It is my privilege to work each week with hundreds of middle school, high school, and college age young people. It is fascinating that the older I get the younger they seem! Not long ago (in my mind) I sat where they sit. Making decisions and seeking direction.
Recently I spent several days just meeting with kids, listening, talking, praying. Full of hope for their future, every one of them is in the middle of a season of decision. Decisions that will alter the course of their life. Perhaps I am more concerned than they are because I have seen so many poor choices and sad casualties.
Meeting after meeting it seemed that the conversation returned again and again to a few basic principles. Different kids, varied circumstances, a multitude of questions – but the same truths kept emerging. If I could speak with any sincere Christian young person, here is what I would say:
1. Stay close to God.
If you are going to hear His instruction you have to be close enough to hear His voice. Don’t expect to make wise decisions if you separate yourself from the only Source of true wisdom. This is not a time to be lax in your Bible reading or casual about your prayer life. Seek the Lord and He will make it plain.
Haddon Robinson once said, “The Bible does not provide a map for life – only a compass.” Scriptural principles will ensure that you are making wise choices and staying within the perimeters of God’s purpose for you. Stay in the Word of God and you will hear Him speak.
2. Never make a decision without counsel.
You cannot trust your own heart, however well informed you think it to be. The best of people have their blind spots and need insight from others. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” Find your multitude and be very careful who is in that number…
3. Give more weight to the counsel of parents and pastors than you do the advice of your peers.
I marvel at how many young people make life choices on the suggestions of those who have no more life experience than they do! Find someone with gray hair. Talk to those who have a different perspective than you do. Remember that the sin of Rehoboam was listening to the young men that grew up with him instead of the old men (1 Kings 12:8). It split a nation and cost him the kingdom.
Ask the old men. Our silly society now places the greatest premium on the shallow musings of celebrities and the sage advice of youth. Eastern cultures were right about their regard for elders. There is little to admire about immaturity and inexperience.
4. When there is doubt, don’t!
Satan brings question marks. God brings periods and exclamation points. If you are unsure of what to do…do nothing! Stay put. Wait on the Lord. Be patient and the God of perfect timing will show you what to do. It is just as sinful to get ahead of the Lord as it is to get behind Him.
5. Never make a decision based solely on a negative.
We all have a tendency to react. To people. To circumstances. This is a dangerous way to make decisions. Emotions are apt to betray you. God leads by TRUTH not feelings. When the truth of God’s Word, the truth of wise counselors, and the Spirit of truth within you are all moving in the same direction you are on safe ground. Until then, don’t trust your emotions.
Remember that God never leads His people solely from something, He leads them to something. I have watched people leave churches, jobs, colleges, and places of blessing for the mystical unknown. Yes, there is a time to leave over moral or doctrinal error, but most often people leave for far less. If God has not shown you the next step, sit tight.
As the military says: “Continue on the last order until you hear from headquarters.”
6. Do what you already know to be the will of God.
There are no shortcuts in the will of God, only steps. Do what you know and you will know what to do. The will of God is not future – it is always present. Begin where you are. If you are not obeying Him today, don’t expect Him to tell you what He wants for tomorrow.
7. Stay open.
You cannot plan the will of God; you can only follow it. Far too often we try to guide God into what we want to do. This never turns out well. Those who desire to know God’s will and are willing to wait on it will find it!
Someone once wrote that the will of God is not revealed as a syllabus; it is rolled out as a scroll – a little at a time. I can tell you from experience that young people like a very complete syllabus. God doesn’t work that way. Follow Him one day at a time. Enjoy the journey and know that He will without doubt lead you to the right destination.