Today we begin a new message series called “Stages of Life.” There are five distinct stages of life that most people pass through. Each life stage has different challenges and rewards. As each stage is unique, the transitions from one stage to another can often be stressful. The good news is that God is there to strengthen and guide us through each stage.
Isaiah 46:3b-4 (ESV) “Listen to me, [you] have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
God knew you in your mother’s womb and He promises to be with each believer through every stage of your life. The first life stage is from childhood through the teen years, when a person is living with their parents. The second life stage is the young adult stage in a person’s twenties. In this stage, important decisions on career and marriage are often made.
The third life stage is the adult years in a person’s thirties through fifties. In this stage, children are raised and careers are advanced. The fourth life stage is the senior years of the sixties and seventies. In the senior years, many people retire.
The fifth and last life stage is the end of life stage in the eighties plus years. In this last stage, we face our mortality, prepare for eternity and leaving a legacy. God has promised that as we follow Him, He will be with us through each life stage.
Everyone of us is in one of these five stages. Some have a lot of stages ahead of them, others have more stages behind. However, as we talk about each stage, think not only about the stage you’re in. If you’re younger, think about the future stages that you will go through. And think about how you can appreciate and encourage those who are in the older stages. If you’re older, these messages will help you understand and encourage those who are in the younger stages.
Today’s message is entitled “Growing Up.” We’re going to be talking about the first stage, which takes a child through their teen years. The pressures and temptations of this stage has increased dramatically in recent years. But God is there to help teenagers resist those pressures and live for Him. God desires for those of us who are older, to better understand what today’s teenagers are facing. So that, we can encourage them and lead them in the right direction for God. So let’s look at God’s Word for direction for those who are in this first life stage of Growing Up.
Psalm 34:11 (ESV) Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
It’s vitally important to teach children and grandchildren about the Lord. We are to teach them not just about God, but about the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is an awe and submission to Jesus that comes through salvation. Children need to learn from God’s Word from the earliest ages.
63% of all believers today in America were saved between the ages of 4 and 14. I was led to the Lord at the age of 4 by my mother. The majority of children who are saved at an early age are led to the Lord by their parents. Salvation at an early age before the teen years, prepares children for those years.
Proverbs 8:17 (ESV) I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.
In this verse, God’s wisdom is personified and is speaking. Those who love God’s wisdom will be loved by Him. Those who diligently seek God’s wisdom will find it and a relationship with Him. Goals in life begin to be formed in the teen years. Our culture seeks to squeeze teens into it’s mold of popularity and peer pressure. Yet, God desires for teens who are saved to seek spiritual priorities. God is seeking for teens to grow in their knowledge of His Word and to put it into practice in their lives. God’s Word can serve as a barrier against giving in to the temptation that are all around today’s teen.
Ecclesiastes 12:1 (ESV) Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;
God’s Word instructs the young to remember God their creator in their youth. To acknowledge God early in life, so that the rest of life can be lived for Him. Youth have the entire lives ahead of them to serve God. The evil days are the last stage of life before leaving this world. Youth are encouraged to use their strength and vigor to serve the Lord and not wait for a future time to begin. God does now want someone to look back on a life wasted by living apart from God. Rather, may we encourage youth to acknowledge God early in life.
Some people think that children can not make life-changing decisions early in life. Yet, we have seen that the majority of believers do make a salvation decision between the ages of 4 and 14. Parents have the primary responsibility to lead their children to the Lord and to help them grow in following God and understanding His Word.
Bringing children and grandchildren to church is part of their spiritual growth. But of even greater importance is teaching your children God’s Word at home during the week. God gave you the children and grandchildren that you have. He prepared you to pray for and teach them more about Jesus.
Teens who are listening, seek God rather than the goals of the culture. God’s wisdom is far more important than popularity, wealth or pleasure. Acknowledge God early in life.
Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
God called Jeremiah to be a prophet before he was born, indeed before he was conceived. God spoke to Jeremiah when he was a youth, probably just a teenager. The teen years are the time when God often makes clear His calling on a young person’s life.
I believe that God calls every believer in specific areas. He calls each young person into a career, into a ministry and usually into a marriage. What was Jeremiah’s response to God’s call?
Jeremiah 1:6-7 (ESV) Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Jeremiah reasoned that he was too young to accomplish God’s call. But God would have none of his excuses. When God calls someone, He give them the ability and power to accomplish His call. And so it was for Jeremiah. Even though his calling and ministry would be difficult, God was with him throughout his life.
