Spectacular joys come to older ones in the faith as we get to witness the next generation coming of age. By coming of age I don’t mean numerically. There will always be individuals in Christ who hardly grow beyond their salvation and will wonder to the grave why God never came through with that meaningful life they thought they were supposed to receive. But the distractions of the world are enormous, demanding and titillating and, well, the phone and all. That we can be in Christ and immersed in a community of faith but never fulfill our calling is clear from places in Scripture like Colossians 4:17 where Paul told the brothers at Colossae,
And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
No need to exhort somebody to fulfill a ministry if it’s not possible to leave it unfulfilled.
There will always be those who are enormously gifted and hold tremendous potential to impact community and globe for the kingdom of God but, like the unfaithful steward in Matthew 25, will bury what they’ve been given until Jesus returns at which point they’ll hand it back to Him looking pretty much like it did when they got it. They lost interest. But they are not my concern today as I write this article. These words are to those of you who are doing what it takes. Who are in the thing up to your necks. You, who are coming of age in your calling, though God knows that, most of the time, if you’re like me, you’re not even sure how you got there. Oh, you could try to tell someone younger what steps you took. You could write a blog post about it. You could do a very effective Q&A on a panel about it. You could even write a book about it but you know dang well deep in your heart that you really had no earthly idea what you were doing. All you can say at the end of the day is that you kept doing something – the next thing – however awkwardly, and perhaps even embarrassingly as you look back on it, to somehow serve Jesus. And, lo and behold, something finally started working. Not all the time, of course, but often enough to realize you might be onto something. You might be onto your calling. This season of your calling. Your works are producing fruit. You have this sense that you are where you are supposed to be for now.
That’s what I mean by coming of age. Though it’s not about chronological age, it often corresponds enough for most of you to be in your thirties and forties.
Man, it’s a gorgeous thing for your older brothers and sisters to behold. To get to cheer you on cheers me in a way I find ridiculously exhilarating. Right here on the spot I could list one hundred different names off the top of my head of men and women doing the thing. Some of you I get the chance to watch close up. Hands on. You delight me to no end. First and foremost, my daughters. My son-in-law. My spiritual sons and daughters. Others from across the room at church and others by phone and face-to-face as often as possible, like my beloved Priscilla Shirer. Good Lord, how I love her. Others of you on social media, which I love, by the way, and on which I’ve made some connections that really do have an ounce of substance to them. Jefferson Bethke, for instance. So many like him. Men and women. These relationships mean something to me. Their names are in my prayer journal. About eight young women communicators and Bible teachers are on my mind almost every day and jotted down regularly in a square in my prayer journal.
And I get to see you prosper in the Holy Spirit. I get to see your life bear fruit. I get to celebrate what God is doing through you. And I get to squirm, rub my forehead and groan – often audibly – as I watch you awaken to the war. That is why I’m writing today.
You didn’t know it was going to be like this.
You had no idea what you’d stepped into.
You think you must have done something wrong to make it this hard. When you started out, it wasn’t like this.
You haven’t really told anyone. Or not very many. Mainly because you’re too embarrassed.
You have no idea that every other person worth his/her salt in the kingdom of the living Christ is either going to go through their own version of the same thing or they are enduring it that very minute.
And it is hellacious.
The enemy comes for you. Of course, some of you aren’t calling it spiritual warfare yet because that’s what the older generation called it and you want to be cooler than that. You had sort-of become convinced that the devil was not that real. Not that specific. Not that personal. Not that aware. And surely God would not allow him to mess with your kids.
And it’s not just the enemy. Your own vulnerabilities erupt into liabilities. Life’s taking a crowbar to every crack in your armor. You are tempted to things you swore you’d never do. That you judged ________________ for doing. Your past comes calling. If you’re married, your marriage, which you’d boasted about publicly, looks like it could go humiliatingly belly-up. Your kids are going nuts. Or maybe it’s you losing your mind. Half the time, you think you are going crazy. You’re getting criticized. You’re getting a lot of opposition. You daydream sometimes that you quit and moved to a remote island with your family, wore loin cloths and drank milk out of coconuts and swam with dolphins. You night-dream that you hung in there in your calling and it slaughtered you.
You have come of age.
What you’re going through is how it goes. I don’t know why on earth we older ones are not telling you more often and with more volume. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to discourage you but it’s so ridiculous because you’re already discouraged. Or maybe it’s that you won’t listen to us anyway.
But this is my shot at it today. You have come of age. You have come of notice to the devil. At the same time, your very faithful God who loves you has made a covenant through the cross of Christ not only to save you but to conform you to the image of His Son. His obligation out of His wonderful grace is to grow you up. And there is suffering in growing up. Among other things, you are forced to face the deceiver and pretender in your mirror.
I’m here to say to you today that it will not always be this hellacious. Oh, trust me. It will ALWAYS be hard. It will at times be horrific. But this season of eyeball-bulging nobody-ever-said-it would-be-like-this coming of age will not last forever. Mine lasted about seven years. Yours could last one. Or ten. That’s all up to God. Well, and you. Your cooperation is required.
It’s all about whether or not you’ll quit. Or whether or not you’ll get sloppy. Whether or not you’ll hang onto the first things that so drove you in the beginning. Jesus. The Scriptures. Holy passion. Holiness. And not just hang onto them but press further and further and further into them. Or will you slip into the black hole of busy-ness and business, of name-making, marketing, position, notoriety, self-importance, celebrity and Instacrap? Now that you are no longer naïve, what will you do with all of this? Will you fight for a pure heart that the world and your own flesh have so polluted that you think you no longer have what it takes or will you just go with it and figure this is how it happens?
And, in the words of Galatians 3:3, what you’d begun in the Spirit, you’ll just do from now on mostly in the flesh. You’ll get prayer warriors to pray for you instead of also scrapping it out yourself on the floor, fighting with everything you’ve got in the heavenlies, hacking it through, bloody and bruised, defending the ground God entrusted to you.
You’re at the most critical place in your calling. The place of slaughter. The place where either the devil’s going to all but kill you, your flesh is going to destroy you or God is going to crucify with Christ that ego and fear and, truth-told, laziness and raise you MIGHTY.
Fight it out. Do not quit. If you’ve gotten sloppy, stop it. If you’re messing around in sin, repent. Go back to your face. Get that Bible open and plant your nose in it. Memorize Scripture. Learn how to fast and pray. Quit talking about Jesus more than you actually talk to Him. Quit letting your mouth overshoot your character. Become that person you’ve made fun of for taking it too seriously and being so dramatic about it.
You have what it takes. Do it. And I’m going to tell you something. What it will get you is Jesus. JESUS HIMSELF. Pre-eminent in all things. He is the joy. He is the prize in the fight. He is what makes getting hit by the debris in the hurricane worth it. Jesus Himself. He is everything.
I’m writing you today because I’m so proud of you. You’re out there doing the thing. And I don’t want you to quit.
Pay the price.