“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
If you and I had a dollar for every time we heard this question as kids… we would have a lot of dollars.
From the very beginning, older adults establish a timeframe for us to begin considering the mark we will leave on the world. And so, armed with this well-meaning, albeit vague information, we start down the path of determining how we want to contribute our talents to humanity.
1 Timothy 4:12 tells us, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
As kids, our dreams cover more territory than the night sky. The things we do in our spare time often lay the foundation for future aspiration. A state of flow, or the effortless absorption into a task, shows up again and again, and we work to develop our passions while transitioning from adolescence into adulthood.
But if we truly believe that age doesn’t disqualify a person from making an impact, why do so many of us wait until we’re older to begin doing what we were created to do?
1 Samuel tells the universally-known story of a young teenager named David, who set-out from his job tending his father’s sheep in the countryside on an errand to the front line of battle to check on his brothers. While there he fights a terrifying enemy warrior named Goliath. Historians estimate the David was no older than fifteen when he used his talent of self-defense to defeat Goliath, drawing on his experience fighting off wild animals as a shepherd.
Another story of note is the little boy mentioned at the start of John 6, when Jesus famously fed five thousand people with the boy’s five loaves of bread and two fish, took part in a miracle because he was willing to offer what he had.
In both of these stories, God used adolescents to write the pages of history and impact countless lives—all because they boldly shared what little they possessed.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make, at any point in life, is believing that we aren’t yet qualified to be used by God. Society tells us that prerequisites are needed before we can attempt to make an impact, and while getting training in any area of talent can be incredibly valuable—what God is truly interested in is our heart.
The men and women who make the biggest difference in their world are the ones who didn’t wait until they were a certain age before acting boldly.
And while the chances of kids and teenagers needing to fight off a lion to protect a herd of sheep are basically non-existent nowadays, there are plenty of other ways we can act bravely at a young age.
The reason Paul’s encouragement to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12 feels so radical is because we don’t usually look to young people to set a standard. By default—and for valid reasons—we tend to place the expectation on adults to show others the way of love, wisdom, bravery and integrity. But the Bible shows us time and again that children are capable of influencing and inspiring those around them.
If you are a kid, teenager or young adult waiting for the day when you will be qualified to inspire the people around you, you don’t need to wait another day. Fear of being taken seriously is a small obstacle that can be torn down once you realize how rare and beautiful your courage is.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make, at any point in life, is believing that we aren’t yet qualified to be used by God.
You don’t need a college degree to start setting an example of respect, purity and hard work. You don’t need to wait five years to start sharing your creativity and ambition with the world.
Wherever you are, whatever your age—the Bible tells us that, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). God’s promise that he’ll remain with us while we serve him aren’t restricted to people of a certain age.
That talent, passion, offering in your heart? This is your permission slip.