for their energy. I thank You for their zeal. I thank You for their commitment to come out onto an optional event on a Friday evening. Praise the Lord. And, Lord, I thank You for the message that Paul gave to Timothy and that we’ve read tonight. Lord, it is my prayer that not one person lets anyone look down on them because they are young, but, Lord, let us, each and every one, set an example for the believers in speech, in our life, in our love, in our faith, in our purity. Let us be winsome witnesses for You. Let them see Christlike youth, energetic youth, youth stirred by the Holy Spirit to finish a holy work. Lord, You understand the greatness of the task. You understand the obstacles that lie before us, but, Lord, we know that, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.”

 

So we ask for Your Holy Spirit tonight. We ask for that Elijah message to come through in this generation. We ask that we be the young people and the older people who link arms and work together, who cast aside every Satanic expectation, and we seek the higher goal of Jesus Christ in our lives. Lord, let us be Your ambassadors. Help us to represent You well. Help us to carry ourselves like children of the King. And, Lord, help us to finish this work so that soon and very soon we will see Jesus face to face. We pray all this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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