by P.D. Wilmeth
These seven teenage years are a great adventure in experiences, with all the risks and hazards of unknown paths. They are tremendously important years this is a journey that we make only once. There is no roundtrip ticket, most of us according to the calendar will be on this road for about sixty or seventy years.
I am one of those who wants to talk to you. Everybody does, you know. Whether friends or foes, parent or teacher, wise or unwise, Christian or non-Christian, it seems that it is always open season to talk to teenagers about their problems. I want to talk to you as a father would his own teenagers. After all, I used to be a teenager myself, and I have had a couple of teenagers around my house.
So you are not exactly strangers to me. I know some of the questions that you ask, some of the problems you face, ad how you desire to be that person who is really needed and who will live an abundant life.
What Is Life?
Sometimes young people ask, “What is Life?” I heard Dr. John Cayce of Nashville give this definition when he said, “It is a continual adjustment of internal relations to eternal relations.” It came from God who breathed into man the breath of life, and man became a living soul (Genesis 1:27-30). It was God who established a law of reproduction of life, growth, maturity, age, and death (Acts 1:30; Hebrews 11:2-3; Genesis 4:1-4).
What Is the Best Age of Life?
Other young people often ask, “What is the best age of life?” The answer is that no one period is any more valuable than any other age. All periods are equally necessary if one is to secure the many interesting experiences of life and complete existence. Youth has its difficulties and also its compensations. So has middle life, and old age (from 90 to 100). It is impossible to obtain all the joys of life within any one period.
You’ve been asking a lot of questions. We’re going to look for the answers. You will come up with many more questions even after we’re through. We ask that you begin with some solid counsel from the Bible: “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21). I shall assume throughout all these talks together that you are serious about living the Christian life as fully as you can. I know that you are going to make some mistakes. I’ll try to understand and love you for what and who you are. I know that you have what it takes, with a little help, direction, and guidance, to be the really wonderful, happy person God intends you to be.
These Are Fundamentals
What’s Your Purpose?
Why are you here? Everything in the universe has some purpose. Socrates said: “The unconsidered life is not worth living.” Dr. Alex Carrel gives us all courage when he declares, “In modern society, the great, the small, the average, and the mediocre are needed” [In Man the Unknown]. The part you play may not be great, nor is its importance always evident to you; nonetheless, your part is just as essential as that of any other person. So you must have a purpose in life or all it is aimless.
Remember Who You Are
Some years ago, archaeologists, delving into the ruins of an ancient Greek city, found a bit of papyrus o which had been written a comment not entirely foreign to our day. Freely translated, it read, “Youth is going to the dogs.” I believe those dogs have had a mighty long wait. Don’t you?
I confidently believe that our youth today are as bright as any who ever lived. Heman G. Stark, former Director of the State of California said: “On the basis of my thirty years experience, I’d say. The teenagers of today are stronger, smarter, more self-sufficient, and more constructive than any other generation of teenagers in history.” Is he talking about you? The really bad youths of our land number less than five percent of the whole.
Every day since you’ve been old enough to remember you have been bombarded by visual appeals by men of base and sensual desires the liquor industry, the tobacco companies, the pulp magazines, and others have given you every encouragement to yield to their unwholesome demands. Many of you have not yielded, but have stood tall and straight and refused to be pulled down. We who are older are mighty proud of you who recognize that you are “made in the image of God.”
Develop the Ability to Think
Henry Ford said: “A man who cannot think is not an educated man, no matter how many college degrees he may have acquired. Thinking is the hardest work anyone can do—which is probably the reason we have so few thinkers.” (Mr. Ford himself was doing some real thinking when he made that statement.) Thinking comes through the exercise of our thinking powers. The Bible teaches us “that as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Again, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
It is utterly impossible to go wrong when your thoughts are right. All wrong action is the result of wrong thinking and vice-versa. We are told what to think about if we are to be fruitful thinkers. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). This is the sum of all true thinking. It is the only cure for all evils. Don’t take all your knowledge secondhanded. “Prove all things.” Read the best books, study, investigate, and expand mentally. It is conservatively estimated that man uses but about ten percent of his mental capacity. Beware of shortcuts to learning. Beware of half-preparation.
Have a Goal
Do you have a goal in life? Do you know what you are going to do when you finish high school? College? The first mistake we unguided mortals make is not ascertaining what target we are trying to hit. Like Stephen Leacock's rider, we are prone to jump on our horse and “ride off madly in all directions.”
