Are you a young person who desires to know God more intimately and even to be useful to Him? If so, be encouraged that God desires a deeper fellowship with you. Also, the Bible records a good number of youths that became very useful to God in His work on the earth. Many scholars believe that the twelve apostles were likely fairly young, probably in their teen years or twenties. Timothy, Paul’s younger spiritual helper in the apostolic work, was instructed by Paul that “no one should look down on your youthfulness” (1 Tim. 4:12). Hudson Taylor, perhaps the greatest modern missionary, sailed to China for his life’s work at the age of 21. George Whitfield was mightily used of God as an open air preacher while in his twenties. He was the key figure in The Great Awakening in the American colonies. Amy Carmichael began her Christian service before twenty years of age by helping poor female mill workers in Ireland develop their spiritual lives. She arrived in India at the age of 28, beginning a work of the Lord that is still bearing fruit today, many years after her passing.
Not all of us will have the gift and calling to be foreign missionaries or great preachers. But, God definitely has a plan for your life. He desires for you to know that plan and to walk fully in it. You should be encouraged that any young person can develop a strong spiritual life and be very useful to God.
Let us look together at four youths in the Bible who learned to know God and became useful vessels for him. Each of these four young persons will help us see a significant spiritual principle. If you seek God to apply these principles in your life, then just like these four, you will have strong walk with the Lord and be ready to carry out His plan for your life. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10) Be sure to read the Scripture reading noted below for each of these youths.
(Scripture reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-10)
Samuel became a key figure in the history of Israel, being the first of the prophets of the nation. His early history, as recorded in chapter three of 1 Samuel, gives us the vital spiritual principle of his life. From a youth he learned to seek God and listen for His voice. He learned that God could speak very personally to Him, and Samuel acted on what God told him.
A great lesson for our Christian life is to seek the Lord to hear Him speak personally to us. We should not be those who just follow what others tell us to do in our Christian life. Rather, we should spend time daily in God’s word and develop a heart to listen to His speaking to us directly. We do need to read and know the Bible because God’s speaking to us often comes through His word, or is based upon the His word. Don’t be so quick to go to others for counsel, although there is nothing wrong with counsel. Learn to seek God and wait upon Him to hear His voice in matters. This will develop your spiritual life with God and you will be able to walk in intimate fellowship with Him.
The principle from the life of Samuel: Seek the Lord with an ear to hear personally from Him. “Then Samuel answered, ‘Speak; for thy servant heareth.’” (1 Sam. 3:10b)
(Scripture reading: 1 Sam. 9:27 -10:8; 13:8-14; 16:1,3, 6-13; Acts 13:21-22)
The first king of Israel was Saul. Samuel anointed him as king. However, soon afterwards Saul disobeyed God’s command given to him by Samuel (1 Sam. 13:13-14). Because of Saul’s disobedience God told Samuel that He was going to choose another king.
In the story from the Scripture reading above Samuel was to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king. Samuel thought one of the strong, good-looking sons would be the chosen one. But God said it was not him because God does not look on the outward appearance but on the heart of man. God chooses to use those who have the right heart. David became the greatest king of Israel. God chose him because of what God saw in his heart. David was a person with a heart to do all of God’s will.
The principle from the life of David: Have a heart willing to do all of God’s will. “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.” (Acts 13:22b)
(Scripture reading: Dan. 1:1-20)
After King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem he had some of the best youths taken to Babylon to serve in his royal court. Daniel and his three friends were among these. They were expected to eat of the king’s delicacies, which perhaps included food that Jews considered unclean, or food that was first sacrificed to idols. Daniel had made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, and that decision led to the dietary testing in Daniel chapter one. Daniel and his friends stayed true to the Lord and passed the test, becoming outstanding servants in the royal court.
