Not long ago, a friend of mine had a son who was turning 14 years of age. He asked me to give him a brief charge. Below is the letter I wrote to this young man.
You may not remember me, but I know your dad and he asked me to share with you what the Lord might want you to think about as you reach this important milestone in your life of turning 14 years of age.
You are in the midst of a most important transition from boyhood to manhood. It’s hard to know exactly when you stop being a boy and become a man. But, I do think the Bible reveals that a man is one who… rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously and expects a greater reward. (From Raising a Modern Day Knight)
First of all, reject passivity. As you grow up, you will find that the proverbial wheels fall off the wagon in all of our relationships when men are passive. If you’ve ever read about Adam and Eve and the fall of mankind in Genesis 3, you know that what got them in trouble in the beginning was the passivity of Adam. Adam should have taken the initiative to protect Eve from the seduction of the devil. He carelessly exposed and left her alone to face the tempter. Let me encourage you to reject passivity at every turn. Pray that the Lord would make you into a loving and servant leader like your Lord and Savior, Jesus. The Bible tells us that he is the second Adam who obeyed His Father perfectly and always resisted the advances of our adversary. In fact, he laid down His life to absorb the curse of sin and death brought about by Adam’s fall.
Secondly, accept responsibility. Most folks have a big problem with this. We naturally gravitate towards blame shifting and shaming others when something goes wrong and unravels in our lives. Again, you see this in Genesis 3 when the man blames the woman and then the woman blames the serpent. No one wants to take responsibility for what went dreadfully wrong in the Garden of Eden. One sure sign that the gospel cure has begun in our hearts is that we are able to admit when we are wrong and apologize and ask forgiveness. Growing as a Christian doesn’t mean that we sin less. Yes, we might not succumb to certain overt sins, but we face more and more the deceitfulness of our own idolatrous hearts and we are continually aware of our need of God’s grace.
Thirdly, lead courageously as Christ’s servant. At times the Arctic chill of loneliness will blow into a leader’s life when you have to take a stand for Christ. I would encourage you to secure a copy of my favorite biography. It is entitled Borden of Yale. It chronicles the life of a young man named Bill Borden. He went to Yale University as an undergraduate and afterward became a missionary candidate to China. Heir to the Borden Dairy estate, he was a millionaire by the time he graduated high school. As a gift on the event of his graduation, Borden was sent on a trip around the world. Traveling throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe, he experienced a growing concern for the hurting and lost of the world. He wrote home to say, ‘I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.’ After making this decision, he wrote two words in the back of his Bible: ‘No Reserves.’
From there Borden went on to Yale University with purpose and determination. During his first semester he began a campus-wide student movement to meet regularly, read the Bible and pray. By the end of his first year, 150 fellow freshmen were meeting for weekly Bible studies. By the time he was a senior, 1,000 out of Yale’s 1,300 students were joining together in these groups. Beyond the campus, Borden founded the Yale Hope Mission to reach out to the under-resourced and under-privileged on the streets of New Haven, Connecticut. All of this was set in the context of his call to foreign missions, which soon focused on Muslims in China. After graduation, Borden was offered numerous high-paying jobs, but all were declined in order to pursue the mission field. At this point, he wrote down two more words in the back of his Bible: ‘No Retreats.’ He committed to hold nothing back in serving Christ.
Borden next went to graduate school at Princeton Seminary, where he was ordained to the ministry. After he finished his studies, he set sail for China through the China Inland Mission, stopping first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted meningitis. In less than a month, William Borden was dead. He was twenty-six years old. But before his death, knowing that the steps of his life would take him no further, he had written two more words in his Bible; beneath ‘No Reserves’ and ‘No Retreats’ he had written ‘No Regrets.’ I hope that you’ll adopt his motto as your own: No reserves, no retreats, and no regrets.
Here’s a brief poem that was given to Bill Borden by his mother when he was young boy. Make this poem your prayer during the days of your youth. Don’t wait to follow hard after Jesus.
Just as I am, Thine own to be.
Friend of the young, who lovest me,
To consecrate myself to Thee –
O Jesus Christ, I come.
In the glad morning of my day,
My life to give, my vows to pay,
With no reserve and no delay –
With all my heart, I come.
I would live ever in the light,
I would work ever for the right,
I would serve Thee with all my might –
Therefore to Thee I come.
Just as I am, young, strong, and free,
To be the best that I can be,
For truth and righteousness and Thee –
Lord of my Life, I come.
Fourthly, expect a greater reward. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 reminds us of the ultimate reward: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
How wonderful to one day hear from your Savior’s lips “well done my good and faithful servant. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world.” I hope that this ultimate reward will be more real and beautiful and wonderful to you than anything else in your life. It won’t be always. Thus, keep running to the cross and experience anew the Lord’s pardoning grace found there.
Let me close with the simple challenge from the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 16:13: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” You are transitioning to manhood. Act like one. The best way I know to learn more about what that looks like is to commit yourself to grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).