We are like the man who called for a taxi, jumped in, and shouted, “Hurry, please! As fast as you can!” The taxi charged off with a screech of burning rubber and speeded up the street. After several blocks, the impatient passenger shouted again, “Are we almost there?”
“Almost where, Sir?” blandly returned the driver.
Failing to know the destination does not hinder activity; it only prevents accomplishment. Much of our educational system is geared to prepare us for making a living, but too often it fails to point us in the direction of making a life. Although we do not always know where to get it, we know pretty well what we want. Happiness, security, contentment, prestige, "a little love that grows and grows" — it is spelled in many ways, but it amounts to the same thing. Jesus carefully examined and diagnosed a young man once when he said: “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor; and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mark 10:21). A goal outside of himself to give meaning and purpose in life — that is what he needed. Jesus pointed the way when he said, “I am the way…” (John 14:6) See also Matthew 6:33.
Wise Use of Your Time
If you know anything about the operation of a car, you know that the matter of timing is quite important. The timer, if correctly set determines the charge of the gas by the electric spark. If too soon or too late the power is greatly reduced. It is exactly the same in our lives. There is the best time for doing everything. There is the best time for getting an education, acquiring basic skills, accumulating money, getting married and rearing a family, and traveling. There is the best time for developing good habits, acquiring an attractive personality, and slowing down and taking life more easily.
You have perhaps observed that you make almost a complete change within every seven-year cycle. If you will watch the succeeding age periods, you will discover changes in your desires, appetites, moods, opinions of others, and even in your own bodily functions — all due to the passing of time.
During any of the years ahead, it is necessary to be thinking and planning for the future and particularly for the next period ahead. Any preparation that you may make today has little value now. The value of today’s preparation is always realized tomorrow. At the age of twenty-one, when you are out of your teen years, the things you like and want now, you’ll not have any interest in at all, and so on during life. One thing about time that makes it so important to wisely invest in it as we get it, is that it cannot be saved or hoarded like money. It must be spent while we have it.
Make Proper Decisions
There will be about three major decisions facing you from here on. For some, you will make a decision to become a Christian, and this will be the most important decision you’ll ever make. For others, the decision has already been made. Another decision you’ll make will be that of a mate for life. A third major decision will be that of your life’s work. We suggest that you think of some of these things:
- Look at you — your abilities, your interests, your capabilities.
- Face up to the educational demands involved.
- Your chosen vocation or profession. It is overcrowded? What of advancement? What is the
compensation: Does it interfere with your being a Christian? Is it creative?
- Investigate. Read pamphlets. Talk to people. Take an aptitude test. Try out some
occupations in which you have an interest. Work in the summer and other vocations where
you think you’d like to work.
At the Forks of the Road
After about fifteen years on the main road of the journey of life, we come to the forks of the road. It is here that we are in danger of becoming bewildered. Your entire future life will be affected by the decision. Jesus talked of two ways (Matthew 7:13). The first of those roads is the hard way. It is not only rough and uphill, but it presents many obstacles over which it is difficult to climb.
The other road is known as the easy way. This road is filled with folk who are attempting to find tempting and easy shortcuts in many and various ways. The people who select the easy way are the “crowd-followers.”
Essentials on the Journey
Every person starting out on the highway of life should check to be sure he is not starting unprepared. Whether he travels by land, water, or air, the principle of preparation holds true. He should know:
- The Vehicle: In this case, it is your physical body. Is it strong enough to make the trip?
- The Driver: You. Do you have the good sense to keep your vehicle in good shape? Do you know where you are going?
- The Baggage: Do you possess the basic knowledge, skill, training, information, and principles of conduct control to cushion the shocks that will come when the going is hard?
Match Your Wits
- Here is an actual assignment. Decide where you want to be twenty-five years hence, and write that across the top of a blank sheet of paper. Now write on this page only the steps that you would follow to get you there.
- What other things would you list in planning a life that is not mentioned in the material that you have read?
- Interview someone whom you consider a successful person and ascertain what, in your judgment, are the outstanding elements in his/her life.
- Make an honest inventory of (a) your finest powers abilities, and characteristics; and (b) your weaknesses that can be mastered. How can you make yourself time-conscious?