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 (Manna 3)
The Young, The Old, and The Church
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The young are important because they are the successors: like the runners in a relay race. The nation, society and family carry on from generation to generation and so does the church. Their faith then needs to be cultivated. They have to be given proper guidance and training in order to mould them into virtuous and useful Christians. This work, of course, must be carried out by the senior members of the church. Outside, their work is to evangelize, while inside, they must nurture the youths. The church regards both the young and the old as equally important. Both have their strongpoint and their weakpoints.

The Young

Their Strongpoints

Strength and Courage The young have ambition, zeal and strong determination. They are able to undergo hardship and to strive forward despite adverse circumstances. Daniel, for example, was taken to Babylon while still a youth. King Nebuchadnezzar treated him well and sent men to serve him the king’s meat. But Daniel resolutely decided not to eat the king’s meat, preferring to eat pulse and drink plain water only. When Darius succeeded the throne, he was unafraid, defied the king’s decree and continued to pray to God, facing Jerusalem three times a day (Dan 1:8; 6:10).

When David was still a youth, he went to the battle field to visit his brothers. When he heard Goliath, the Philistine giant, challenging the Israelites, he was indignant. He marched up to the front and killed the giant with just a small pebble (1 Sam 17:41-49).

Samuel and Jeremiah were both called of God to be prophets in their youth (I Sam 3: Jer 1:4-9). Timothy was a young evangelist (Acts 16:1-3; 1 Tim 4:12). The life of a prophet or an evangelist is hard and full of problems, but these people can handle them because they are strong and courageous.

Good Memory The memory of the young is good. They are impressionable, and if properly nurtured with the truth, they will grow deeper in their spiritual understanding. The Bible says; “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6). Although this verse speaks only of children, it applies to youths as well. If they are trained early to walk in the correct path of the truth, they shall remember it deeply even till they are old.

John said, “…. I have written to you young men, because you are strong and the word of God abideth in you, and you have overcome the wicked one” (1 in 2:4). Those youths having received the truth, were able to retain it in their hearts, and so they developed a kind of spiritual strength to overcome the wicked one — Satan.

Take Joseph for example. He left his home and was sold to Egypt when he was only seventeen. Later when his master’s wife tried to seduce him, he dared not do anything that would incur the anger of God (Gen 39). Probably he had learned of the word of God at home that he should fear God and that he has not forgotten.

Timothy was brought up by his grandmother and mother during his young days. Thus Timothy has unfeigned faith (2 Tim 1:5).

Health In executing the various aspects of the holy work of God, it is vital to have healthy strong bodies. Paul said, “… in all things approving ourselves as ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in strips, in imprisonments, in tumult, in labours, in watchings, in fastings ….” . Also “In journeyings often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils of mine own countrymen, …. in wariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness … “ (2 Cor 6:4-5; 11:26-27). These are the personal encounters of Paul. Only through faith and the grace of the Holy Spirit together with a healthy body can the divine task he accomplished. In the old days, Moses conscripted males of over twenty years to be soldiers and they formed the strong and dynamic Israelite army. They were victorious in battles. This brings out the fact that a strong physique is necessary in any form of work.

Their Weak points

Inexperience Their experiences in life are limited. Their perspective on humanity and the matters of the world are too narrow. Therefore they often suffer losses and can easily be defeated. When King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam went to Shechem. The Israelites and the sons of Nebat also went with Rehoboam to crown him king pleading only that he would alleviate some of their burdens and hardships. Rehoboam first sought the views of the elders and they advised him to give his answer with fair words. Rehoboam then asked the youths and they advised him to rule the people with harsh methods. Rehoboam rejected the elders’ advice and carried out the suggestions of the youths. Consequently, except for the tribe of Judah, all the eleven tribes rebelled against Rehoboam and set up Jeroboam as king instead (1 Kings 12:1-20). This disastrous folly was the result of inexperience; both of Rehoboam himself and his fresh aides.

Hastiness Youth tends to be overzealous and ambitious. In a fast-moving society, they expect quick results in their every venture. Yet, the Bible says; “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of men worketh not the righteousness of God” (Jas 1:19-20). Also, “He that is soon angered dealeth foolishly” (Prov 14:7). It is foolish to do anything while still emotionally upset. Moses while still in his early youth lived in the king’s palace. He went out one day to look at his brethren. When he saw an Egyptian bullying an Israelite, he was worked up and in a moment of fury, killed the Egyptian. Later, when the Pharoah heard of this matter, he wanted to kill Moses. So he fled to Midian and dwelt there (Ex 2:11-15).

When Solomon was old, he was seduced into idolatry by his many pagan wives. Therefore God divided his kingdom into two; giving only two tribes to his son Rehoboam, and the remaining to Jeroboam. At that time, the kingdom was continually harassed by the enemies from outside. Jeroboam did not wait for the right time and unwittingly rebelled against Solomon. His premature attempt met with a crushing defeat and he went on an exile to Egypt when Solomon wanted to kill him. (1 Kings 11:4-40) God has already pre-planned his rulership. Had he waited just a little while longer, he would not have had to flee in fear. His hastiness did not pay off. Neither did Moses’.

