How to be a Genuine Teenager
When Kate Middleton married Prince William, there were a whole series of articles and online stories about her life. They were mostly focused on her good looks, her sporting abilities and her academic achievements. One article was entitled ‘A Princess in Waiting’.
David may not have attended a top public school, been captain of any sports teams or gone to a prestigious university but, unknown to him, his teenage years were also preparing him for life as royalty.
Of course, the most amazing thing about David is that he was Jesus’ great–great–great etc. grandfather, and we can see many patterns in his life and kingship that foreshadow and predict that perfect King. That includes the three helpful principles we’ll see in David’s teenage years. Firstly, we start as servants before God makes us rulers. Secondly, we start with a few things before God gives us many things. Finally, we start with work before we experience joy.
PRINCIPLE 1: WE START AS SERVANTS BEFORE GOD MAKES US RULERS
God’s pattern has always been to start at the bottom – think back to Joseph. Moses, through whom God gave His Law to Israel, spent forty years as a shepherd before God made him the great leader of Israel. Joshua was Moses’ servant before he because his successor. The great prophet Samuel began life cleaning the furniture in the tabernacle (the place of worship in those days). And God doesn’t ask His people to do anything He hasn’t done Himself – look at Jesus, as described in Philippians 2:6–11. He was God in the flesh, and He humbled Himself to become a servant, for our sakes. David wasn’t too proud to obey his father and stay at home taking care of the sheep. He didn’t throw a strop and insist on being able to do everything his older brothers were doing. He knew how to serve. He would never have been a success in the nation if he’d been a failure at home.
PRINCIPLE 2: WE START WITH A FEW THINGS BEFORE GOD GIVES US MANY THINGS
Not having much isn’t particularly attractive to most of us – think how many songs there are about ‘wanting it all’. Teenage culture, as created by the advertisers, is all about getting more and more stuff. But God’s policy is to see how faithful we are with the small things before He entrusts us with much (see Matt. 25:21 – in fact, read the whole story, vv. 14–30).
David didn’t start off with much, but because he was faithful in the small things, God entrusted him with bigger ones.
He started with caring faithfully for a few sheep when a teenager, and as an adult God made him king over the whole nation of Israel. David killed a lion and a bear in private, so God permitted him to kill a giant in public. David sang to himself while tending the sheep, and today the whole world sings his songs as recorded in the book of Psalms. As a young man, he faithfully delivered supplies to his brothers on the front line, and as an old man he delivered billions of pounds worth of materials to his son Solomon to build the Temple.
God develops our Christian character in the small things. The way you approach an essay deadline today will shape your university career tomorrow. Keeping your temper with an annoying younger brother today will help you deal with a difficult colleague tomorrow. The apostle Paul is able to rejoice even in suffering because ‘we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us’ (Rom. 5:3–5).
When you remember that God is at work in your life, there is no such thing as a waste of time or a pointless situation – remember he is at work in all things to make us more like Jesus (Rom. 8:28,29). This leads us to our final principle . . .
PRINCIPLE 3: WE START WITH WORK BEFORE WE EXPERIENCE JOY
The pattern of the Christian life is often suffering before glory – Jesus being the prime example of that. But a lesser pattern can be seen in David’s life, and that is work before joy.
Fun without responsibility is ultimately unsatisfying and can end in regret and unhappiness. But one of the things adult life will teach you is that hard work brings a special sort of satisfaction and enjoyment.
I hated maths at school, but I was prouder of my B grade for GCSE maths than any of my better grades because I had worked harder for it. Revising is not fun; practising musical scales is dull; training hard, watching your diet and exercising would not be how you choose to use your time. But good exam results, getting a recording contract or scoring the winning goal are the results. The hard work was an investment in future joy.
David knew how to work, and he knew that being faithful today would result in enjoyment tomorrow. A genuine teenager, then, has a sense of purpose; they are faithful in the small things because they know God has bigger things for them in the future, and ultimately a heavenly future full of pure joy.
This extract is adapted from Genuine: Becoming a Real Teenager by C B Martin and Warren W Wiersbe.