Last month I celebrated my birthday. If you missed it, that’s ok, I’m still accepting gifts. My birthday got me thinking about areas I would like to grow in. I considered who I am and where I want to be, as well as who I was and where I used to be. Those thoughts were magnified when I learned that my high school graduating class is having its 20 year reunion next month. Twenty years doesn’t quite seem possible. There are days when I feel like I just graduated high school last week – the beautiful bride laments that there are days when I act like I just graduated high school last week.
So, now that I have been out for two decades, what would I say to my 17 year old self? What counsel would I give to myself in my senior year?
As a primer, I would tell him to read “Thoughts for Young Men” by J.C. Ryle. Then, I would pull him in real close and say this to him…
- Embrace the gospel, and live as if God is for you, not against you. Prior to your conversion, God was very much opposed to you, but you were also very much opposed to Him. That changed when He graciously saved you. Don’t miss what I said – God saved you. You had nothing to do with it. Eliminate the phrase “I chose Christ”. No, you didn’t. He chose you (John 15:16). Because He chose you, what He is doing in your life is for His glory and your benefit. Stop thinking that God is playing a game of chess with your life. You don’t need to make deals with God – if I do this then…God is already for you, He is already seeking your best because you are in Christ.
- Every day, remind yourself of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). Remind yourself daily of the depth of your sinfulness and your desperate need of a Savior, and then turn that reminder into rejoicing that out of His infinite kindness, He saved you.
- You are exerting great effort into impressing those around you. You want them to like you. You want them to think highly of you, and to be as impressed with you as you are yourself. Let me scramble your brain – in twenty years, of the 500 plus students you graduated with, you will still be in contact with less than a handful of them. Instead of seeking the approval of men, it would be wiser of you to set your mind on things above (Colossians 4:3).
- Let me be more direct – move past the fear of man. There are things you are doing, or not doing, because of the fear of man. You are a slave to the fear of man, and it is not a generous or friendly taskmaster. The fear of man lays a snare (Proverbs 29:25) and you are snagged in it. Seek God, fear God, and do what He says regardless of the opinions of others. Your high school is a tremendous mission field. Out of love of God and love for people, will you tell them the gospel? Twenty years from now, many of your classmates will still be living for themselves, and either out of ignorance or rebellion will persist in rejecting Christ and remain exposed to God’s wrath. Perhaps, just maybe, God might use you in their lives now. Let your devotion to the Savior be greater than your craving for approval. Let your desire for their eternal security be greater than the temporary discomfort of any ridicule you might receive. Even if that happens, you are still blessed! (Matthew 5:11).
- You are a little bummed because you are a high school senior, and have never had a girlfriend. Instead of pining away for the affection of one your classmates, use this time to hone and refine the character and qualities of someone who will one day marry THE MOST AMAZING WOMAN ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET!!! She will (rightly) expect her husband (that’s you, slick) to exhibit the habits of a godly man. Quit thinking about right now and how you would like to have a girl to go out with. Begin the preparation now to learn how to sacrificially love your wife (Ephesians 5:25). No high school relationship is going to do that for you. Plus, you don’t have a job or any money, so how do you plan to take a girl on a date anyway?
- Get a job. If no company will hire you, go find some kind of ongoing work. Learn to love to work. Work is good because God created it. Work is not the curse – work being hard is the curse. You have the time – all that TV watching you are doing could easily be replaced with some labor. You have the energy, you hyper-kinetic freak of nature. Go be productive. Read and re-read Proverbs 6:6-11. You foolishly turned down a good paying job because you were afraid it would infringe on your social life. Guess what? Your social life has much to be desired. It is boring by how mundane and ordinary it is. How may weekend nights must you hang around in the parking lot of the Majik Market looking for something to do before you realize that? Again, in 20 years, you won’t be social with hardly anyone you are being social with now. Is that worth depriving yourself of an income and some dignity?
- Mom and Dad have said this to you repeatedly, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. You know the speech so well you can quote it verbatim. But they are absolutely correct. Listen to them (Proverbs 1:8). Rid yourself of your procrastination. If you do this, you will spare yourself many unnecessary trials. Fail to rid yourself of it, and it will repeatedly kick you in the fanny. It will haunt you into your late 30’s. Kill it now. Don’t hesitate.
This is not designed to be a comprehensive list – the 17 year old me can only handle so much. The present day me longs for the 17 year old me to grasp these words of wisdom. The present day me also longs for the present day me to grasp and apply such counsel. May God’s grace be active in my life to such a level that 20 years from now I am not repeating this message.