This verse is also a warning to those youth who want to put off serving the Lord until they are older. Some want to have their fun in the sin of this world, thinking they will come back to God when they are older. This is very dangerous thinking and often leads to disaster. The only safe course in life is to follow God’s plans, not your own.
2 Timothy 1:6 (ESV) For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,
This verse was written by the apostle Paul to a young pastor named Timothy. At a point in the past, in Timothy’s youth, prayer over him had resulted in a spiritual gift of God being deposited into his life. But apparently, Timothy had led the fire of this gift ebb in his life. God’s instruction to Timothy was for him to fan back into full flame God’s gift.
There are many influences that can cause a youth’s fire for God’s call to die down. God’s will is for every young person to be on fire for Him and His plan for their life. God’s plan for their lives can only be carried out through His presence. The gift of God in every young believer’s life is the Holy Spirit. We respond to God’s call by submitting to the guidance of the Spirit.
In the teen years and beyond, there is often a belief that whatever a person wants to do must be God’s will if it is not overt sin. This is not true most of the time. Our will and God’s will are often very different. God’s will may and usually involves self-denial and suffering. But God’s will is the very best plan that you could have for your life.
The importance of the Holy Spirit in responding to God’s call cannot be over-estimated. I began to seek the power of the Holy Spirit in my life in my later teen years. The Lord baptized me in the Holy Spirit when I was nineteen. The guidance of the Holy Spirit has directed my life ever since in many ways. As a young person, respond to God’s call and seek His presence every day.
2 Kings 22:1a-2 (ESV) Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign … And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.
Josiah began to reign as king of Israel as a child at eight years old. Despite his young age, he followed the Lord and served Him wholeheartedly. Josiah’s father and grandfather were very wicked kings, but Josiah was the last of Israel’s righteous kings.
Josiah’s reign was equated with the reign of David, the premier king of Israel. During Josiah’s reign, the book of the Law was discovered in the temple. Josiah reacted to the reading of God’s Word with repentance and national reform.
2 Kings 23:25 (ESV) Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.
The words of this verse are a strong commendation of Josiah’s reign. He served God from an early age with all his heart, soul and might. In fact, this verse indicates that Josiah was the godliest king in all of Israel’s history.
What was the standard that was applied to his reign? The standard was that he followed God’s Word in everything that he did. Despite being thrust into the kinghood at a very early age, Josiah made a huge impact for righteousness on the nation. His legacy was that he served the Lord with everything that he had.
1 Timothy 4:12 (ESV) Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
This verse was written by Paul to the young pastor Timothy. We do not know how old Timothy was at this time, but Paul calls on him as a youth to set an example. The implication is that Timothy as a youth could be an example to older people in the church. Five areas of life are mentioned that he could be an example in. These five areas are important areas for every young person to follow God in.
The first area is in his speech. His words should honor God and encourage others. The conduct or actions of a young person should be consistent with their words. Love has two dimensions, love for other people and love for God. Closely related to love for God is a strong faith in God. Finally, one of the areas of strong temptation for the young is keeping pure in thought, speech and conduct. When young people serve God wholeheartedly, they can have a huge impact for God.
One of the temptations for young people is to see how much they can fit in with the culture without falling into explicit sin. It’s as if there’s a line drawn in the sand and you want to see how close you can get to that line of sin without crossing it. Young people who live that way will always cross the line and dishonor God. Rather God calls us to be examples to others of serving God wholeheartedly.
A person who is serving God wholeheartedly will stay as far away from the line of sin as possible. Not only are they concerned about themselves, but they are also concerned about the example that they set for others. They pray and think about ways that they can be examples of Christ in every area of life. A godly young person is not worried about whether they fit in with the culture. They are not concerned about how many likes they get on Facebook or Instagram. Their reward comes from the Lord whom they are serving wholeheartedly.
Today, we’ve talked about the growing up life stage, the time from childhood through the teen years. Some of you are in this stage, many others have passed through this stage. Yet, we all know young people who are struggling to serve God in a decadent culture. May each of us encourage them to acknowledge God early in life.
Young people can be saved, water and Spirit baptized as God’s Word commands. Pray that the young people you know would hear and respond to God’s call on their life. Finally, let’s pray that young people would serve God wholeheartedly and be examples both to other young people and to older people as well.