By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
Christians can often quote in youth groups 1 Timothy 4:12, about not letting others look down upon others for their youth. However, not often do youth groups or pastors highlight how young some of the biblical heroes were when they exercised moments of great faith.
Whether you’re 9 or 29, or your child is, these figures can exemplify how you or they can live a life for Christ, even at an early age.
In his teens, the Babylonians took him captive and placed him in a three-year Babylonian education. The Babylonian culture attempted to stamp out any previous Israelite identity he had. Sound a little bit like our school system?
Still, he stood his ground and refused to eat the food presented to him, which would defile him (Daniel 1:8). Upon risk of death, he refuses, but the Lord rewards him for his faithfulness. He ends up affecting change, and the entire palace diet shifts because of him (Daniel 1:16).
The 11 Faithful Apostles
Christians can often poke fun at the thickness of the disciples and their questions, but we often forget most of them would’ve been in their teens or early 20s. After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, they begin preaching the Gospel at Pentecost. They do so with such fervor, that 3,000 accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior after the first sermon (Acts 2:41).
In a generation so connected with social media, youth today have the chance to influence that many people with one post alone.
Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego
Known also by their Hebrew names of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, they also accompanied Daniel in the Babylonian captivity. But they get their own spotlight when King Nebuchadnezzar decides to force his kingdom to bow to a 90-foot statue of himself.
The three friends show great bravery and faith, refusing to buckle to societal pressures. Even when the king gives them another opportunity to worship him, they assert that God will save them from a fiery death. But even if he doesn’t, they’ll stand resolute in their faith (Daniel 3:18).
At a mere 17 years of age, Jeremiah finds himself called into the position of a prophet, who had a marred history in Israel. Jeremiah laments his inadequacy for public speaking because of his young age (Jeremiah 1:6), but God doesn’t let him use this excuse.
Those under 30 may feel a strong inadequacy in the workplace, but God will go with them. Just as he did Jeremiah.
Widowed in her 20s, Ruth must have felt heartbroken and helpless. But she continued to remain faithful, helping her mother-in-law by working. God provides a husband and an inheritance for her broken family.
Ruth’s story can encourage those who divorced young, or feel as though their life has ended in their mid-20s. God still has a plan.
In her teens, Esther saves her nation. Facing death herself to confront the king, she ends up reversing a law intended to wipe out her people. Esther proves that teenagers can change the world for God’s kingdom, even when the world seems to want to wipe out that same kingdom.
The youngest of eight siblings, David didn’t have much going for him as far as inheritance or anyone taking him seriously (1 Samuel 17:28). Younger siblings or younger generations in general will relate to the dubious attitudes they face in the workplace or in a public speaking forum.
Still, God places David in front of a giant Israel wouldn’t fight, with David’s age clocking in around his early to mid-teens. David slays the giant and wins the battle for Israel.
Sold into slavery by his brothers at 17, Joseph had every right to begrudge his circumstances. Instead, he works to the best of his ability, even in prison, and resists sexual temptation (Genesis 39). God sees this strong integrity and allows for Joseph to hold a high position in Egypt, and Joseph ends up saving his family. The same family who sold him into slavery.
Joseph exemplifies what integrity looks like in a young person’s life, especially when they have to face even more temptations than any previous generation.
The young girl Miriam ensures her brother’s safety on the Nile River as he lands in the hands of the pharaoh’s daughter. Even though the pharaoh sought to slaughter all the Hebrew male infants, the daughter takes pity on him. Miriam volunteers her own mother to nurse her brother Moses (Exodus 2:9), and ends up not only saving his life, but saving the life of her people in Exodus.
Although Rahab’s age isn’t specified, the text mentions her profession as a prostitute. This would imply someone of younger years, perhaps teens or early-to-mid 20s.
Rahab hides the Israelite spies in Jericho, sparing them from certain death (Joshua 2). She, later, joins the Israelite people and winds up in the line of Jesus. Rahab proves that no matter what one’s past holds, the future can impact the kingdom of God in enormous ways.
Samuel has some terrible older influences. Eli, his caretaker, is passive and tolerant of the bad behavior of his two sons. Still, when God calls Samuel (1 Samuel 3), he tells a dooming message to Eli with utmost honesty and subsequently proves a faithful judge.
Samuel shows that one’s environment doesn't have to dictate one’s actions. People can still be full of integrity, even when living with less-then-ideal influences.
Teenage Jonathan had every right to begrudge the fact that David would take his place as King of Israel. Instead he humbles himself, and submits to God’s plan willingly. He sees that God’s will has a better purpose for Israel than simply fame.
Mary, a mere teen pledged to be married, receives the news that she will give birth to the Son of God. Although this may have come as exciting news, this could mean a possible death by stoning because others would’ve thought she slept around outside the bonds of marriage. Still, she accepts the angel’s message, even though this would mean she would be a social pariah for the rest of her life.
Sometimes following God’s plan can mean social suicide, but it can lead us down paths greater than social fame ever could.
Josiah had a terrible father who led Israel away from God.
But at 26 years old (2 Kings 22:3), he repairs the temple and re-finds the Word of God. During his reign, the kingdom turns back to God.
Josiah proves that family history doesn't have to dictate our actions. We may be the first generations of believers, but we can lead a great many back to God.
We know Timothy because Paul tells him not to let others look down on him because of his age. He works alongside one of the greatest apostles of all time and receives Paul’s trust to help the members of a Corinth church. Timothy proves that it’s never too early to start in ministry.
Although described as a little child, he began his reign roughly in the 19-20-year range. He could have asked anything of the Lord: riches, power, etc., but he requests wisdom. Solomon shows us that wisdom is not age-specific.
Although Jesus began his ministry at 30, he still impressed the religious leaders at the age of 12 when he asked them questions in the temple (Luke 2:41-47).
Which gives us encouragement: that young people can have insight into the kingdom of God.
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 300 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 2,700+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog, which receives 63,000+ monthly hits. Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) comes out June 3, and is up for preorder now. Find out more about her here.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/DMEPhotography
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 500 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) released in June, and they contracted the sequel Den for July 2020. Find out more about her here.