How does God guide us by his grace? God wants us to be filled with his joy, but how do we find and follow what is the will of God so that young or old we receive his joy and all the other fruit of the Holy Spirit which are available to us?
Charles Spurgeon was a pastor at 17 years of age, yet some others did not
fulfil their call to the ministry until their 60s.
It's a time when everything that we do can be fun, and especially when it's part of what God desires for us. Basically, it's never too young (or too late!) to start listening for God's input into our life.
Jesus was twelve years old when He was already able to converse with the Priests and Rabbi's in the Temple on the meaning in the scriptures, and have them marvel at His insights. The revelation that He had, came through the Holy Spirit, and all our youths, and we ourselves, can have the same access to, and help from, the Holy Spirit. Jesus modelled what we can do!
God loves us all and is interested in working with and helping all of us if we will let him, and He himself made the way possible for all of us to get to know Him close up and personal! It's through Jesus Christ.
1 Cor 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
We are sanctified by the blood of the lamb but the effectiveness of this extends to our household. If you are a member of the church then because of you, your husband or wife, if not a member, and your children are set apart by God (sanctified) and your children are holy - holy vessels to the Lord.
So our youth (and all family loved ones) have access to God and God is working in their lives. All they have to do, as with all of us, is to call upon His name and LISTEN for his voice in reply.
Now His voice may not be audible. In fact for most people that I know it isn't.
Some speak of listening to their conscience, but this is to listen to the negative rather than the positive. It means that you know when you are doing wrong, but not necessarily when God is telling you of his best provisions for your life. What we need is fore-knowledge and we can get this through being aware of God's promptings through the different ways that He uses!
God is spirit and speaks internally through his Spirit to our spirit. This then comes through to us in feelings and impressions and peace over decisions and dreams and visions and He also speaks to us through his word and other people. It's probably a unique mix for each person. Many times it may be through having an inner peace regarding decisions you are making. I know personally only one person who regularly gets guidance from God through dreams; I don't, for instance. But I also know of many whose main avenue for hearing God is through their inner peace.
God knew all about us and made his plans for us before we were born!
Jer 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Look at what God had said to Jeremiah earlier.
Jer 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
Was this fore-knowledge by God and his planning for Jeremiah's life an isolated case? Look at what God said through David.
Psa 71:5-6 For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you.
David was inspired to realise that God had his eye on him even before he was born. And David is not the only one! This applies to everyone because we can see God showing ever wider applications of this word. Look at Isa 46 3-4..
Isa 46:3-4 "Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
This same calling and appointing from before birth was true of Paul also.
Gal 1:15-16 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles...
And of course we have to remember also that God is not a respecter of persons. What he has done for others he has done for you!
Act 10:34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, 'Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons':
That is why God can say he has plans for us to give us peace and good and an expected end. God has a bright end planned for us, and if we will only seek his will in our lives he can bring us into it. And the sooner we seek this the sooner God can bring his wonderful plans for us to fruition. That's the glory available now for our youth and for all who seek the Lord.
We have to listen for his 'voice' though and you will probably find that God will have a favourite way of talking to you as time goes on! But the important thing is to listen. Otherwise, we can develop some bad habits if we don't think through how we interact with God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
One possible bad habit we can get into is to pray to God with a succession of petitions and then almost immediately after we finish this monologue we get up and get on with other things that WE are interested in! We can spend many, many minutes speaking to God and only seconds listening to him if we are not careful.
There should be time spent reading the Bible, to find out God's general will in our lives and have him speak to us directly through his written word.
We should spend time meditating on the word that we've read so that God can give us greater insights into his intentions and the Bible, by revelation.
Interestingly I was told that the original meaning of meditate was "to mutter". To speak softly the words of God in your own hearing. Remember that faith comes from hearing. This was one main way that faith was built up in God's people as they declared and 'heard' the word of God. Now that most define meditate as 'to think over', we can miss out on this area of growth in faith and seeing God's will in our lives!
We should also spend time in telling God of the opportunities that come our way and the desires of our heart, and ask for his input. Then we'll learn his will in these areas of our lives when we come to make important decisions.
And, as we make decisions we should check to see if God gives us his inner peace regarding them or if we feel edgy about them. We may even find that we lose our desire for something on occassion when God has opportunity to tell us what better things He may have in mind for us, because we took time to listen.
Looking for God's guidance in our lives through his Spirit and following it is one of my definitions of 'living under grace'. Paul put it this way when he spoke in Athens...
Act 17:27-28 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being;
God is in us but God is a spirit, so he interacts with our spirit and from there comes our impressions of peace or otherwise. Draw close to God and He will draw closer to you. Then God and the blessings that he has for you will not be unknown as in the case of the Athenians. Both will be known!
God intends this to be the way of life for all of us regardless of age. That's why our children are sanctified. They, as we, are holy - holy vessels to the Lord and by one of the methods mentioned, depending on how God best gets through to us, we will know what God's will is in a particular circumstance.
God's grace to us (Jesus Christ in us; another definition!) teaches us through all these methods to recognise what is God's will in our lives. God's grace not only guides us in our general decision making but also in recognition of right from wrong as he shows us the path to righteousness. You see if we are in the will of God we don't have to ask God to bless what we do!
Tit 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
This is obviously going beyond the 'unmerited pardon' that is often quoted as the definition of grace. This shows that the grace of God is involved in bringing us salvation and in giving us training in righteousness and godliness.
