Boys, Young Men, and Men

"I write unto you, young men...." 

Where are you, boys? Are you turning into young men?

Where are you, young men? Are you turning into men? 

What kind of question is that? Is not this a matter of nature? Do not boys just grow up into young men, and young men into men? 

No, they do not. Men appear taller, bigger, older than their younger counterparts. But watch and listen. Listening to their language and watching their actions will convince you that inside the skin of many grown men are only boys. They are more interested in games of every kind than in reality. They are more interested in playing than in working. 

Sin has deeply affected the process of growing and maturing. Many men rebel openly against the requirements the Lord has laid upon them. They forsake their homes and families in favor of "the guys" or their "buddies." They break their marriage and baptism vows because they simply feel the need to shed their responsibilities. Or, as they explain it, they cannot handle the pressures on them. Or they want less boredom and more excitement. 

Has sin affected your understanding of proper growth and maturity? Has this sinful way of thinking seeped into your mind? Beware! 

What do you think? What do you young men think about your future? What are your goals? To be a godly man? In the church? In your home? Is your goal to be a responsible leader in your home, to the wife and children that the Lord may be pleased to give you? Is your goal to be an established, mature leader in the church, using your strength and abilities for the care of your home and your church? 

Or is your goal just to be the best on your sports team? Is it to get the highest score or to the highest level on the latest video game? Is your goal to have the most friends or to be the one most talked about? The pursuit of these things, making them goals, is harmful and dangerous. They are a form of idolatry, making a servant a lord. What are they worth in the Lord's sight? What will they be worth in a few years? It is amazing that the things young people treasure so much become so useless in a few short years. Sadly, you will hear some men boasting, ten years later, of what they did in junior high or high school. 

You young men have the ability to establish a goal, even a goal that is some ways off. You have the ability to turn your strength and your abilities to the pursuit of that goal. And you have the ability to keep pressing on toward that goal without distractions getting in your way. The right abilities are there. But keep them from wrong, unworthy goals. 

Look at Ecclesiastes 11:9: "Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes." You boys and young men are called to cherish your youth. Play! Play at recess and play in your extra time. Do things that are fun, exciting, and enjoyable! Enjoy hobbies, and develop the skills and talents that are used in them. Wrestle, and kick the ball around. Enjoy the speed and coordination of the young bodies that the Lord has given you. 

But remember, the Word of God continues. "But know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment." "All these things" are not an end in themselves. They are preparation for growing up. They are servants, not lords; means, not ends. Look for a good judgment from God: keep the things of your youth as servants and as mere means. You must be able to leave them behind when God, by your maturity, will require it. You must know the judgment of God on them, should you drag them with you into your adulthood: "For childhood and youth are vanity" (Eccl. 11:10). There will come a time to leave your play and those freedoms of youth behind. When that time comes, do not leave them behind with sadness and reluctance. Above all, do not secretly hope for a return of those days, looking for some way to get them back! Why desire vanity? Take to heart the Word of God in I Corinthians 13:11: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." 

Those things of youth you must leave behind. But remember, you are also exchanging them for what is far better and far more glorifying to God, a life lived according to your proper, God-given maturity, using fully the gifts He has given you. 

Use your strength of youth to prepare for manhood. 

How do you prepare? 

First, keep your heart and mind properly directed. You can think back to when you were a small boy. What did you want to be? Aside from being a fireman, police officer, or doctor, you wanted to be grown up, like your dad. You even played at grown up things. Keep that as your goal and priority. Especially over your play and recreation. 

Then, in a more practical way, make sure that even your play and recreation do not become more important to you than your work and your responsibilities. Why do you have recess? Why do you have summer? Their purpose is to reinvigorate you for your work, the duties that the Lord has given you. If you can keep that purpose in mind, and even be thankful for your play because it serves that purpose, then you are on the right track. 

Second, apply yourself with diligence to your work and your responsibilities! The first step to being a proper man is that you apply yourself with your strength and diligence to your work and your responsibilities. Turn more and more from the things that will not matter in ten years, to the things that will. In those things that will matter invest the strength and abilities the Lord has given to you. In these actions you will be leading yourself. You are learning at the same time what it means to be a leader in your church, and in your future home. You will also become more confident in your exercise of the abilities the Lord has given you. You are testing them and proving them, those abilities that will be so valuable to you later on. 

Third, direct yourself in your heart and soul. Here self-knowledge is important. Do you know who you are? Who are you inside of yourself? What are the directions and affections of your heart? You must be able to see inside of yourself. 

To see inside yourself requires the light of God's Word. Proverbs is a wonderful book to provide this light. It talks about the way of the righteous, the way of the wise, and also the way of a fool. There is light there to guide you in your outward life. But there is far more given in the Word of God. There is light to shine within. See inside yourself with that light. What ways of folly and foolishness are in your heart? What ways of wisdom and righteousness are there? 

That kind of knowledge also requires action. Those foolish ways in you, that you see in the light of Scripture—turn your heart away from them. Find them abhorrent and loathsome. The ways of righteousness and wisdom shown in God's Word—turn your heart to them. Find them lovely and delightful. 

Train your heart in this way, always away from foolishness and toward wisdom, always away from sin and toward righteousness. You also learn to confront yourself, to rebuke yourself, and to train yourself in the way of righteousness. 

In this way you will be as a ship that has a rudder and a compass, equipped to be steered and directed toward an end and a goal. You will be able to keep yourselfwell in the way of righteousness, steering a direct course to the kingdom of heaven. You will not be as on a raft, drifting here and there, unsure of your direction and course, and unable to steer, the helpless victim of whatever wind or current that comes along. 

Keeping to these ways will help you to become a man of strength, of resolve, and of steadfast direction. You will be equipped to lead and guide yourself in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. You will live out of a heart that is consecrated to Him. But you will also be able to exercise solid leadership in your home. Your wife and your children will be able to place their confidence in you, the man of the house. You will also be able to be a strong leader in the church of Jesus Christ. You will be inoculated against the vain desire to please men. You will be guarded against fleeing from the first sign of trouble. With strength you will be able to lead the church in the truth, in right worship, and in a life consecrated to God. 

The strength of youth...for the strength of men, godly men!