Recently I saw Bill Yick, one of our members, perform the role of the king in Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical, "The King and I." The king of Siam hired an English lady to teach his children. He wanted them to be trained in Western thinking.

Early in the play the king talked to himself. Always he has been the total authoritarian. Learning enlightened thinking created confusion for him. He wanted the son who replaced him as king to understand Western thinking. But Western thinking created enormous conflicts for the king.

Listen as he begins this insightful talk with himself.

Do I ever understand the king's confusion! Do you? I would guess that either you really understand, or you really don't understand. But if you don't, and you have children, the day will come when you do understand.

This morning I primarily want to share with our young people, our teens, and our college students. I want to start by talking to the teens.

  1. Today is a very frustrating time to be an adolescent (I say that quite aware that adolescence is a frustrating time in any generation).
    1. In every generation teenagers feel isolated and misunderstood.
      1. That is the nature of adolescence.
      2. The years of teenage life are unlike any other years of life.
        1. It is that age when the transition is made from child to adult.
        2. For a few years you are neither child nor adult.
        3. In those years neither you nor your parents know what you really are because you are in the process of developing your sense of self.
    2. While the experience of traveling through adolescence is basically the same in each generation, I think the frustration level for teens today is generally higher than it has ever been.
      1. This is one of the reasons the frustration level is so high: commonly, parents, grandparents, and the church have not realized what is happening in the teenager's world.
      2. We don't understand, and teens accept as fact that we will not understand.
      3. As a result, communication between teens and adults is unusually bad.
        1. Teens, you are told that you are not very spiritual.
          1. But the way you measure being spiritual and the way many adults measure being spiritual are two entirely different measurements.
          2. Often adults do not recognize your spiritual concerns as being spiritual, and often they do not see your spiritual concerns as being spiritual.
        2. Teens, you are told that you are irresponsible, but you don't measure responsibility in the same way that most adults measure responsibility.
          1. Most adults you know measure responsibility by the way they manage and care for jobs and material things--the highest level of responsibility is doing what you are supposed to do in your work.
          2. You measure responsibility by the way you take care of relationships --the highest level or responsibility is in being loyal to your friends.
        3. Teens, you are told how easy you have it today.
          1. Your parents and grandparents tell you about the sacrifices they made to go to school.
          2. But you live with the fear of gangs, weapons, and violence at school.
          3. Your parents and grandparents tell you about the physically demanding work they had to do when they were teens.
          4. But you have friends who are so depressed that they talk seriously about committing suicide--and you don't know how to help them.
          5. Your parents and grandparents tell you about how little money and how few things they had when they were your age.
          6. But you know more teens who are sexually active than teens who are not, and you always feel the pressure to become sexually active.
        4. Your parents and your grandparents tell you how great kids have it today.
          1. And you wonder.
          2. If teens have it so great, why is the highest suicide rate of any age group found among teens.
          3. Why is suicide the # 2 cause of death among teens?
          4. Why is the # 1 killer of teens alcohol-related deaths?
          5. If kids have it made, what are they running from?
      4. Many reasons cause you to feel frustrated, but this is one of the biggest reasons: instead of trying to understand and help you, too often adults and the church say that either your problems are not that bad, or they say it is ridiculous for you to pay any attention to such problems.

