The very word itself strikes fear and trepidation deep in the hearts of most parents! It seems every parent has heard the phrase, “Wait till you have teenagers!” A phrase deliberately meant to imply torture, anguish and pain, sleepless nights, and nightmarish horror!! Of course for many parents that is exactly what they get! Rebellious, disrespectful, distant, selfish, argumentative, arrogant, foolish brats who run roughshod over their parents, and siblings, and bring pain and heartache to their family.
My friends, let me assure you, it does not have to be this way. I relished with great excitement the teenage years of my children! I was thrilled to have them for I saw and recognized something completely different than most of the parents that I knew.
I saw this: God uses teenagers and young people for His divine purposes! How can we ever forget that God the Father Himself chose a girl named Mary, who was a young teenager herself, to be the mother of our Savior, and God’s only son, Jesus Christ! Think about that fact! God, by His very choice, expresses great confidence in a young teenager like Mary to be entrusted with the care, nurture, and training of Jesus Christ. Many scholars believe Mary was 14-15 years old when she had Jesus.
Who can forget David, who as a teenager, struck down and killed the mighty Philistine warrior, the giant Goliath, and began to be mightily used by God for His eternal purposes!
Who can forget Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, as teenagers, were taken into captivity and brought to Babylon. They courageously defied the King’s prescribed diet, would not compromise their faith, and were greatly used by God in the king’s court!
Who can forget the disciples of Jesus Christ Himself, all of them young men, as it was the custom for a Jewish Rabbi to have students in their teens! Just look at those whom God Himself chose to train and entrust with the greatest mission in the history of the world!
I could go on and on with other examples from the Bible like Joseph, Jeremiah, and Esther. One thing was crystal clear to me as I anticipated the day my children would be teenagers.
They are capable of so much more than most parents ever expect or envision their teens for. I believed with all my heart that God wanted to use each of my kids as teenagers to make an impact in this world for Jesus Christ. That vision, paradigm, and belief change everything. It changes what you expect, how you work with them, and what you are building them for, and it changes the outcome of their teenage years. You must let go of your preconceived notions of what you thought was possible!
I intentionally worked together with my wife towards this vision and outcome. I instilled this vision in their hearts. God faithfully brought it about and all of them were being used in ways that did not happen for me until I was in my early twenties.
I would like to pass onto you what some of the critical elements were as I raised my teens to be used by God.
1. I believed in them!
Do you remember when the angel of the Lord comes to young Gideon, and how he greets him? Judges 6:12 “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” Does this not strike you and capture your attention? What in the world had Gideon done for God to give him that label? Nothing, he had not yet done a thing! But God believed in him. God gave him a vision of what he could be and what God was planning to do with his life. I really, truly believed in my kids.
2. I gave them a mission to be part of!
I gave my teens a mission to participate in. I gave them a mission and purpose for their life and for their talents and gifts to be used by God.
3. I gave my teens the courage to attempt difficult things for God.
First, they saw me attempt difficult things by faith for the kingdom of God. This inspired them. They saw God come through for me. They saw God answer my prayers. They saw God reward my faith. I gave them a vision and a belief in what God can do through insignificant, despised nobodies, who are willing to step out in faith and believe God to keep his word and do what he says.
4. I treated my teenage kids with dignity and respect!
I saw so many parents through the years who talked negatively about their teens or to their kids. Parents who used sarcasm, or shamed, embarrassed or embittered their teens by the way they treated them or spoke to them. I did not do this. If I needed to correct my teens, I did so in private. I showed great concern for their dignity. I did not put them down, I lifted them up. I did my utmost to treat them exactly the way I would want to be treated myself, despite my shortcomings. I treated them with respect, and always sought to build up their self-worth, not tear it down. If I offended them I sincerely and humbly apologized and asked their forgiveness.
5. I treated them as peers and adults. I trusted them and entrusted things to them.
I spoke to them in an adult manner. I expected much more of them than most parents around me expected of their teenagers. Again, just read the four Gospels yourself. Look at how Jesus works with His teenage disciples. Look at how He talked with them. He shared with them the secrets of the kingdom of God. He gave them really important responsibilities. He brought them into His kingdom work, the work of the Father. I did the same with my teenagers.
6. I protected them from people, institutions, and things that would dumb them down and make them like all the rest of the foolish teenagers in this world.
This is extremely important to understand. I worked very hard to keep my teenagers away from the dangerous, corrosive, harmful influences of stupid, foolish teenagers, from the destructive forces of this culture, and from the low expectations that most schools and adults put on teens. Most teens think their life is supposed to be about having fun. That was not what my teenagers envisioned life to be about. I taught them that life is not about having fun, it is about accomplishing something meaningful, divinely purposeful, and eternal with your life! Our life is about serving God and serving others!
7. We intentionally focused on building the character of our kids and teenagers!
Courage, honesty, integrity, faithfulness, discipline, overcoming obstacles, faith, humility, wisdom, hard work, determination, perseverance, commitment, honoring God with their youth and their lives, moral excellence, grace, kindness towards others, and a soft and responsive heart towards God. A fervent love and devotion for Jesus Christ.
Above all, I taught them that they must follow God’s calling on their lives no matter what it costs. It is Jesus Christ who is their Lord and Master, not me. It is God Almighty who is their eternal heavenly Father, they will answer to Him, not to me. They must honor God above all else with their lives.