We’ve all heard the phrase, “The youth of the church are the present and future of the church that Christ established,” or at least something very close to it. Yet, what happens when those young individuals begin to lose heart, grow weary or just give up? Jesus explained to us that the Word of God affects different people in different ways (Mt. 13:3-9).
In the Parable of the Sower, some seeds were instantly devoured (v. 4). Jesus also tells us of the seed that fell on the rocky soil that they had no depth of ground and were scorched by the sun (vs. 5-6). They also had no root, and withered up. Many of our youth have no root, no firm foundation of Bible principles, and they wither up spiritually (vs. 20-21). However, the seeds that fell among the thorns and were choked up is really where I want to focus our attention on (vs. 7, 23).
If we ask ourselves what can choke us in life, immediately all the distractions of this life come to mind. Everything from entertainment to the instant gratification of technology at our fingertips can distract us from God. Places to travel, shopping, the sporty car we can barely afford, all of these and more can distract us. One of the biggest things that distracts us & that chokes our love for God is the love of money. As Paul wrote, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils..” (1 Tim. 6:10).
Seeing a teenager study for themselves and decide to put Christ on in baptism is something to treasure. All the work, studying, and the advancement of the spiritual life that is forming is worth more than any physical pleasure in this life. The majority of teens continue to study and grow. On the other hand, there are a small percentage that begin to miss services. They don’t show up for devotionals or other events. When reached out to, they have excuse after excuse for why we aren’t seeing them as much. Slowly, they slip away back into the old lifestyle that they had before.
The thorns that begin to choke out the new Christian grow tightly around the youth when they are weak and when the old friends remind them how much “fun” they are missing. Because of the intense peer pressure the youth of this generation have to deal with, it is just so easy to say yes to sin. This is why Jesus tells us to be careful of our enemy. The Bible says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pe. 5:8).
A few of the very frustrated ones that have slipped away, or have been devoured, have given the following excuses for leaving: “I’m frustrated with myself and with other church members,” “It’s just easier to walk away, “bad things still happen to me!”, “It’s too hard, I’m done!”, or “I’m tired of being judged.” When thorns begin to grow around something that is beautiful, they eventually take over and consume what once was blooming. Yet there are ways we can help in almost any situation.
First and foremost, pray! “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Ph. 4:6). Next, reach out to the teen in a kind and loving way. Give advice but listen just as much. Be patient with any of the many problems they may be dealing with (2 Ti. 2:24-26; Ja. 1:19). Finally, when you have exhausted all resources, you may have to acknowledge that it’s not going to be you which pulls them from the thorns (1 Co. 3:10). It may take time and another individual to help them come back just like the prodigal son did. It took time for the prodigal son to come back. Luke 15:17 starts off with Jesus saying, “But when he came to himself..” Sometimes, it just takes time and hardships to make us come to our senses. Whatever you do, never lose heart and never lose hope.
It’s very disheartening and disappointing to see the Word of God choked out in a teen’s life. It is heart breaking to see the teen overcome with the thorns of sin. The one thing for the teacher, parent or friend to remember is that you did plant the seed. It will always be there. Even though the thorns may linger for a while, and the teen may go through many storms, the seed is still there. In due time, it may come back and thrive again.
Jesus wore a crown of thorns upon his head as he suffered for the world. The thorns upon his head were just a small part of his suffering here on this earth. The thorns that choke out the beauty we are to show as Christians can eventually be removed as well. They do not have to be permanent. Just because the thorns are removed, it doesn’t mean that the scars are going to be to be removed. The only blessing of the scars we bare is that they remind us to do better, to live better, and to honor God in the future in everything we do. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).
The youth that fall among the thorns are living in a harsh world. It is a world of greed and self satisfaction. The main thing we must always remember is that those teens who are covered in thorns are teens who are still Christians. When we are suffering or see a loved one suffer, we immediately try to fix or help with the problem. Do we reach out to those who may be suffering spiritually in the same way? We can’t be harsh with those who are straying. We can’t say, “Oh well, I tried,” and then give up. I would like to say to anyone trying to work with the youth that if you are trying to help a teen that is entangled in the thorns of this world, don’t ever give up on them! Physically you may have to move on, but keep them in your prayers often. They are still one less soul that Satan can have…if we do our part!