  2. No one sees more honestly what is happening in today's homes as do our children.
    1. As you get older, you see and you reject.
      1. Mom and Dad seem to think that the key to happiness and meaningful life is possessions--homes, furnishings, cars, possessions of all kinds.
        1. But you see how often Mom is obviously lonely.
        2. You see how often both Mom and Dad are obviously unhappy.
        3. You see how isolated Dad is.
        4. You see, hear, and feel the tension at home.
        5. You know how often everyone acts like everything is wonderful when you know everything is bad.
        6. The whole family is always too busy to share, to talk--and you are afraid to share and talk because they won't understand.
        7. When opportunities for sharing and talking come, you are always afraid that real sharing will create an argument or increase tensions.
      2. And you know by talking to and listening to all your friends that it is no better in most other homes--in fact, it is often worse.
        1. In the house we just sold is an enormous attic with an inside stairway leading into it.
        2. That attic was absolutely stuffed with all kinds of things.
        3. One day one of our sons had a neighborhood friend visiting, and they went upon into the attic.
        4. He could not believe all the stuff up there.
        5. My son asked, "What do you do with all your stuff?"
        6. He replied, "We don't have any--there are just two suitcases in our attic."
        7. Mom and Dad had divorced, then later decided to live together.
        8. Everything was temporary and could end on a moments notice. Their attic was empty.
    2. Teens, you look at the church and you listen.
      1. Sometimes what you hear is this:
        1. "These are the commandments, and they are very important."
        2. "These are the rules, and you absolutely must keep them."
      2. As you grow, you begin to ask:
        1. Isn't it more important to build love and loyalty in the home?
        2. Isn't it more important for families to succeed in being families?
        3. Isn't it more important to treat people with dignity and respect?
        4. Isn't it more important to address fear and give hope?
        5. Isn't it more important to accept people and help them than to reject people and alienate them?
      3. And, it grieves me to say, that we do not couple teaching with application as we should; that is one reason that 50% of our young people leave the church when they leave home and begin their adult lives.

  3. The gospel of Luke is the only New Testament writing that tells us anything about Jesus' childhood (Luke 2:39-52).
    1. I am sure all of our young people have learned about the time Jesus went with his parents to the temple when he was twelve years old.
      1. You know how he stayed in Jerusalem to study and ask questions in the temple when his parents left to return home.
      2. You know that his parents came back to look for him.
      3. You know that he explained that he had to be in his Father's house.
    2. But I want to call your attention to the verse just before that story and the verse just after that story.
      1. Just before telling us about the temple trip, Luke writes (2:40):
        And the child (Jesus) continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him.
      2. Just after telling us about the temple trip, Luke writes (2:52):
        And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
      3. Twice Luke said that as Jesus grew up, he grew in wisdom.
        1. Maybe for you the word "wisdom" doesn't have much of a definition.
        2. It isn't a strange word; it just may not mean much to you.
        3. But for all of you young people, it is one of the most important words you need to know.
      4. Even though you are young, you still live in this complicated world.
        1. Through the television, that world comes into your house every day.
        2. Because you go to school, you go out in that world at least five days a week.
        3. You face a thousand situations your Mom and Dad will never know about.
        4. You make thousands of decisions that Mom and Dad will never hear about.
      5. Even though you are young, you choose what you will do.
        1. Mom and Dad give you rules, but rules are not enough.
        2. The church gives you facts, but facts are not enough.
        3. Your teachers teach you how to question, but questions are not enough.
      6. You desperately need to grow in wisdom.
      7. When you grow in wisdom, you do two things:
        1. First, you grow in your understanding.
        2. Second, you use your understanding to make good choices, choices that are really best for you.
        3. When you must make a choice, you don't chose what you want; you don't choose fun; you choose what is really best for you.
    3. I want you to remember four things about God.
      1. No matter what is happening in your life, God loves you--He never considers your problems to be foolish or ridiculous; He knows they are real.
      2. No matter what is happening in your life, God will help you if you will let Him.
      3. God never creates your problems.
      4. Because problems will always exist, God wants to show you how to live so that you don't hurt yourself.

Now I want to talk to both parents and teachers. Two things really impressed me in our Vacation Bible School. First, the classes were really creative--they were very interesting and created powerful impressions. Second, the practical applications were excellent. I have a question: don't all our Bible classes need to be creative, produce powerful impressions, and make memorable applications? Shouldn't all of our Bible classes help our children grow in wisdom?

Obviously it is not just our children who need wisdom. The world is a complicated thing. People of every age need to remember that God wants us to live in ways that don't hurt ourselves.

We have a God who knows every choice we make and every mistake we make and every failure we have. God is willing to wipe our souls clean of sin. He tells us, "Don't live in the past. Use greater understanding."

Christianity is starting new every day.

Let God's forgiveness bless you. Be baptized and let the blood of Jesus wash your sins away.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 31 August 1997

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