How much has your faith grown in the past five years? When Paul met Timothy, the young man was only about five years old in his faith. Most likely he had become a follower of Jesus Christ when he heard Paul preach on the apostle’s first missionary journey. Five years later, Paul came through town again and heard about a young man who was “well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium.” Timothy had grown so much in his faith that he was famous for it, not just in his hometown but in the neighboring town as well. It would be like being ‘famous’ for your faith in Burlington and in Greensboro. It begs the question: is that the kind of fame so many crave these days?
Stuart Wolpert reported in 2011 about a study done by a team of UCLA psychologists who examined the values of TV characters in the shows most popular with preteens over the years. They looked at the values espoused by characters in Andy Griffith and I Love Lucy from the 60’s, Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley from the 70’s, and American Idol and Hannah Montana from more recent times. The most frequent value of contemporary shows was found to be “fame.” Between 1967 and 1997, the top value had been “community feeling, or being part of a group.” That value suddenly dropped to eleventh place. The second most frequent value in 1967, “being kind and helpful to others,” had plunged from second to thirteenth place. The predominant message of today’s preteen shows seems to be that a successful life is all about finding a way to be famous. One of the researchers said, “I was shocked especially by the dramatic changes in the last ten years…If you believe that television reflects the culture, as I do, then American culture has changed drastically.”
I think we all would agree that the times, they are a-changing. But here’s the thing. Those whose lives are transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ are called to change the culture, not be changed by it. There were hundreds of young men and women in those two Greek cities Paul visited who were conforming to the culture, just as there are today in every city. But there are also young people who, like Timothy, are changing the culture through their godly influence. They are using their intellect to study science and math and language and history, and seeing everything through the lens of Biblical truth. They are using their hands to serve the poor and work hard at their jobs. They are keeping their bodies free from drugs and saving their sexuality for marriage. They are using their voices to speak the truth, and they are shaping the culture rather than being shaped by it. They are growing in their reputation as young men and women of faith.
Where is your faith now as compared to five years ago? Are you more confident in your faith, more settled in the Word, more committed to the church than you were five years ago? Would you say that you have grown in your relationship with Jesus in the past five years, that you love Him more now than you did then? I hope many of you could answer that with a resounding yes. If not, then I would challenge you to start a new five year period today. Right now.
Oswald Chambers said, “One life totally devoted to God is of more value to Him than one hundred lives which have been simply awakened by His Spirit.”