Among the young men and young women I get to help from time to time I find that a common problem is the wasted life. It is easy for youth to think they have an abundance of time and opportunity stretching before them and that they can well afford to waste it.
Several young men have discussed with me their addiction to computer games. They know it isn’t good for them, but they find it hard to pull themselves away. This is a clear sign of much wasting of life in the future.
How to Harvest Youth
In an ideal situation there would be several ways in which a young person could harvest their potential and make the most of their youthfulness. What I am about to suggest here are not the final definitive observations, but some thoughts that will direct people in the right direction.
A key to harvesting youth is Protection of many things which children are born with, but which, once destroyed, cannot be replaced.
Another key is to develop the Potential which lies in each life. Talents, intelligence and time that can be well spent provide great potential to each young life. If that potential is developed there will be a great harvest in years to come.
Yet another key is found in Principles being built into the young life, to guide and guard the future years. Where people do not have guiding principles to refer to they become vulnerable to destructive influences and foolish choices.
The harvest from a youthful life is also enhanced by Persistence. The ability to persevere, persistently pushing past obstacles and staying the course in the face of temptations is of great value. As one entrepreneur once pointed out, those who start and project and succeed differ from others in only one main respect – they persistently persevered with their project, while others gave up. Persistence proves character and that kind of character will stand every life in good stead for the future.
How to Throw Youth Away
Maybe some people will better grasp the challenges of their youth by seeing how easy it is to throw their youth away.
Take, for example, the student who does not do his work and who barely scrapes through during the years of his education. Once he has reached his young adult years he will have little opportunity to invest himself in study compared to the years of his youth. Others, who have done the extra work, learned the extra languages or covered the extra subjects, will have great advantage in work, business, social and personal life.
The youth who gets drawn into a destructive and undisciplined life, connecting with others who are wasting their lives, will be drawn away from things that provide a hope for the future, such as education, skill development, trade skills, productivity, discipline, etc.
Time spent in front of the television, or chatting aimlessly with friends, or scouring the web for trivial amusements, will be time thrown away.
Audit the Harvest You Can Expect
Another way to look at harvesting youth is to check out the harvest that you can expect. God warns us not to be so stupid as to believe we will harvest anything other than what we planted. If you sow thorns then that is what is going to grow in your life.
The young people who invest themselves in the latest computer game and spend thousands of hours becoming the top player can expect a harvest. Five years later they will be the master of an obsolete game which no-one cares for any more. They will only have meaning in a small subculture of gamers who have chosen not to move on to the new generation of amusements.
If that same young person had invested the same amount of time and interest in mastering a musical instrument, or a foreign language, they will have a vastly different harvest five years later. The skills learned will still be with them and will enable them to keep moving ahead in that field.
So, have a look at the things that consume your life right now. Everything that has no future is going to leave you with a barren paddock. Everything that has a future value, progressing to something else or being a platform from which other things can be built, will provide you a fruitful field for good harvests in the future.
Young people recognise that they are unlikely to demand high levels of commitment and discipline from themselves. That is where good parenting proves very valuable. External discipline, guiding and demanding certain levels of performance and productivity help youth to take advantage of their opportunities.
Some tasks are unpleasant simply because they are new and hard to master. But once they have been mastered to some degree they become enjoyable and can be very rewarding. External discipline drags people to those tasks and forces them to persist, until the benefits are discovered and the harvest is in preparation.
When a child is left to himself he will waste his potential. He will not learn perseverance, and he will be unprotected. He will not learn the principles which can and will guide and guard him. King Solomon pointed out that when a child is left to himself he will bring shame to his parents.
“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame.” Proverbs 29:15
The increased collapse of family life endangers youth. It robs many of the protection they need and it allows them to waste their potential, without principle or perseverance. Many more children are being ‘left to themselves’ these days, due to the absentee parents, either by family break-up or by both parents being pulled into the workforce.
Once a youth has grown up without good parenting their potential has mostly been lost, their character has not been formed, precious things in their life are likely destroyed and they are mostly without principle to guide and guard them. Sadly we have a generation of endangered youth forming around us right now.
What’s the Solution?
The first step toward a solution is the saving grace of Christ. When a person is born again they become a new creature. That newness is an invaluable asset in rescuing anyone’s life. People who have been drunkards, fighters, murderers and the like have been totally transformed and rescued from degradation through faith in Jesus Christ. So that salvation has to be the first and foundational aspect of a solution for youth.
The next step is resolve. If external discipline is not being provided by godly parents, then each youth must determine to press ahead with godly disciplines in their life. Making themselves accountable to others is a very helpful tool in this process. Parents and guardians must resolve to assist the youth to gain personal disciplines and to have a productive routine that builds their potential and plants good seed for a good harvest in the future.
Add to that wisdom. Godly wisdom enables us to manage the ebb and flow of motivation, opportunity, responsibility, and so on. Crushing burdens normally crush people. Too little discipline weakens people’s muscle for the tasks. Keeping a balance requires wisdom and divinely inspired leadership.
Look for God’s grace. When we abandon ourselves on God we can call out to Him for gracious assistance, wisdom, opportunity and so on, which would otherwise be outside our experience.
Then There’s the Military
It has been noted that some young man who have become wayward and undisciplined find themselves drawn to the military. It is as if something inside them recognises their need for strong leadership and they find that in the challenges of a disciplined military life.
It was anecdotally acknowledged during the Vietnam war that many aimless and wasted young men were able to harness their life and their potential through being called up into the army and going through the rigours of military discipline.
While I don’t suggest that all undisciplined youth go into the military it is worth noting that the more extreme forms of discipline and personal demand embodied in boot camp and military training have proven effective for others.
A Prayer For Youth
Parents Can Pray: “Lord God, I give to you my undisciplined child. I repent before you of failing my child, by not providing them the godly discipline which You want in their life. Lord, forgive me. And now I ask You to take possession of my child and to deliver them from evil, rescuing them from their own wasted life and bringing into their life the richness of Your undeserved grace. Lord, deliver and heal my child and use him (or her) for Your glory and in Your service. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”
Youth Can Pray: “Lord God, I have already wasted much of my life and I repent before You of destroying the life which You gave me. I forgive all those who have let me down and I take responsibility for who I am and where I am going. Lord, rescue me from everything that traps me. Lift me up and put my feet on solid ground. Grab hold of me and teach me how to love and serve You with all my might. I give myself to You and I allow You to discipline me so I become the person You created me to be. I do this in the powerful name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”