Psalm 1:3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
This verse applies to all people, but especially to young people. Most researchers and commentators consider people born between 1980 and 2000 to be the Millennial Generation. I love this generation. I believe they have unique challenges and opportunities due to many factors, not the least of which is the growth of technology during their lifetime. I have three children born between 1989 and 1995. It amazes me that they do not know what it is like to be without cell phones, the Internet, Google, and social media.
As a dad to three millennials and a pastor to many, I am genuinely excited for you. You have many opportunities that past generations never had at your age. Your world is quite different, your options limitless. But along with great opportunity comes great responsibility.
I imagine every generation faces its own challenges that are unique to its place in time and culture. But particularly for your generation, because of the exponential speed of information available to us, there is a great temptation to take shortcuts to success. We are the instant millionaire, streaming video, Internet, Snap Chat, Instagram, and YouTube culture. Everything is bigger, faster, and more accessible, but not necessarily better. So here are a few ancient tips from King David that will help you establish a life that lasts and is significant like a tree, not fleeting and short-sighted like a weed.
Commit to being before doing.
Don’t pursue “style over substance.” This is dangerous and can potentially be fatal. As a young person you must heed what the Bible says about personal and spiritual growth. Growth takes time and commitment. Jesus placed much more emphasis on who you arein him rather than what you dofor him. Jesus dealt rather harshly with the “style over substance” crowd. That is particularly important to practice in a social media culture.
Make a commitment to character first.
The Apostle Paul wrote that we should “lay hands on no man suddenly.” He was talking about not being too quick to appoint someone for a leadership position before they had a chance to grow and mature in their faith. He did not mean they had to be perfect, but that they needed to focus on growing in character and spiritual maturity first. That does not mean that there is an age barrier to leading or to spiritual maturity. There is no “Holy Spirit Junior” for younger people. Disciples are doers! I believe that Christians must begin serving in a ministry in the local church as soon as possible. His point is that you must develop character and spiritual maturity before you are put in the spotlight. This kind of thinking is the antidote to an entitlement mentality.
Make a commitment to personal growth.
No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. The only exception to that rule is Jesus Christ. As Christ-followers, we must make a commitment to spiritual and personal growth. I believe this means that we must pledge ourselves to spiritual disciplines, to learning and education, to reading, and to developing our minds, bodies, and personal lives. It is easier than ever to take shortcuts. But character matters.
Make a commitment to The Church.
Notice that I capitalized The Church. Jesus died for The Church. As a believer, you are a part of The Church. But that is not enough. We also need to be a part of the local church. It is easy in our time to watch and listen to church online and never really become a part of a local body. While online community is great and certainly has its place, we are designed to live in Christian community with real people. Believers crave the closeness and intimacy of genuine, transparent relationships. God, in his wisdom, has designed a perfect vehicle for you to experience this – the local church. There is no perfect church and every church has flaws. But until you make a commitment to die to self and commit to a body of believers, you will lack the true support mechanism you need to grow close to Jesus. Don’t be a “free agent Christian” who bounces around from place to place. Enjoy the benefits of church by embracing the responsibilities of being a part of the local church.
Make a commitment to serve.
Studies show that millennials are up to ten times more likely to be depressed than their grandparent’s generation. I believe this is, in part, due to the “me first” philosophy that permeates our culture. When we have an attitude of entitlement rather than an attitude of service, we tend to get depressed because that goes against God’s purpose for living.
In Luke 15, the prodigal son wallowed in misery and self-loathing because of a “me –first” mentality. Our culture thinks this is the way to happiness. But the “me-first” attitude led him to waste his life and opportunities. The road to the “me-first” life is a road to nowhere. It leads to dissatisfied living. We know that Jesus came to serve, not to be served. He served those who needed him most and those who hurt him most.
Be ancient and modern at the same time.
I believe Jesus calls us to live out his purpose in the culture where we live. We must engage in the culture, love the people in it, and live above it at the same time. By being ancient, we follow Jesus, his wisdom, his ways, and live by the ancient and infallible truths of God’s Word. By being modern we engage the culture, embrace being fully human, and enjoy the beauty of God’s blessings while influencing the culture for Christ.
You have great opportunities in this culture no matter how old you are. You can be great! But don’t buy the lies of enemy. Building the kind of life God wants for you takes time, commitment, and grace. Commit to become a tree that produces long-lasting fruit rather than a weed that is here today and gone tomorrow.