I recently watched the film Back to the Future for the first time in years. One thing that impressed me (now that I am 43 years old) was how George McFly (Michael Fox’s father) changed due to Marty’s little time travel escapade. That pivotal time of his adolescence was dramatically impacted by a few events, and resulted in George living a very different life.
It made me think back 25 years to my own adolescence. If I could jump into a plutonium-powered Delorean and visit myself, what would I say? What advice, what challenges would I give to myself? After some thought, I decided on seven fundamental things I wished I had known at seventeen:
1. There is much more to knowing God than accumulating information. Yes, study the Bible, read the books, get an accurate picture of the nature of God, but seek more. When Jesus said in John 17:3 that the nature of eternal life was to know God, He wasn’t meaning just a head full of theology. Seek to enjoy & commune with the presence of God.
2. Don’t take people for granted. One day you will realize your parents are indeed flawed people, but they did their best. Seek to honor them and love them while still being true to God and yourself. Love and serve everyone you come in contact with, not just those who seem to be valuable to you. Friends: they will slip through your fingers before you know it if you aren’t consistently proactive in keeping the friendship going.
3. Be ruthless with sin. You cannot now imagine the pain you will cause God, yourself, and the ones you love through your sin. Pride, self-centeredness, greed, lies, lust— they will all cause you untold hours of bitter tears. Do all that you can to pull up even the little weeds of sin you find as soon as you can and as thoroughlly as you can. Repent regularly & completely and walk with God.
4. Find a spiritual mentor. There is no substitute in your life for a man of wisdom, older and wiser than you, to help guide you on your journey. Casual contact with teachers, pastors, friends, even the occasional baring of your soul to another, is not the same as one man consistently investing himself in your life for the purpose of your spiritual growth. Keep praying, keep seeking, keep asking, until you find that man.
5. Believe in your place in God’s Kingdom. There are many things that will discourage you from thinking you can accomplish great things for God, and there will be many distractions along the way. Don’t let up; don’t give up; keep striving for the unique contribution that God has prepared you to make.
6. Evaluate the eternal value of every moment. Those hundreds of hours you’ll spend in video and computer games: you will look back and see them as largely a waste. Seek out fun, adventure, fellowship and accomplishment in things that matter. Although it doesn’t appear so at the time, every moment counts. Every moment becomes an unchangeable part of your life and your legacy.
7. Never let fear be a factor. You will miss out on so much if you make a decision or fail to make a decision based on fear. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of making the wrong decision will haunt you, but you must realize that you can’t live life to the full by never taking a risk.
As I looked at the whole list, I realized that I was not only speaking to an imaginary 17 year old teen, but a 43 year old man as well. These seven challenges are just as relevant to my life today as they would have been back then. I still need to challenge myself each day with each of these statements.
Looking at the list, I also realized that I could boil down the whole list to one phrase, which is one of my favorites: Don’t waste your life. That’s what the difference between the “old” and “new” George McFly in the movie was: the difference of a life wasted and a life lived. For those of us who follow Christ, the challenge for us every day is just this: Don’t waste your life.
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