Sophomore, Andrews Academy
What gives a young person resolve to stay in the church?
You have heard that a great many young people are leaving the Adventist church. Well, I am not one of them. I have chosen to stay by, and you might like to know why.
A Good Start. I was born into a Seventh-day Adventist family. By loving me with all their hearts, my parents taught me to love Jesus. As I was growing up they taught me why I should love Him and what He did for us all. I knew all the famous people in the Bible and their stories. I studied the Sabbath school lesson and knew the memory verse for every Sabbath. The words the apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy certainly applied to me: "From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:15-17; NIV throughout article).
But is that what being an Adventist is really all about: knowing all the Bible stories, being a good boy or girl? Is that what saves us in the future? Sadly enough, it seems that this is what many people think. Some think that if they were born into a functional family, if mommy and daddy loved them and all was good, their lives were set, their future assured. They had all they needed to have, a good childhood. True, it is one of the greatest advantages to have a good start in life. However, after the start, there is the rest of life. The day comes when we must make our own choices, not mom or dad.
Yes, it really is a great privilege to have loving, God-fearing parents. However, the coin has another side to it, too. There are many kids who have grown up in hostile homes and environments who today are in church. They love Jesus and the people around them with all their heart. It may sound ironic, but it is a fact that harsh circumstances are sometimes the most favorable for the development of a godly character.
I have often found people who have lots of beautiful characteristics living in conditions which are totally opposed to goodness, purity, or love. Usually these people have a much clearer insight into the spiritual world, stronger faith, and a firmer grasp on their Lord Jesus Christ. They have a higher ideal of spiritual life, not only because of the filth they have to live in, but because they know what is what. They know the price.
Such development of a Christ-like character comes, not by what we draw from this world, not by how rich we are, or how smart we are, or how much information we are able to gather, but by what we draw from Jesus in whom we must be anchored. Only in Him do we find both security and nourishment. The stronger the contrary winds are, the more we are thrown back on Him. The more we seek Jesus, the less interested we are in watching degrading TV shows and other corrupting things. The more we think and talk about our Redeemer, the deeper become our faith and our consciousness of His presence.
Resistance Needed. It is ironic, but resistance strengthens muscles. Its one reason why John pays special attention to young people: "I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one. Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the worldthe cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and doescomes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever" (1 Jn 2:14-17).
There is a great need for resistance in our spiritual lives. The more resistance, the stronger and the better we shall be. Dont let anybody make the excuse, "If only circumstances were more favorable, my life would be better. I would go to church. I would be active in youth or missionary work. I would be a real saint." Here are some important questions we should ask ourselves. How can a young man or woman keep the purity of a Christian life encountering the tricks and unwritten laws of this world? How can you in your circumstances reach the ideal Christian character? Is it possible to attain the highest goals outside the church? Is it possible without the Word of God? The Bible gives the answer: "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" (Ps 119:9-11).
Listen, my friend, if your desire to be a child of God depends on circumstances, it is a poor affair. It is a tragedy. It depends on you! What do I mean by this? If in your thoughts you focus on God, Jesus Christ, you will have enough power to turn enemies into friends and hostile circumstances into blessings. You will be able to overcome or to change negative influences in your behalf. You will not be their slave. Your ship can sail against the wind if you trim the sails correctly and keep a strong grip on the helm. Then the blasts that blow in your face may be used to carry you triumphantly into the haven of your desire. Remember, you decide what you wantto be in church, to be with God, or to be in the world.
Why Others Leave.
I have noticed many reasons why teens leave the church. Those who grew up in a Christian family are sick of hearing spiritual talks. They have heard them all before and "know everything." They were spoon fed and do not realize that now that they are older the time has come to make their own decision whether to follow Jesus or the world. The time has come to apply what they learned from the Bible to their own lives. This is the start of the problems they dont know how to deal with.
There are those who want to have fun and who do something stupid "just for fun." They hope to prove to mom and dad that they are old enough now, and can handle anything on their own, except paying the bills, of course. Those who grew up without interest in the Bible dont have a strong will to hold on. It is hard for them to stand against peer pressure and realize that they would be much better off if God were in control rather than to be under the influence of drugs or partying friends. They dont know about that greater Power that can carry them every step of their lives.
