by Hugh Fulford
As is the case with old people, the Bible has much to say about young people. In some respects, both “young” and “old” are relative terms. Even after I was in my 60s, I would sometimes be told, “You are still a young man.” To me, anyone under 60 is young. Consider some things the Bible tells us about young people.
Joseph was only 17 years old when he was sold by his envious brothers into Egyptian slavery, but in Egypt, he rose to great heights in the government, and later was used by the Lord to save his family from a famine in Canaan (Genesis 37:2). While still a child, Samuel was turned over to Eli, God’s priest, by his mother to be trained for service to the Lord. Samuel grew up to become a judge, a prophet, and a powerful spiritual leader of God’s people. But it all began when he was very young (I Samuel 1:19-28). David was the youngest of Jesse’s son and the least likely to be chosen to succeed Saul as the king of Israel, yet he was the Lord’s choice (I Samuel 16:1-13). When David went out to meet the Philistine giant in battle he was “but a youth” (I Samuel 17:33), yet he slew the giant with a sling and a stone, then ran to the fallen body of Goliath, drew the giant’s own sword from its sheath, and cut off his head (I Samuel 17:45-51).
Mary, who would become the mother of Jesus, was a young virgin. The Bible does not tell us her age, but according to some of the apocryphal works, she may have been as young as 12 to 14 years old when she became espoused to Joseph. She may have not been more than in her mid to upper teens when Jesus was born, being conceived in her, not by Joseph, but by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26-28; 2:1-40).
At the age of 12, Jesus was in the Jerusalem temple, “sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.” It is said that “all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (Luke 2:41-47). From his youth, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). What a pattern for youth today!
Jesus was still young, about 30, when he began His public ministry (Luke 3:23). Throughout His ministry, Jesus demonstrated His love for people of all ages. He loved young people, especially little children, declaring that “of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:13-14), and saying that older people must be converted and “become as little children” in order to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). On one occasion Jesus raised a little 12-year-old girl from the dead (Luke 8:40-56). He was disappointed when the rich young ruler, who had so much going for him, nevertheless refused to follow Him (Matthew 19:16-22). Christ was only about 33 years old when He went to the cross, dying for the sins of the world.
While still young, Saul of Tarsus came to Jerusalem to study under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3; 26:4). After his conversion to Christ and appointment to the apostleship, he mentored two young men, Timothy and Titus. in the gospel ministry and they became like sons to him (I Timothy 1:2; II Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4). While there are lusts and sins that are especially common to young people (see Psalms 25:7), Paul urged Timothy to flee youthful lusts (II Timothy 2:22), and exhorted him to live in such a way as to “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (I Timothy 4:12).
An interesting side note on the ministry of Paul is seen in that on one occasion he preached an extra-long sermon and a young man by the name of Eutychus got sleepy and fell out of the third-story window of the building where the services were being held. Paul rushed down and raised him from the dead (Acts 20:7-11). (If you get sleepy in church, watch where you sit. Preachers today still sometimes preach long sermons, but, unlike Paul, none of them has the power to raise anyone from the dead!)
While there are some negatives that characterize young people such as a lack of experience and wisdom and sometimes a failure to listen and learn from older, wiser people, young people nevertheless have a lot going for them if they will use the years of their youth wisely and listen to older and wiser people. Young people are enthusiastic, energetic, and full of life. They are quick to learn and pick up new things easily (for example, technology). They are not rigid or “set in their ways,” but are open to new ideas. (This trait has both its pros and its cons, and young people need to be careful that they not be led into ways that are contrary to God’s word). For the most part, young people are approachable, friendly, and outgoing. They are honest and will tell you what they think. Their dreams are all ahead of them: education, job, marriage, children of their own, and many other wonderful things. The future of the Lord’s church, the future of our country, and the future of our world lie with today’s young people. Solomon wrote, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come and the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them'” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
When I was a high school student at Mars Hill Bible School in Florence, AL, and later a student at Freed-Hardeman College (now University) in Henderson, TN, we often sang the song, “How Shall The Young Secure Their Hearts?” The stanzas are as follows:
How shall the young secure their hearts,
And guard their lives from sin?
Thy word the choicest rules imparts,
To keep the conscience clean,
To keep the conscience clean.
‘Tis like the sun, a heavenly light,
That guides us all the day;
And, through the dangers of the night,
A lamp to lead our way,
A lamp to lead our way.
Thy word is everlasting truth;
How pure is every page!
That holy book shall guide our youth,
And well support our age,
And well support our age!