I remember my first board meeting. Sitting around the table with 17 other Godly men and women was quite the intimidating experience. I was 24. When one of the most influential board members addressed me directly, I knew I was in for it.
We were disagreeing on a decision that had huge ramifications for years to come. I had voiced my opinion. The board members had voiced theirs. And then this one board member turned to me and said, “You know, Kevin, in times like this when we disagree on important decisions, we need to look at what Scripture tells us…”
"The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair” (Proverbs 20:29).
His point was clear: Old men possess wisdom. Young men don’t. I was not old, therefore I didn’t possess wisdom.
After I picked myself up off the floor, and bit my tongue from saying anything I would later regret, I just nodded in return and said, “Thanks.” That verse is true. Old men have seen life unfold. The scars and wrinkles on their body represent different seasons, or experiences, where they saw God’s faithfulness in many different ways.
Young people, on the other hand, haven’t. Their faith and wisdom are raw. They are unrefined and quite often, untested. Yet young people feel strong and invincible. This strength leads them to do things that makes old people gasp.
For the past 20 years I have worked with – or very close to – college students from all over the country. It was a rich season for me, filled with great memories. As I think back to the years I’ve spent with these college students, I realized I have been shaped by them in profound ways.
If I boil them down into big categories, here are the top three lessons they have taught me about faith:
1. Our faith sets us free to be undignified in worship.
Fifteen years ago a college student asked me if I minded that he raise his hands during the worship time. In humility, he was asking because he didn’t want to be a distraction to those around him.
This was foreign to me. I had grown up in a conservative Baptist church. The one time I remember a lady raising her hands to worship near me, my sister and I imitated her and giggled the rest of the church service.
Young people don’t separate their emotions from their faith. Like at a good college football game, they want to loudly proclaim that God is good, that He is mighty, and that He is worthy of our worship. It’s not until us older people step in and convince them that acting a fool is…well…foolish that they stop.
In 2 Sam 6, King David is so excited that the ark of the Lord is finally in Jerusalem that he ran around and danced in the streets. His wife got mad, but David told her, “I will get even more undignified than this” (vs 22). He wasn’t worried about peoples’ perceptions. He was overcome with joy, and was freely expressing it.
2. Our faith blinds us to intimidation.
If you’ve ever been on a mission trip, you know what it’s like to freely talk about your faith. There’s something about sharing it with foreign people that allows you lose all your inhibitions.
College students have modeled for me a willingness to step way out there on the thinest part of the branch in sharing their faith. I have been woken up in the middle of the night because one wanted help sharing the Gospel with someone.
As we get older, our stuff makes living out our faith much more risky. After all, we have spouses, kids, mortgages, college tuition to save up for, etc. We can’t “afford” to follow the Spirit’s leading at times.
Again, David is a great example here. Remember when he heard Goliath off in the distance picking a fight with the Israelites. David was a young boy delivering cheese to his brothers in battle when he heard Goliath yelling. Then David said, “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
If our faith is centered on the Lord Jesus, we can step out in confidence, and trust God with the results.
3. Our faith expresses itself through righteousness and justice.
This is probably the best lesson I have learned from young people. Our faith doesn’t just lead us to critique the Sunday sermon. It isn’t about dressing my kids up right and making them sit still through a Sunday service. Our faith is meant to be lived out on this earth.
Watch college students today. Many of them are loving the poor, renovating homes, working in orphanages, teaching in the inner city, rescuing women from sex trafficking, and the list goes on.
Their faith is active. It is resulting in good works.
I think of Amos 5:24: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
College students have reminded me that we are to shine like stars, to be a city on a hill, and to be the very leaves of healing on this earth.
All that to say, there is much to learn from older, wiser, believers. But let’s not discount the young as well. Each and every day they are teaching us volumes about the Christ-centered Life.
What lessons have you learned from young believers?
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About Kevin East
Kevin East is the Executive Director of Family Matters. He and his wife Stephanie have five unbelievable kids, two of which they most recently adopted. If Kevin isn't busy with work or family, you'll probably find him in the woods near his house with a power tool. He writes at his blog, "Following to Lead". Connect with him on Twitter at @kevinteast.
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