“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them,” character Andy Bernard quoted in the series finale of The Office.
What makes a statement like this resonate with us? Do we believe things and people were better in the past?
There are memes generated about how things were better “when I was a kid,” or before this politician, before the smartphone, or before that law was put into place. The focus is often directed at the current generation and their lack of drive, ambition, or whatever else older generations might find irritating, confusing, or offensive. It could be said that teenagers worked harder, studied longer, had more genuine relationships, and were more interested in church back then than they are now. What if some of that is true? I’ve been challenged to explore my role, as a parent and youth pastor, in what needs to be different.
What if we’re to make the best of where we are now if these are the good old days? What if we are to make the days profitable for God’s glory instead of avoiding the present by reminiscing?
A cursory reading of Ecclesiastes will bring most to a moment of contemplation. Solomon urges the reader to look at what he has done in life and not follow his example. He chased after everything the world had to offer; achieving greatness beyond imagination and beyond what many others have accomplished. But, he counted it all worthless. Hard to imagine someone in his position in life would ever think this way. Solomon’s annual income was about half a billion dollars a year. He owned 40,000 horses, around 1,400 chariots, and he built up a navy for Israel. He had world leaders seeking him for advice and wisdom. Solomon had it all, but even he admits it’s all for nothing.
Solomon ends Ecclesiastes on a more positive note. He encourages his reader to make the most of our younger days. Solomon even gives direction in this endeavor. He says in 12:1, we are to remember and walk with God while we’re young. Pursue a relationship with the only One who matters. It’s going to get bleak and dreary and difficult times will come. We will look back and miss the good old days. However, if our focus is on God, we still have a purpose and know better times are on the horizon.
Paul echoes this mentality in Ephesians 5. In chapters 4 and 5, Paul urges the church to live a life worthy of the call of Christ (4:1). He goes on to describe what this looks like, giving several examples from 4:11 through 5:14. Paul challenges us to make the “best use of time” in the next few verses (15-21). Utilizing what we have while we have it, not being foolish but choosing to pursue wisdom.
When it comes to our time with students, how are we encouraging them to spend their time? Are we challenging them to spend each day focused on what’s truly important? Do they see us living this out in our lives? What if they experience the good old days as now… each day an opportunity to do something great for God? We have a responsibility to live this truth out before our youth. May we be faithful to this sacred the calling, challenging the next generations to do the same.
Jon has been a youth pastor for 20 years. When he graduated from Moody Bible Institute, Aerosmith and Shania Twain were at the top of the charts. Times have changed, but his passion for teaching the Bible to students, developing youth leaders, and supporting parents continue to grow. Jon finds great excitement challenging teenagers to see the Bible as living and active, an integral part of their daily lives. He loves coming alongside teenagers as they seek to know Christ in new ways. He’s served in Pennsylvania and New York. He now resides and serves in central Kansas with his wife, two children, two goofy dogs, and two neurotic cats.