As a young boy, I loved my monthly sleepovers at my grandmother’s home. It meant that I could stay up later than normal, lounge around in my pajamas watching Saturday cartoons, and even drink a cup of coffee loaded with cream and sugar. I always looked forward to these weekend treats.
As an adult, I look back on my Saturday mornings with “Granny” and I recall more important things. I remember her pulling out her well-worn Bible, reading at the kitchen table and then praying with me. She prayed around the world; missionaries and politicians and personal friends were all taken before the Lord. And without fail, she prayed for me.
I’m confident you can trace some habit, character trait, or life lesson to an earlier influencer who taught you, modeled life for you, and walked through life with you. We learn so much from the example of others, don’t we?
This should be a challenge to us as we age: to serve as an example of godliness and pass along the wisdom of God we have learned through life. Whether we are conscience of it or not, our children, grandchildren, and others around us are watching, listening, and imitating.
By the time King Solomon writes the book of Ecclesiastes, he is an old man hoping to pass on some final nuggets of wisdom to his children, grandchildren, and the youth of Israel. God, through Solomon, has several key truths He wants them— and us—to grasp.
ENJOY YOUR EARLY YEARS THOROUGHLY!
My grandchildren never tell me how old they are, they tell me how old they will be next. Have you noticed how children are always looking forward to getting older? There is so much to look forward to: a driver’s license, a graduation or two, and a real job.
Somewhere along the path, everything reverses. We start wishing for the days when we were younger.
Solomon urges the young, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 11:9a). In other words, don’t rush it; enjoy it!
Frankly, discontentment can start young. The child wants to be a teenager so they can drive; the high school student longs for the freedom of college; the college student craves their first career job; the young professional can’t take their eyes off the promotional ladder at their work.
Solomon commands—and notice that word rejoice is a command— godly young people to rejoice—to find joy—in the time when they are young.
I think one of the most common challenges for children, teens, and young professionals is the tendency to be discontent in life, wishing for the next big move and the next significant change.
It all reminds me of that first temptation back in the Garden of Eden. That temptation came packaged as “discontentment.” Satan reasoned: “Eve, you have all this perfection, but look at that one tree you can’t have. Wouldn’t you like to taste that one, too?”
This temptation delivers an ongoing warning to us all: it's never too early to start making thanksgiving a daily practice; we can practice gratefulness for the gifts God has given us, rather than focusing on what we haven't been given.
SPEND YOUR EARLY YEARS WISELY!
Our impulses and inhibitions diminish only through time and maturity. Mature adults understand that they will be held accountable for their actions, but young people often fail to look far enough ahead.
Solomon continues, “Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9b).
Notice that God actually encourages young people to follow their dreams and creative thoughts. He says, “Follow your heart and your eyes.” But with that advice comes a critical qualifier: God judges every action and interest, whether we are old or young.
Young people need to be sure that whatever they strive for is something God would sign off on. God empowers young people with amazing imaginations and unparalleled determination, but with opportunity and ability comes responsibility.
GUARD YOUR EARLY YEARS CAREFULLY!
Before facing many of the financial, emotional, or spiritual hardships of adulthood, many young people believe they are invincible to harmful consequences. That assumption has led many to dangerous, sinful places.
That’s why Solomon warns, “Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity” (Ecclesiastes 11:10).
So don’t become angry or frustrated with older people who come alongside you with advice; don’t scoff at their wise caution. The wisdom of God is never old-fashioned or outdated.
If you can begin putting these wise principles into practice at a young age, the Spirit-filled character and godly habits you develop will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Perhaps this advice causes you to look back on your youth and grieve over time wasted or opportunities squandered. Take it to the cross and find forgiveness. Jesus didn’t just pay the price for our present sins, but our past sins as well.
Then, remember that it’s never too late to begin pursuing and implementing wisdom from above. And here’s a great place to start, no matter how old you are:
- Enjoy all your years thoroughly!
- Spend all your years wisely!
- Guard all your years carefully!