Dear Christ Following High School Student
As you follow and trust in the Jesus of the Bible during your high school years, here are 8 encouragements I have for you. I have more (ask my kids), but for the sake of this blog post, here are 8.
Grow in your knowledge and understanding of who Jesus is
Read Colossians 1:9-14, Ephesians 1:15-19, Ephesians 3:14-21. Three great prayers found in the Word, to pray back to the Lord. Don’t settle for a second hand knowledge of who Jesus is, or only a knowledge that is passed down from others. Be consistent in your reading of and reflecting on the living and active Word of God, because that is how we grow in our knowledge of Jesus, and thus “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work” (Colossians 1:10). You have a Father in Heaven who wants to speak to you, His son or daughter, through His Word. To follow Jesus begins first with your heart and mind being transformed, which then leads to outward life change (words, actions, attitudes, relationships). John 17:17 tells us that the Word is truth and it sanctifies us. Meaning, it changes us and makes us more like Christ. Be a student who delights in, and does not neglect the Word (Psalm 119:16).
Disconnect from distractions for solitude with the Lord
Mark 1:35 tell us, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Jesus faced distractions just like you do. While He did not have a smartphone (if He had, He’d be the best follow), He did have demands pressing in on Him. But even so, His rhythm of life would not be determined by something external (crowds, disciples, crisis, etc.). He instead, withdrew on a consistent basis. I’d challenge you to disconnect and disengage for a set period of time, every day, so you might pray and be with the Lord. Technology lures us into FOMO (fear of missing out), but in the end, if we’re not engaged in regular solitude with the Lord, we’re ultimately missing out.
Walk in the light with those who are over you in Biblical authority
The Lord, in His goodness, love, and wisdom, has given to you people who love the Lord, who have walked with Him for longer than you have, and who are in a place of loving authority over you. People such as your parent(s) and/or your pastor(s). If your parent(s) are Christ followers, they’ve been charged by the Lord to help teach, train, and prepare you to follow the Lord not only at your age, but after you leave their home. Your pastor(s) have been charged by the Lord to shepherd your heart and care for your soul. Those Godly people in authority over you, want God’s best for your life. They want to see you flourish in your faith, to avoid the traps of sin, and enjoy the abundant life (John 10:10) that Jesus has given to us. To walk in the light (1 John 1:7) means you are living a transparent, authentic, and honest life before the Lord, but also before those who have been entrusted with your hearts. As you walk in the light, you experience a deep fellowship, full of grace and truth, with those who are over you, and they are better equipped and able to pray for and shepherd your heart.
Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things
Colossians 3:1-3 tells us, “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Nearly everything and everyone around you, and your own flesh, tells you to live just for the moment and to make sure you’re pleased. In Colossians 3, Paul reminds us of our identity in Christ, and from that identity, we now live with a heavenly or eternal perspective, not an earthly one. Let’s be honest, that’s hard to do as a teenager, but it is not impossible. In the rest of Colossians 3 (you should read it), Paul gives some practical application to what this looks like in our lives. He says there are things we put to death, and things we put on instead. Ask the Lord, to enable you to daily live, fixing your eyes on Jesus and setting your mind on things above.
Serve the Lord and people
This is not something you do later after you graduate. But rather this is just what Christ followers do, no matter their age. 1 Peter 4:10 tells us, “Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God.” He says, ‘each one’. Not ‘each one, above the age of 18’. Within your local church, you need to find a way to be an active part of the Body. Begin to serve and engage in the ministry and mission of the church. Galatians 5:13-14 reminds us that we’ve been set free, not so that we can serve our flesh and selves, but so that we can serve and love one another.
Flee the temptations of youth and pursue the things of the Lord
2 Timothy 2:22 tells us, “Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” The temptations you face are many. And while the nuances of those may change with the generations, the roots of them remain the same. Things such as idolatry, pride, sexual immorality, anger, gossip, filthy language, etc. are as old as Genesis 3. I love the encouragement of 2 Timothy 2:22 though. Not only are we commanded to flee, but we’re commanded to pursue Godly things. The Christ following life is not just about putting to death, fleeing, stopping, or avoiding, it is about putting on, pursuing, starting, and engaging in the things that lead to life, joy and delight. And notice that we’re are called to flee and pursue, along with those who call on the Lord. Which leads to the next encouragement…
Walk in ‘one another’ community with fellow believers
It is not always easy to follow Jesus during the high school years. In fact, it is really hard sometimes. And yet, James 1 promises to us that in the midst of trials and tests, the Lord is at work, growing us in endurance, maturity, and joy. So knowing that it is sometimes difficult to follow Jesus, it is absolutely silly (foolish in fact) to think that we can do it alone in isolation. The Lord has called us to follow Him, alongside fellow believers. In doing so, we are able to fulfill the New Testament commands of love, encourage, spur on, build up, forgive, pray for (and many others) one another. Don’t walk the narrow road alone. You need others, and they need you. That is God’s design. See Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
Be a missionary to those around you
I didn’t come to faith in Christ until midway through my junior year in high school. The Lord primarily used Christ following friends around me, to bring me to faith. They were missionaries to my life. I remember thinking, prior to my conversion, how curious their way of life was. While I was an outwardly moral kid, I still saw differences in them. They were not perfect by any stretch, and didn’t pretend to be. But their actions and words were a testimony that reflected the inner working of the Spirit inside of them. Looking back, many years later, my heart wells up in gratitude for their willingness to stand out, swim upstream, invite me into Christian events, and engage with me in faith conversations. Understand that nothing around you is by accident. The team(s) or activities you’re involved in. The people you cross paths with. The teachers and staff around you. The family members you live with. Just like the Father sent the Son, you’ve been sent (John 20:19-23). And He is with you (Matthew 28:18-20) and the Spirit is in you (Acts 1:8). Live ‘sent lives’ wherever you go.