Non-perseverance The young are sometimes very bold having the valour to face all sorts of danger, but  they are not experienced enough to handle things. If they stumble upon unexpected obstacles, they are confused, surprised and even doubtful. Their enthusiasm will be dampened.

According to the ancient history of China, when the Western Hans attacked, the Ch’u enlisted youths into the Chinese army to fight against the Hans. At first the Ch’u army was extremely courageous. But the Hans cleverly contrived a plot. Suddenly in the midst of fighting, they sang loudly the Ch’u national folk songs. When the young Ch’u soldiers heard this, their fighting spirit diminished because they were homesick. They lost.

It is said that the mark of a general is not his courage but his strategy, and the strength of the army is not in numbers hut in skill. If the Ch’u soldiers were better trained, more experienced and better prepared, they would not have fallen into the Hans’ trap.

The Old

Their Strongpoints

Insight and Foresight When the elderly engage in business, they think deeply and are far-sighted, making careful and complete plans. The elders suggested to Rehohoam to give his answers in fair words. They have insight into the heart of men. Experience shows that it’s easier to win support and loyalty through virtue than through force. Unfortunately the king did not heed the elders’ advice. Consequently, the kingdom collapsed. This story elucidates the fact that the older people are wiser and have profound insight compared to the younger ones. These, tempered with their experience make their advice worth following.

Calmness The king of Syria once sent out chariots and calvaries to Dothan and they hastened there by night surrounding the city desiring to capture Elisha. When Elisha’s servant woke up the following morning and saw this, he was stunned and frightened. He told Elisha. Elisha comforted him saying, “Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that are with them”. Elisha was not excited or worried, he was calm and collected. He believed deeply that God would be with them, and that they would not be taken by the enemy. And sure enough, Elisha and the Israelites suffered no harm from the armies of Syria.

In the annals of Chinese history, during the late Han Dynasty, a certain Mah Lun failed to guard the post and the great army of Tze Mah Yi took the opportunity to attack that city where Kung Ming was living. At that time there were no guards in the city and the situation was tense and very dangerous. But Kung Ming retained his compo­sure, undaunted by this change of circumstances, he casually commanded his men to open the gate of the city wide, while he played the harp as though nothing unusual was going on. The attacking army saw this and thought that it was part of a military ploy. They were afraid to enter the city. Thus the crisis passed and peace was restored.

Discernment The elderly people have plodded more deeply into the world. With the length of years behind them, their experiences abound and so their views and actions are usually proper and suitable. They are able to distinguish right from wrong and will not jump to conclusions. Once the Priests and the Pharisees sent their officers to arrest Jesus in order to convict him. They accused the Lord of being a fraud and a blasphemous sinner. But Nicodemus being very dissatisfied with their rough treatment, protested saying; “Does our law judge a man, without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” (Jn 7:50-51).

Their Weak points

Stubbornness and Prejudice Some elderly people assert that they have lived more years, their experiences are wider and deeper; and therefore their methods of operation are always better. They maintain their own ideas under all circumstances, not at all willing to take on the suggestions of youths or even to consider them. But the Bible says: “.... without favour, doing nothing from partiality” (1 Tim 5:21).

Self-glorification The older people find it irresistible not to glorify themselves over past achieve­ments which admittably give pleasant reminiscence. Yet it is equally true that the social world is in a constant state of flux and is continuously progressing. The youths of today have received modern education; fresh knowledge which should be utilised. If the seniors were to be unyielding, a whole lot of young bright talents in the church would be wasted. Therefore the older ones should not be self-conceited.

Senility An old adage says that once the moon passes the fifteenth of the Lunar Month, its brightness decreases; men who have passed their middle age will gradually rest from everything. There is some truth in this saying. When a man passes the middle age, his mental and physical prowess, gradually languish. As a result their ability to work also slackens, unless God specially wants to make use of this person. In that case, he would be given extra health and physical strength. Like Moses, who after attaining the age of eighty, became the leader of the Israelites and led them out of Egypt. When Caleb was eighty-five years old, he was still able to win wars driving out the other inhabitants of Canaan (Acts 7:22-30; Josh 14:6-15). For most people who have passed the middle age, they will grow weary although they may sometimes wish to use more of their strength to do more work.


The Church

Both the young and the old are members of the church — the various parts of Christ’s body. Although they have their own strong points and their own weakpoints, when the former is accentuated and the latter eradicated wherever possible, when they freely exchange views and suggestions and work together harmoniously, it will not be difficult to enlarge the perfect body of Christ — the church. Even if prominence is given to the youths, the older workers must not fade from the scene. The divine work must he coordinated so that the old and the young have one mind in sharing and working diligently for the faith of the gospel and to pass it down generation after generation until the Lord comes again.

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