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. 1 Timothy 4:12, NKJV
Don’t be overtaken by sloth — unless you are being followed by an actual sloth, which shouldn’t happen anyway. They’re quite slow.
Let’s take a close look here at how Paul’s encouragement to Timothy applies to how we live our lives.
One of the hardest lessons to learn as a young person is that the mundane, unpleasant tasks that fill up an average day — dishwashing, studying algebra, eating at home — have any purpose, let alone a future benefit. Adults are complicit in this rush toward the mythical world of adult fulfillment. From a young age, we ask our children what they want to be when they grow up, and while there’s nothing wrong with role play, if we are not careful, we can send the message that childhood and adolescence aren’t important.
Youth isn’t merely a waiting room for adolescents to bide their time until the exciting world of adulthood, it’s a critical stage when knowledge, disciplines and habits are acquired and formed. Rush or skip it, and youth risk entering adulthood lacking the skills and morals they need to have a successful, happy life.
David, after he was anointed king of Israel by the prophet Samuel, returned to the simple task of shepherding his father’s flocks. What a strange time in David’s life. The spectacle of his anointing before his brothers and father just happened. Yet when Saul sent messengers to ask Jesse to send David to play his harp, the messengers said “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” (1 Samuel 16:19) David wasn’t in a hurry to assume the throne. He waited and trusted in God.
It often takes years for God’s plan for our lives to come to fruition. In youthful impatience and carelessness, there is a risk of damaging or hindering the full measure of all God has for us. The young person in your life needs to know that anything worth doing is worthy of their best effort.
I learned this lesson the hard way as a boy when I did a lousy job washing my grandmother’s car. I didn’t want to miss a neighborhood football game, so I decided to wash the half of the car that was visible from our dining room window, and wash the other half after the game. To my shame, my grandmother’s visit ended and she went home before the game ended. The laughs my grandmother, a pillar at her church, received from a half-washed car and the subsequent scolding I received were a favorite family story that mocked me for years.
The painful, albeit humorous lesson: every day counts, and is worthy of our best effort. Psalms 90:12 puts it this way: “So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.”