It seems increasingly important to ramp up efforts to equip kids/youth to be spiritually strong, so we adults need to reevaluate our confidence in our own spiritual foundation. That includes knowing the evidence for what we believe and having the ability to explain it to others. We must shore up any weaknesses there—and help kids/youth do the same. Then we’re ready for the next phase.
The handout called “They Want Our Kids” (also discussed in this other post), included what we are calling Jeremiah’s 4S Strategy. It’s taken from the Lord’s challenge to the young prophet who would be delivering strong messages to people who didn’t want to hear them! (Remember, Jeremiah would face ridicule, assault, murderous threats, and total frustration!)
The Lord said: “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.” (Jeremiah 1:17)
Suit up. The old King James Version translates the “Get yourself ready!” as “Gird your loins.” In ancient times this related to the reconfiguring of a man’s tunic in order to give him mobility for battle or hard work. The man would tie up his long robe so it fit more like shorts. We today think of preparing for battle in terms of weapons. And so: “Suit up.” For the Christian that would involve putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6). Make sure kids know that the Lord’s armor isn’t “magic” in the fairytale sense. (One kid mistakenly believed he could go see a bad movie and it wouldn’t matter, that he’d be protected because he was wearing the armor. He didn’t understand that if you’re disobeying God, you’ve removed the armor.) The armor is real and is for the Lord’s real soldiers—those who are aiming to stay on his path, walk his way, follow his orders.
Stand up. If the person is suited up and ready, why the need to be told to stand up? But don’t we tend to feel intimidated and want to back down as the battle becomes more immediate, more a reality?
Speak up. When the culture is (or feels) hostile to us believers, you hear God’s people make comments like, “That guy was so wrong, so in the dark, but … well, you can’t say anything.” Really? Why not? Do we mean that people won’t listen anyway? Yes, that’s true sometimes. It was true for Jeremiah most of the time! (See Jeremiah 1:19; 7:27; and elsewhere.) Now Jeremiah as the Lord’s prophet isn’t exactly the same as our position as the Lord’s witnesses today, sure. But we still are to speak truth for the Lord. Doesn’t our hesitation to speak up tend to be more about not wanting to be on the receiving end of backlash, criticism, name-calling, or violence? And aren’t we sometimes concerned that we won’t have an answer in the face of a tough question?
Remember when Elijah asked the people to make up their minds—were they going to follow the Lord or Baal? The crowd “said nothing.” (1 Kings 18:21) These were supposed to be God’s people! Should we not testify for/about the Lord whenever we can? And doesn’t one person’s speaking up sometimes embolden others who agree but have been hesitant? The problem is fear most of the time, isn’t it? And that leads to the last directive.
Stay up. I’ve described “Do not be terrified by them” as “Stay up.” The verse indicates that God would allow the enemy to use Jeremiah’s own fear against him. The old commentary by James Smith says, “[Jeremiah] must not permit himself to break down before his audience nor show any signs of fear nor let his fear cause him to alter his message. … One moment of weakness will finish him as God’s messenger.” (p 141) The Bible repeatedly conveys that the Lord wants us to obey his commands and … and what? Not be afraid. (Ex: Exodus 20:20; Joshua 1:6-9; 2 Chronicles 32:7, 8; Psalm 27:1-5; John 14:15, 27; Hebrews 10:39; Revelation 2:10)
When our lives hit a bump, it sure feels as if we’re enduring pretty tough times. Jeremiah might see us as wimpy, given what he was up against. We need to prepare (and prepare young people) for super tough times, even while hoping the tough times aren’t coming. Consider Jeremiah 12:5, where the Lord essentially told Jeremiah, “If you can’t even manage the average enemy, what are you gonna do when a fully equipped enemy shows up?” (my paraphrase).
Suit up. Stand up. Speak up. Stay up.