April 14, 2008
Are You Qualified?
by Sarah Jennings, Crosswalk.com Family Editor
I had the privilege of attending an oratory contest this weekend sponsored by the Virginia Society for Human Life. The competition is designed for high school juniors and seniors, and the round I attended this Saturday was for the state title. Seven high school students delivered speeches on modern ethical concerns like abortion, infanticide, stem cell research, and euthanasia to compete for a small scholarship and a spot in the national competition.
As I watched each contestant nervously take the stage with
prepared speeches in hand, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of wonder at their
bravery. I could never have done something like this at 17. Not only did they
fight back the nerves to perform in front of three judges and a small crowd,
but the speeches they gave were intelligent, compelling, and informed. These
students seemed to turn every teenage stereotype on its head as they
demonstrated a mature approach to complex issues our society currently faces.
One young woman gave a beautiful speech highlighting the value of the life of a disabled friend who had since passed. Another gave a compelling reflection on the media’s influence on American citizens’ choices. The winner gave a fantastic explanation of recent scientific developments in stem cell research.
I found myself thinking,
How often do we underestimate the young and their abilities to do the work of
Christ? As a woman who could still be classified as a “young adult,” I know
how frustrating it feels when a person doesn’t take me seriously. Yet watching
these young people, I felt convicted that my youth should not be an excuse to
remain timid in living a life for Christ.
Of course, it’s not just youthfulness that can disqualify a person in the minds of themselves or others – it seems we are always just a little too young, a little too old, a little too inexperienced, a little undereducated, or a little too sinful to face challenges set before us. It’s easy to embrace the world’s standards for success, thinking we need to be Oprah to make a real impact on the world. How could God possibly use someone like me? we wonder.
But, Paul gave Timothy five ways he could be a witness
for Christ regardless of age or circumstances. I believe these high schoolers
gave excellent examples of all five:
Speech: There are studies floating around that say a large percentage of people fear public speaking more than death. So, it was a pleasure to watch these young people take the podium to speak truth. I may have 10 years on them, but they are ahead of me in this skill. While some of us need to face our fears of speaking out, most of us don’t need to master formal speech-giving to be an effective witness. Do you share the Gospel with others when the opportunity arises? Do you build people up with your words? Do you use clean language? Do you gossip?
that don’t match up with words = hypocrisy. And hypocrisy is one of the
quickest ways to repel others. In my brief observations, these students demonstrated
positive conduct -- further strengthening their public messages. Can others tell
I’ve given my life to Christ based on my behavior? Do I treat others with
respect, dress in a way that communicates my personal dignity, work to
eradicate sinful behaviors, and give of my time to help others in need?
Love: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13: 35) ‘Nuff said. Well, wait, one more thing – the oft-quoted 1 Corinthians 13 is a good place to start assessing what it means to be a loving person.
Faith: A key
point many of the students made in their speeches is how a lack of genuine
faith in God leads to many atrocities and tragedies because individuals make
poor decisions when overcome with fear or selfishness. And yet there are few
things more powerful than observing a person demonstrate faith in the midst of
hardship. Do I get up every day with complete trust and faith in our sovereign
God? This is a tough one for me.
Purity: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matthew 5: 8). Hearing these young speech finalists expound on personal dignity and purity renewed my hope that we can all choose purity of mind, heart, body, and intentions. A pure heart is also a powerful witness to those who have been hurt in the past by corrupt individuals.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Is there something you’ve put off doing because you feel intimidated or unqualified? Give it a shot, trusting that God can make up for any areas you lack.