The Young Man And
Mr. Donald K. Steele of Peterborough, Ontario, confines his practical and inspirational series on “The Young Man.”
The local assembly is the spiritual home of the various believers who make up that particular fellowship. Children, youth, young married folk and older believers all share in the life and witness of the local assembly. Among all of those groups, no single group is more vitally important to the future of the assembly than its young men. If there are no young men in the assembly, one would have to question whether it has a future at all.
It has been my privilege in the past few years to become acquainted through Bible school work with dozens of young men from many different assemblies. While a few have gone out into missionary work, the majority have gone back home to continue studies or work, and to assist in some way in the home assembly. It has been one of the chief aims of the Bible school to encourage this very thing, for there is always a need for keen and discerning young men who care about the growth and future of their home church. As God through His Holy Spirit leads and directs these young men, they can become a vital and blessed force in the growth of the local churches in which they work.
What word can we bring to young men in a few short paragraphs on such a vital topic? God’s Word has a number of specific instructions. Paul, writing to Titus (2:6), asks Titus to exhort young men to be sober minded. A careful reading of this letter will reveal that all believers are exhorted to be sober minded, but in this verse the point is directed to young men. The Greek word used here, SOPHRONEO, means to be of sound mind; think and act discreetly, to use sound judgment and moderation. Peter uses the same word in 1 Peter 4:7 when he says: “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” Titus 2:6 in the NIV says, “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.” Titus was to encourage, exhort, urge or admonish young men in a strong manner to exercise self-control, or discretion, in all that they said and did. I believe that any young man seeking to develop in an assembly, to become a trusted and useful believer, will have to show this basic self-control or discretion and sound judgment in all that he does. The flighty, the insincere, the indiscreet, or the individual given to immoderate statements and unsound activities will never gain the confidence of the older believers, and seldom of those who are younger. Discretion and self-control must be the foundation on which our future development rests in the assembly, assuming that we are already sound in the faith and doctrine, and growing spiritually as well.
A second vital quality for the young man is found in 1 Corinthians 4:2.
“Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” Those who have been entrusted with any aspect of the work of the local assembly MUST be faithful to that work. A Sunday school teacher who does not show up for class, a youth leader who does not prepare for his duties, or any other aspect of the service, is not being found faithful. Even in the humblest activities in the assembly, we are all the ministers of Christ (1 Cor. 4:1), and are therefore serving Him and representing Him to the church and to the world. If we are unfaithful in these things, we shall bring discredit not only on ourselves, but on the glorious Saviour whose name we bear. Study this word “faithful” on your own. It appears more than 50 times in the New Testament and is a quality highly to be prized among believers. Are you faithful? Do you do what you have been asked to do, unstintingly and with a cheerful heart?
It probably goes without saying that the young man must be active and useful in his assembly, if he is to make any contribution at all. If we do not work, or do not serve in any capacity, we can scarcely fulfill the great vision and promise of Hebrews 13:20a, 21, where we read: “Now the God of peace … make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
It has been said that “make you perfect” from the Greek KATARTISAI, could be used for the reconciliation of factions or the repairing of broken bones. It basically means to repair what is broken or restore what is lost. It may also include the harmonious combination of different powers. If we consider all of these meanings together, we seem to have one word which provides the solution to all problems within the church. Does that seem far-fetched? Yet if we had enough young men who were indeed being “made perfect in every good work” the local assembly would be able to function and to grow in a most felicitous manner. God’s will would be done in every way. Thank God for those young men who have seen the need to work and to serve in the local church in such a manner as to bring factions together, restore what is lost, and encourage the harmonious working together for good of all members of the local fellowship. In this connection, one is prompted to observe that “what is lost” may often be the first love of Revelation 2:4. Factionalism and strife are the very antithesis of a Christ-centred church, yet these things feed on themselves and grow out of all proportion to their insignificant beginnings, and they destroy churches or render them useless in God’s great plan.
Elders of course must be patient men (1 Titus 3:3) and the servant of the Lord “must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,” according to 2 Timothy 2:24. In Romans 12:12 we are reminded that all believers are to be patient in tribulation. Patience is a golden virtue, and a wonderful quality, not often found among the young. It seems we live in the “ME” generation, whose slogan is “I want it all now.” This philosophy is not only selfish and unscriptural, but ultimately destructive of sound character development. The Chinese have a saying that “One moment of patience may ward off great disaster; one moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.”
Very recently my wife while driving home was passed by an impatient driver which resulted in the demolition of two cars just inches from where our car stopped. The impatience of that driver nearly killed two women, and his efforts to save a few seconds travelling time resulted in a delay of weeks in his return to his post in Iraq. Young men in an assembly must develop both wisdom and patience, and these qualities combined will be of immense value. Sometimes young people want changes made quickly which should be made slowly or not at all. Sometimes the older ones resist change for no better reason than “we’ve always done it this way.” Patience and wisdom are required on both sides to resolve such conflicts, if and when they do occur. Two of the dangers that confront any church are first that her message may change, and second, that her methods may NOT change. Patience among young men will enable them to work toward change in methods at a rate that others can accept.
We are all familiar with the observation of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Some person has observed that if we change one word, the verse is still true. “Where there is no visitation, the people perish.” In Joel 2:28 young men are said to see visions as a result of an outpouring of the Spirit of God. I believe that in our assemblies today, young men need to be visionary, to look to the future expecting great things from God and working to make them come to pass. A vision without work will not materialize of its own accord. In the assembly the young man must be willing to work to make his expectations and desires for the church come to pass. And, quite often I have noted that visitation is indeed the key to much exciting growth in the church. Outreach requires visitation. Keeping in touch with the people in the fellowship, especially the elderly and the infirm, requires visitation, and young men can do this as well as older men.
To sum up, a young man can find many different ways to serve in the local assembly, and this is the most appropriate place for him to seek to serve the Lord. Such service will require him to develop such qualities as patience, sobriety, co-operation, faithfulness, and vision. God can take our strengths and build upon them, as well as take our weaknesses and overcome them. It is interesting to note in Scripture how often men utterly lacking in a certain quality are called upon by God to serve Him utilizing that very quality. It is clear that His strength can indeed be made perfect in our weakness. Young men must make themselves available to God, keep themselves fit for service, and let Him lead them as He will. He has the master plan for each of our lives, so we must “let go and let God” lead us into the sphere of service for which He has specifically saved us. There are no “spare parts” in God’s edifice, the church, nor should there be any drones in His army. May you find your work, and do it as unto the Lord.