This history provides us with a spiritual lesson. Daniel resolved not to be defiled by something that he knew God did not approve. The food may have been very tempting to look at, but Daniel stayed true to God’s standards of holiness, being separated unto Him. Daniel became one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament and his holiness was uniquely recognized by God (Ezek. 14:14, 20). The lesson we see here is Daniel’s willingness to forsake anything of this world that was not pleasing to God. God has instructed us believers to not love the world (the present world system with its lusts). “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 Jn. 2:15-16).
The present world system has many attractions for young people today. Not only are there enticements of the flesh, such as sex and overindulgence in eating, but there are also attractions of all sorts of pleasures and entertainment. If we would not be defiled, we must restrict sex to marriage (1 Thess. 4:3). Yet, we should also be aware that the world system has many attractions that seem innocent, like entertainment, “social media,” smart phones, video games, parties and all sorts of fun things to do. These things are not evil in themselves but may take our heart away from loving God our Father. Young people must be watchful about these things. If you are willing not to be defiled and earnestly desire to have a heart set apart for God, then the Holy Spirit will let you know when to stay away from certain activities. For many things, like entertainment, there is no “rule” in the Bible, but the Holy Spirit will rule in your heart, if you let Him. He will warn you when you need to say “no” to what may seem harmless to others, but will cause your devotion to God to decline. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this...to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (Jas. 1:27). “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Tit. 2:11-12)
The principle from the life of Daniel: Be willing to die to the pleasures of this world in order to keep your devotion toward God strong. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” (Dan. `1:8)
(Scripture reading: Judges 6:1-6; 11-16; 7:1-22)
Gideon was a real “nobody” in Israel. His family was the least in their tribe and Gideon was the youngest in his family. Yet, it was to this “nobody” that the angel of the Lord came. God used Gideon to deliver Israel from their enemies. Notice that God used only 300 men with Gideon to defeat an army of 135,000 men. In fact, God worked in this story to reduce the size of Gideon’s army from 32,000 to only 300. The Lord did this purposely so that Israel would not boast in its own power (7:2).
In the story of Gideon we see the spiritual lesson that victory for the believer has nothing to do with his own strength, but everything to do with God’s power. This is a hugely important lesson for us. Whenever we try to have some victory in our lives by our own power we will fail. God has designed us to be utterly dependent upon Him so that His power is made manifest in our weakness. Paul tells us this secret in 2 Cor. 12:9-10. He says, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me...for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Some ministries today are calling for strong young leaders among God’s people. The thought among the youth may be that someone needs to be of great courage and have strong “leadership” qualities in order to be victorious and be a “leader.” This is a great mistake. God is not looking for strong people. God is looking for weak people, those who place no confidence in themselves and who count themselves as “nobodies.” He is looking for those who are willing to be nothing, just empty vessels, that He might be all. When we take this posture before our God, then He can be our strength. How can we be like David, with a heart to do all of God’s will? How can we be like Daniel, able to resist all the temptations of this present age? It is only by being weak before the Lord, depending fully upon His strength in faith, so that we can overcome. This is a great secret of the Christian life.
The principle from the life of Gideon: Come to God in utter weakness and trust in His power alone to carry out His will.
Incorporating these principles into our lives:
The best way to bring these principles into your living is by prayer. Go to the Lord and tell Him that you want these principles to be real in your life. Use these four youths – Samuel, David, Daniel and Gideon - as reminders of God’s ways. Tell God with an honest heart that you want to be like Samuel, with an ear to hear His speaking to you. Ask God humbly to work in you to have a heart like David, willing to do all of His will. Tell Him that you desire, by His grace, to be like Daniel, forsaking any pleasure of this world that would hinder full devotion to Him. Tell God that you want to learn the spiritual lesson of Gideon. You desire to be in weakness before Him, not relying on your own strength or abilities, in order to know His power. Pray about these things regularly and don’t stop praying. As you do this, God will remind you of these things and will urge you to take steps to practice them.
Be assured that if you pray sincerely in this way, seeking after God, that you will grow in your walk with Him and He will make you into someone increasingly useful and fruitful in His kingdom.