Long before we reach high school or college graduation, most of us have already laid out our hopeful plans for our young adult years. Whether it’s a mental bucket list or an entire notebook full of dreams and ideas, you have places you long to explore, skills you want to learn, and goals you hope to accomplish.
The message the world often promotes is that our best years are in our teens and twenties—and that life only goes downhill after that. We’re told to get out there and experience and accomplish as much of life as we can. Maybe the message you’ve heard sounds like this:
Your teens and twenties are all about enjoying yourself, discovering who you are, and experimenting with your body. These carefree years are for focusing on your own personal interests and appetites before the burdensome weight of adulthood is strapped to you. So get out there and enjoy yourself!
As a follower of Christ, you may hear this and notice some red flags. It’s not biblical advice. So then comes the gospel-centered version to counter the message we hear from pop culture. That counter message usually goes something like this:
Your teens and twenties are all about dreaming big, working hard, and becoming a mature, active Christian. As a single adult, your greatest desire should be to accomplish great things for God, such as starting a non-profit, publishing a book, or touring with a Christian band. So get out there and change the world!
Which philosophy should you make your mantra?
That’s actually a trick question. While the second message may be a wise reorientation away from a self-centered life, it could be interpreted to mean that you aren’t making the most of your young adult years unless you have a major accomplishment to show for it.
And that’s a problem.
Your desire to make a difference for the kingdom of God is absolutely a good thing! But we often set high expectations for ourselves or feel pressure from around us to dream big(!) with the assumption that all those dreams will be fulfilled right away.
Thirty Years of Anonymity
Author and blogger Tim Challies writes that “many young Christians have a noble desire to change the world and to do great things, but in most cases God intends to first change them and to do great things in their hearts and minds.”
Challies gives an example of a man who defied what we would consider the norm by spending 90 percent of his life away from the limelight, working quietly and steadily at a humble job in a small town. What this man spent thirty years doing doesn’t seem like the best way to make a massive impact on the world—certainly not in our prime when we’re young and energetic. But this is exactly what God sent His Son to do.
That’s right. This man was Jesus! And by the time He turned thirty, Jesus had no public accomplishments to speak of. No books published, no sermons preached, no charities founded. His résumé simply said “carpenter.”
Very little is recorded in Scripture of Jesus’ early years, yet they weren’t a waste. We know Jesus came and fulfilled everything the Father sent Him to do (John 17:4), and God Himself declared that He was pleased with His beloved Son (Mark 1:9–11).
From learning to walk as a toddler to learning a trade as a young man, the majority of Jesus’ earthly days were spent not in public ministry but in growing “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).
What Matters More Than Dreaming Big
Jesus didn’t concern Himself with what others thought of Him. Jesus remained steadfast to the will of His Father throughout His life, keeping the Father His number one priority even when His family thought He was crazy and His enemies wanted to kill Him (see John 7:1–5).
As in everything He did, Jesus set an incredible example for us by focusing on His personal growth and godly character before entering public ministry.
Shouldn’t we follow His example?
Challies says it’s in your early years that “you will lay a foundation of godly character capable of guiding and sustaining you for a lifetime.” Now is the time to set in motion a lifelong pattern of prioritizing your relationship with the Lord!
Your Training Ground Is Right Now
Just as a doctor needs years of training before launching his or her own practice, these early years are your training ground for the future. Seeing life this way gives perspective when you’re eager to fulfill your dreams but instead find yourself in “waiting mode,” doing seemingly insignificant tasks.
You may be eager to set out and go big, but God may have a few more years of “faithful marinating” in store for you.
- Be patient and use your time well.
- Spend time in God’s Word getting to know Him.
- Listen to wise counsel before jumping into action.
- Be faithful even in the mundane as you babysit your baby brother, when you clean your room (and your sister’s mess!), or when delivering cookies to an elderly shut-in.
What you are doing right now is worthwhile and can make a difference in someone’s life.
Whether you’re currently working overseas for a charity or bagging groceries at your local store, what you are doing right now is worthwhile and can make a difference in someone’s life. Let’s follow in Jesus’ footsteps and make the most of the time God has given us.
- Do you feel like your skills or talents are wasted unless used right away in public service or ministry?
- How does Jesus’ example affect the way you plan for the future?
- Are you being faithful to do what God has asked you to do today?