So as intimated above, to me, a better definition of grace overall is perhaps - 'Jesus Christ living in us through the Holy Spirit and the result and benefit of that in our lives'. This takes in God's wider meanings in his use of the word 'grace' in the scriptures, and helps us to understand how we can live righteous lives as Christians.
Grace (Jesus In Us) empowers us to do the will of the Father; actually, Jesus does it through us, both to will and to do [Phil 2:13].
Phil 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.Once we acknowledge him in our lives and recognise that of ourselves we cannot live holy lives, we can set our minds to listen to God and follow his guidance, letting Him empower us to do what is right according to His will. This is what God wants for all of us - to live His holy life in us. And that is why we are told to BE holy, not BECOME holy.
Eph 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
And so grace saves us (and all who trust Jesus) through faith, the faith of Jesus. We are to rest in (depend on) Jesus' saving power, because only He can empower us to live righteous lives. We listen to God; go forward when we have his peace; Jesus lives his life through us; and in this way God pulls off Phil 2:13, to both will and do His good pleasure through us!
God wants to make an early start in guiding, teaching, training and empowering our youth. They can have a head start compared to us, so to speak, if they see that God has plans for their good and wants to share them now, and has given them access to him 24/7 as with us!
Jer 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
The thing is that when we become aware of God's will in our lives we must act to follow it. We listen to learn what is God's will and follow his guidance to fulfill God's will.
When Jesus went back to the Father after his resurection he sent the Holy Spirit to be our guide. He is with us, ready, willing and able to guide and train us until we reach the stature of Jesus. He is with us and our youth (and in us after baptism) and He tells us the things of God, and how we can know God's will for us starting at any age.
The Holy Spirit is our guide and leads us to understand how righteousness applies as situations arise in our lives.
When we have decisions to make, we can know what is the right way to go by whether we have peace of mind and heart regarding that decision. This is one of God's ways to point us in the right direction; by the peace of God impacting on our hearts and minds through the Holy Spirit in us. To the man/woman who is letting the grace of God impact his/her life the Holy Spirit gives you a peace of heart when you are making the right decisions. You feel a peace inside, as your heart lines up with the prompting of the Spirit. When you know God's will for your life and your decisions line up with God's will you have a peace which Paul describes as passing all understanding (Phil 4:7).
The peace of God is active, it's not just a passive feeling! Take a look with me at Mat 10:12-13...
Mat 10:12-13 As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.
When you go somewhere and speak to the people of the things of God and tell of the Gospel, you let your peace (the Holy Spirit in you) have the opportunity to influence them for the kingdom. Your peace comes upon the household. If they react positively your peace will stay with them and a seed has been planted. If they do not react positively your peace will return to you.
This peace is in you now by the Holy Spirit. Some might say (like me) this
peace IS the Holy Spirit, but as I understand it this is how the kingdom is
advanced by us personally. We plant seeds. Faith comes by hearing and
hearing by the word of God. But underpinning the words of God that we
speak is the release of the Holy Spirit into another life.
When we speak the word of God, or preach the Gospel, Holy Spirit goes out
in those words looking for a receptive person on which to rest. You can see
the principle in the old testament when Noah sent out the dove. When it
found no place to rest it returned and he brought it in to himself. When it
found a place to rest it stayed.
Getting back to our initial thrust - you and all those walking in the spirit
will have peace in your hearts when your decisions and planned directions
are in line with God's will and will possibly feel on edge and discontent
when they are not. But, we all have to listen to and look out for the manner
in which the promptings of the Spirit come to us.
So in this way and the others mentioned earlier (God's word; meditation; other believers; inner peace; directly; etc) God lets us know his will.
You are a new creation and your new spirit is entirely holy and on God's side and the Holy Spirit is guiding you 24/7 to live according to God's will and so renew your mind. Then it's two to one against the flesh and your sanctification (or power over sin) kicks in and you live holy lives!
Our youngsters and our spouses who are checking God out, can have a head start along this path if they are willing. As they are taught by God, the Holy Spirit works with them, and later works in them after baptism. At that point also, Jesus Christ and the Father come to live in them. But they have to be prepared to listen to God and follow him, as we do also.
We make decisions all through the day and not all are on clear-cut things regarding right and wrong, but the grace of God will guide us in these as well, as long as we listen to the peace in our hearts, the Holy Spirit. God wants the best for us in all circumstances and he has not left us as orphans to work it out by ourselves. The comforter is with us always and if you are not comfortable about a decision or a direction, it's likely for a good reason!
Sometimes we act just 'naturally' because that's how we've always acted. If, now that we are converted, there is an unease in some area this can all be part of the Holy Spirit's guidance to show us where our minds need to be renewed. The Holy Spirit will guide us in our study of the word, if this is the case, to see what needs changing to more fully line up our thoughts with God's thoughts. And, the more we recognize the Holy Spirit's promptings and submit to this guidance and see the good results, the easier it will be to be led by the Spirit in the future.
It's only through grace (in the wider sense; Christ in us, the hope of glory) that we can live holy lives. Have we turned to God and been converted, and accepted Jesus Christ as our living saviour? Now we have to trust and allow the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ in us to guide, teach, train and empower us to live righteous lives. Through the sequence of 'guide, teach, train and empower' we see Phil 2:13 being carried out! It's not by our might, nor by our power, but by the Holy Spirit.
Or, as Paul puts it in Titus Chapter 2, verses 11-12...
Tit 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,..