Spoke to a group of Anglican youth last Tuesday morning (Feb 2nd). The topic assigned to me was a mouthful — and important. I was told to speak on “Preparing to live out your faith in a real and broken world” to a group of young people between the ages of 17 and 22. As I looked at the young souls before me, I wanted to say “you must listen to this. This is important. You do not know what a fallen world will throw at you as you grow up!” But I didn’t. Most of them had not gone through any life crunching struggles. I could only hope that they would remember the things I shared when they needed to. I could only claim for them the promise that God would not let them be tested beyond what they could bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Still, I tried my best to tell them a few things from my own journey and from the Word. I told them that the world is broken because of sin. (Images from Haiti were still dominating the media.) I told them that God entered human existence in Jesus, and that He knows the human condition firsthand. I told them that Jesus had defeated evil decisively on the Cross, but that the fullness of the restoration must await His return.
I told them that one of the skills they had to learn as they grow up is to be able to live with ambiguity and with tension. In this case, they had to be able to live with the twin truths that the victory over brokenness has already been won at the Cross (“it is finished” John 19:30) while the full experience of that victory awaits the new heaven and the new earth. They had to hold on to both truths. They had to be confident of the victorious power of God when the storms of life hit. They should confidently pray to their Abba Father and expect that Abba will never let them down. In a world that is increasingly secular, I wanted them to be confident of the reality, the character, and the power of the living God.
At the same time I didn’t want them to be disillusioned if their prayers didn’t get answered in the way they wanted or in their preferred time frame. They had to learn, as all of us have to at some point, about the utter sovereignty of God. He will still do what is best whether we recognise that best or not this side of heaven. I told the young people that there have been times in my life when I was totally perplexed by something that God did or didn’t do. But I also told them that I had known God long enough to trust in His character even when I didn’t understand His methods.
I wasn’t sure if anything I said was getting through. As expected, with a group of young people, there was a lot of teasing and chatting while the talk was going on. I found this very distracting and I gave my usual spiel in such situations, that if the talk was not helpful they could leave the room and I wouldn’t hold it against them. That worked for all of fifteen minutes. (Confession: I get stressed out speaking to youth which is why I prefer to speak to groups college aged and older.) I had some break out sessions with small group discussion, which resulted in more interaction — and more noise. They did give me a thank you card after I finished. The card contained a number of notes which said that they had learned a lot from my talk, and had been inspired. I wanted to believe them.
In any case I closed by saying that there were two things they could do to fortify their faith for whatever lay ahead in their lives. They had to encounter the Lord on a regular basis through reading the Word. And they must have a few close spiritual friends to walk with. I turned to my favourite passage, the Emmaus Road Encounter from Luke 24:13-49 and pointed that in times when God seems to have failed us, we need a friend to walk with, and we need to let Jesus sear our hearts with the Word. I hoped that if they got nothing from my talk, they would remember these two essentials of following Jesus: Scripture and spiritual friends. I think most of them did. And if they did, they would be prepared to live out their faith in a real and broken world. If they had these two things in place, they would encounter Christ in their brokenness, and in encountering Christ they will find healing, and meaning, and the equipping they needed to help others.
(Was I seventeen once?)