Subject: America’s Christian Teenager Part 1: Holding fast to the Truth
Isaiah 50:6 “ I gave My back to those who beat Me, and My cheeks to those who tore out My beard. I did not hide My face from scorn and spitting.”
The most recent Barna research shows that about 80% of all Americans who claim Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 21. Teenagers are the biggest ministry opportunity for America’s Christian church. What do teenagers claim is most important to them spiritually? Barna says 45% want “to worship and connect with God”, and close behind is 42% who want “to better understand what I believe”.
America’s Christian teenager is hungry to know what they believe and why they believe it, so that their faith has deeper meaning in their daily life. Meet one such teenager – Caleb Dean, 18 years old and a member at Abundant Life Church in Lees Summit, MO. Here’s his personal story of his walk with Jesus Christ.
“In today’s culture, it seems as though everyone has developed a false sense of entitlement and everyone feels they deserve to be comfortable at all times. Personally, I know that I am guilty of this. When we are facing difficult situations, we are often thrown off guard and left wondering where to turn. This is especially true when tragedy hits us and our families. When our closest friends and family members let us down, we are left in despair and wondering if there is anyone we can actually put our trust in.
In the Bible, Jesus and His disciples give us examples of how we can endure through anything. If we can develop a new perspective towards hardships and understand that they will grow our endurance, we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus is making our character more like His (James 1:2-4). Lately, I have been learning that God is far more concerned with our character instead of our comfort.
The life of the apostle Paul is one of the strongest proofs for Jesus Christ’s resurrection. He also provides an amazing example of enduring true suffering. 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 says “ Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”
Paul was not comfortable. To say that Paul was devoted to Christ is an understatement and I find this verse very inspiring. Why would someone endure all of this? What could possibly be worth such torture? Paul knew that Christ would always be by his side, no matter what. Jesus tells us in Revelation 3:12 “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God.” Paul was able to rejoice in that brutal hardship because he knew what was in store for those who endure. Paul had witnessed the risen Messiah.
Whenever we find ourselves in hardships, remember what our Savior endured for us. For those who might not be fully aware of what He went through, let us look at some passages that briefly summarize the earthly life of Jesus Christ. In Isaiah 53:2-3 it says “He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him.” Isaiah goes on to say “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth. He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who considered His fate?”
Jesus understands what we experience. Our Creator made Himself nothing and came down from Heaven to allow Himself to be killed at the hands of the very people He created (Hebrews 1:3). It is absolutely incredible to think that He considered us worth shedding His own blood. We were made to enjoy a love relationship with our great God and Savior for eternity. We should all take the time to actually think this through and realize how absolutely precious this is. Jesus is truly the man of sorrows, and we can never let ourselves forget that our freedom that we experience through Him cost Him everything.
Although, we should rejoice because He has trampled upon death and He comforts us with this precious promise in Hebrews 13:5 “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you!” He is what life is all about and we should give up everything to be with Him (Matthew 13:44-46).”