Many teens feel ashamed to be Adventists and fear criticism and ridicule. They are afraid that they will not be able to justify their high calling. They have noticed the keen critics that all true God-fearing teens have to face. There is no doubt that some of us have experienced that, too. But whether that is the case or not, however unobtrusive and quiet a believers life may be, there will always be some people standing close by, who, if not actually watching for his/her fall, will make the worst of his/her failure and rejoice over any slip or inconsistency.
We do not need to complain of that. It is the way of the world. There will always be a tendency to judge people who profess to be living by the highest law. Their judgment is without love or mercy. You might wonder, "Why does it have to be like that?" It is because Gods people need to be trained to close themselves to every destroying thought, influence, or opinion. At the same time, they must remember that they are the "light" and the "salt" for this world. It is called responsibility.
On the other hand, it is a reasonable and right requirement that we Seventh-day Adventists should "have a good report of them that are without." Dont be angry if you are tried by a higher standard, do not wonder, and do not forget that there are always keen eyes watching your life, listening to your words, judging your deeds. Where? Everywhere! In your home, in your relationships with your friends, at school, and your social activities. We are to remember that and shape our lives so that the critics may be disappointed. Really, that is a great responsibility.
Why Am I in the Church? I go there not because my parents make me. I dont attend church because it offers many "fun" activities or simply because more than half its members are teens who are very good friends of mine. No! I go there because the church is the expression of Gods will and has special promises. Jesus is my example and He teaches that despite the words and deeds of people I am to be at church every Sabbath. This is my free will, and my own decision to be in the house of God.
For me the church is the highest university in the world. It is also the heavenly embassy and hospital. In this university I learn about my Savior, His love, His plans for me, and the truth which is eternal. Some may say, "That does not refer to me, and its all boring anyway." Really? But let me tell you what applies to all Christians at any given time. Obedience to God always needs to be kept alive. Always! But as for evil ways and practices of this earth, the Adventist must stay away from such things. If the people say "Do this" and Jesus says "Dont," they can talk as much as they want. We are bound to turn a deaf ear to their exhortations and threats. We are called to "keep our hearts" from every evil.
Moreover, the world is a poor judge of our faith and an incompetent critic of our behavior. It does not know much about the Bible, or about the experiences Adventists go through and why they love Jesus. But it knows what cheating means, and bad tempers, dishonesty, and so on. It is by our daily behavior, in the things we do, that unbelievers judge what and who we are. There is no use for Adventists to just talk. The world wants to see our actions. They want to see the love, mercy, honesty, forgiveness, integrity, and faith Adventists preach about. They want to see Christs power working in us and through us. We must live in such a way as to extort, even from those who do not love us, the confession, "We find no fault in them." And that is the highest education.
I am heavens ambassador. My church is also a heavenly embassy and I am its ambassador. It constantly reminds me that in our common lives we must have the motto, "This I did not do, because of the love of the Lord." And, again, "I did this in order to advance the interests of my Fathers kingdom." This is absolutely necessary in the life of every Adventist teen. My Jesus teaches me that, unless we are prepared to be in a minority, and now and then to be called "narrow minded," "fanatic," and to be laughed at by other teens because we do not do what they do, but abstain and resist, then there is little chance for us to be true witnesses for Jesus and His kingdom.
My church is also a hospital where all kinds of sicknesses are healed. Jesus is the Healer of our hurts and bruises. He forgives every sin and grants hope and strength for every new day. Even more, Jesus Himself is among His people in the church. He said, "Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Mt 18:20). There was a time when "many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." Then Jesus turned to those who were left in His small church and asked the question, "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Peter understood the danger of leaving Christ and answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:66-68). If you have Jesus you have everything. "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 Jn 5:12).
Furthermore, I live in a world today which offers various temptations to both young and old. But there are no circumstances in which we must give up our faith in God or have our garments spotted by the world. Whatever the circumstances, if God puts us in this world, if we keep holding onto His hand, and if our eyes are focused upon Him, our characters will become brighter and purer. They will look as white as snow in contrast to the blackness of this filthy world. Is it possible? Yes! Remember the words of Paul, "Dont let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. . . . Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. . . . Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Tim 4:12-16).
Finally, whatsoever Jesus says unto youthat and that onlywhatsoever He says unto you, do it! Here is the key to why I am in the church.