The days of youth are times when one goes through a whole world of experiences. It is a time for experimentation; a time of increasing physical strength; a time of great expectations; a time for training for one’s career; a time for developing relationships; a time to pick up hobbies; a time of character formation; and the list goes on.

Because of the galaxy of activities and changes taking place in and around the young person, it is also a time when one is prone to make grave mistakes and choices with respect to life. These mistakes can rob one of not only present but also future happiness. It is in the light of this that Ecclesiastes gives us a timely exhortation:

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Ecc. 12:1).

In order for us to harness all the potential that comes with youthfulness and in order for us to avoid the pitfalls associated with growing up, God has given us three coaches in life. These are our parents, schoolteachers and church ministers. As Christ was growing up we see him obeying his parents and sitting under the instruction of the teachers of his day:

“After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions… And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart… And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:46, 51–52).

Our parents and guardians are like the head coach, who is responsible for the development of all the departments of our lives. This is the reason why God puts us in families. The schoolteachers assist our parents in developing our mental and intellectual faculties. The church minister assists them in dealing directly with issues of our souls – ensuring that we have a relationship with God, and if we have, ensuring that we are maintaining that relationship.

The objective of these coaches is to ensure that all aspects of our lives are developed to the full. Always remember that as a human being you are body and soul – you have spiritual, physical and emotional sides.

The three coaches are there to help the young person develop morally, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. Let us sample some of these areas of development.

Developing morally

Unlike the wild animals, God created us as moral beings. Our upbringing must be such as will emphasise our morality. All the three coaches are tasked with developing our morality. We need to cooperate with our coaches if we are to develop morally.

Unfortunately, there are many things nowadays which militate against the moral development of youths. This is not new. Many hundreds of years ago, the apostle Paul warned young Timothy against these things. In 2 Timothy 2:22, he calls them youthful lusts, and he exhorts Timothy to flee from them.

The apostle John has the following to say about such vices, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15–16).

Things like the following can derail the young person’s moral development:

  1. Bad films. Films that contain scenes of bad language, sex, nudity and violence.
  2. Bad music. Music that contains obscene messages or bad language. The same applies to music videos – many have obscene dances.
  3. Young people can be exposed to this through watching pornographic films, visiting pornographic sites on the Internet and going through obscene literature.
  4. Alcohol and drugs. These have the effect of reducing one’s moral resistance.
  5. Bad company. “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1 Cor. 15:33).
  6. Bad literature. This is literature that has themes that turn you away from the worship of God and leading an upright life.
  7. Indecent fashions and dressing. These make the young person wearing them vulnerable to immorality and at the same time they contribute to lowering the moral standards of the society around.

Positively, moral development can be attained by applying biblical standards, such as: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8).

Young people leading immoral lives will not prosper. They will compromise their careers, job, and relationships with people, including marriage. Worst of all, they will not know God’s favour in their lives.

Make good use of your church leaders. Many young people think that Christianity is a waste of time. But by thus concluding, they throw away a most crucial component, which is required for balanced growth to take place. By growing up with their spiritual and moral lives not developed, such young people deny themselves the very weapons which they need to fight the negative vices which destroy young lives.

Developing Intellectually

Closely related to the moral development of our lives is the development of our minds. Most young people go to school not to develop their minds but simply to pass the exams. This is wrong and an abuse of the brain. Why did God give us the brain? He gave it as an instrument or tool that would help us to subdue the earth.

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen. 1:28).

Subduing the earth and having dominion over the living things is multifaceted. It calls for human beings to innovate technologically, to look after our environment, to create new jobs, to develop wholesome ways of entertainment, etc. This in turn calls for the extensive use of our brains. It might require questioning the old ways of thinking in order to come up with better and more effective ways of doing business.

Young people must therefore go beyond just learning to pass the exams in order to get a good job. They must instead aim to develop their thinking and intellectual capacities.

How can young people develop their ‘brainpower’, that is, the ability to use the brain effectively and extensively?

Negatively, you will not develop your brain if you do not exercise or challenge it. The following are some activities that will militate against the growth of your brainpower:

  1. Spending most of your time on ‘non-thinking’ activities — watching TV especially films like soaps, Nigerian movies; romantic movies; action movies – which although they might not be wrong in and of themselves, yet they do not add real value to your life. Chatting your time away with friends either in person or on the social media, like Facebook, listening to useless music, and playing the type of computer games which do not challenge your thinking capabilities. All these have a tendency to make your mind weak and stagnate.
  2. Youths must pay greater attention to how they spend their school holidays. Consider that from Grade 1 to 12 you spend a minimum of 36 months (3 years) on school holidays. And if you will pursue a 4-year tertiary-level course, this will jump to 48 months (4 years). This time can be better utilised by engaging in activities that improve your mental capabilities.
  3. Shying away from situations that require some kind of solution. Get involved with finding solutions to the challenges that your parents face in their day-to-day running of the home.
  4. Feeding your mind with stuff that does not stretch it. What types of films do you watch and what type of literature do you read? Is it stuff that requires thinking?

Positively, you will develop your brain power if you:

  1. Develop a habit of regular reading of good material. Christian youths should not shy away from reading those doctrinal books that are considered ‘difficult’.
  2. Choose the type of films you watch; going for those which will increase your knowledge in different spheres of life
  3. Pursue good hobbies, for example, the arts, good music and poetry. In the area of entertainment, choose the type that exercises your brain, for example, games like Scrabble or Chess.
  4. Learn to like your schoolwork and to study in order to understand and apply the subject matter instead of just to pass your exams.
  5. Go beyond just reading the Bible. Learn the art of meditating on it. This is the art of ‘chewing’ what you have fed your mind on through reading.
  6. Engage in meaningful debate with friends over various issues.
  7. Learn to put your thoughts down on paper through writing.
  8. Develop the good habit of researching on various topics. Research is one of the most useful ways in which you can use the Internet.
  9. Learn to ask questions, not only to seek clarification over something you have not understood but also to find out why things are done in a certain way. Be inquisitive.
  10. Learn to sit under the counsel of older and wiser people to draw wisdom from them.

Becoming a thinker will yield many benefits for the young person. These include:

  1. Discovery of new things that will benefit society. We enjoy the benefits of science today because someone devoted their time to thinking. Advancement in technology will only be attained through the right and diligent use of our brains.
  2. Advancing in your careers. In a job situation, young people who have learnt to use their brains constructively will find themselves progressing at the expense of those who have not.
  3. Creation of employment. As a nation we have hundreds of thousands of young people who do not have jobs. Young people who apply their minds will not only create jobs for themselves but for others as well.

With this in mind, resolve to make good use of your teachers and lecturers. Cooperate with them and show keen interest when you sit under them. Make their work easier: Do your homework and be diligent in attending their lessons.

Conclusion

Many young people think they will be happy in life if they can have many material things. But the Lord Jesus tells us that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of what he has. “And he said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’” (Luke 12:15).

True satisfaction comes when our lives are lived in conformity to the two greatest commandments.

Firstly, when our relationship with God is sorted out through the salvation that is found in Christ. I have been engaged in ministry to students for many years now, but I never cease to be amazed when I meet students who will literally run away from hearing the gospel of Christ. If only they knew that they are running away from fullness of life!

Secondly, we will only know true satisfaction in this life when we live our lives for others. When we cease to be preoccupied with what we want and instead we begin to meet the needs of our neighbour. Then we become truly human.

Such a selfless life can only be attained if we make full use of the three coaches — our parents, our schoolteachers and our church ministers — whom God has so graciously given to us to help us develop in all areas of human endeavour.