Updated: Dec 5, 2022
Imagine two photos, one of a little chubby boy in child’s clothing, with a round face and forked natural and smooth cheeks and brownish lips, and another of an old man, with blood-shot eyes, and thin gray hair, and wrinkled cheeks, and a hunched over back.
The difference between the two photos is but the symbol of the stark differences that separate the two men, which is that the one man is, self-reliant, self-willed, hopeful, and life ahead of him, and the other man is weary, feeble, broken, and old. And that is what you, young man, will become, if you live long enough, as sure as I am speaking to you, and you are listening to me. Given enough days of living, everyone once young, becomes old.
Now, what in the view of both these realities is wise for me to do?
Self-will will be wonderfully broken, for there are far stronger forces that determine a man’s life than his own wishes and will. We are like swimmers in the surf of the Pacific Ocean, powerless against the battering of the wave which pitches us, for all our science, and for all our muscle, where it will. Call it environment, call it fate, call it circumstances, call it providence, call it God-there is something outside of us bigger than we are, and the man who begins life, thinking ‘I will do this or 'I will d that', this I command, let my determination stand instead of all other reason’; has to say at last, ‘I could not do what I wanted. I had to be content to do what I could.’ OUCH.
‘When you are young, you go where you want to go.’ That is another characteristic of youth, after it has got beyond the schoolboy stage. Your own will (attitude) tends to become your guide. For one thing, at your time of life, most other internal guides are comparatively weak. You have but little experience. Most of you have not cultivated largely the habit of patient reflection, and thinking twice before you act once.
But what will become of me if I continue to live according to my own appetite?
There's a quote by Vincent Sculley that seems like it speaks to how we travel from young to old, it says, "One entered the city like a god. One now scuttles like a rat." I wish no young man (or woman) to begin life as King or Queen only to end life as a rat. OUCH. In other words, it's very possible to begin life with hopes, dreams, goals, ambition and successes, yet if not watchful, choices and decisions --in the end--, causes one to live as a rat; brokenhearted, jailed, addicted, a body worn out or like once a tall building now torn down, to rubble.
All the bright visions that dance before your youthful mind will fade away. We begin by thinking that we are going to build temples of fame and fortune or ‘high rises that reach to heaven,’ and when we get into middle age we have to say to ourselves: ‘Well! I have scarcely material enough to carry out the large design that I had. I think that I will content myself with building a little shack, that I may live in, and perhaps it will keep the weather off me.’ Hopes diminish; dreams vanish; limited realities take their place, and we are willing to hold out our hands and let some one else take the responsibilities that we were so eager to lay upon ourselves at the start. Strength will fade away. ‘Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fail.’ Physical weariness, weakness, the longing for rest, the consciousness of ever-narrowed and narrowing powers, will come to you, and if you grow up to be old men, which it is probable that many of you will do, you will have to sit and watch the tide of your life ebb, ebb, ebbing away moment by moment.
So, what's the wise move? Where should my appetite REALLY be about?
Bow passion to reason, reason to conscience, conscience to God-and then, be as strong in the will and as stiff in the neck as ever you choose; but only then.
He said unto him, Follow Me.’ What do we mean by following Christ? We mean submission to His authority. ‘Follow Me’ as Captain, Commander, absolute Lawgiver, and Lord. We mean imitation of His example. These two words include all human duty and promise to every man perfection if he obeys. ‘Follow Me’-it is enough, more than enough, to make a man complete and blessed. We mean choosing and keeping close to Him, as Companion as well as Leader and Lord. No man or woman will ever be solitary, though friends may go, and associates may change, and companions may leave them, and life may become empty and dreary as far as human sympathy is concerned-no man or woman will ever be solitary if stepping in Christ’s footsteps, close at His heels, and realizing His presence.
But you cannot follow Him, and He has no right to tell you to follow Him, unless He is something more and other to you than Example, and Commander, and Companion. What business has Jesus Christ to demand that a man should go after Him to the death? Only this business, that He has gone to the death for the man. You must follow Christ first, my young brotha' or sistah by coming to Him as a sinful creature (yeah, that's right), and finding your whole salvation and all your hope in humble reliance on the merit of His death. Then you may follow Him in obedience, and imitation, and glad communion.
That being understood, I would press upon you this thought, that such a following of Jesus Christ will preserve for you all that is blessed in the characteristics of your youth and will prevent them from becoming evil. He will give you a basis for your hopes and fulfil your most sanguine (optimistic, hopeful ) dreams, if these are based on His promises, and their realization sought in the path of His feet. As Isaiah prophesies, ‘the mirage shall become a pool.’ That which else is an illusion, dancing ahead and deceiving thirsty travelers into the belief that sand is water, shall become to you really ‘pools of water,’ if your hopes are fixed on Jesus Christ. If you follow Him, your strength will not ebb away with shrunken tissue and enfeebled muscles.
If you trust Christ, your self-will will be elevated by submission, and become strong to control your rebellious nature, because it is humble to submit to His supreme command. And if you trust and follow Jesus Christ, your hope will be buoyant, and bright, and blessed, and prolong its buoyancy, and brightness, and blessedness into ‘old age, when others fade.’
If you will follow Christ your old age will, if you reach it, be saved from the bitterest pangs that afflict the aged and will be brightened by future possibilities. There will be no need for lingering laments over past blessings, no need for shrinking reluctance to take the inevitable step. An old age of peaceful, serene brightness caught from the nearer gleam of the approaching heaven, and quiet as the evenings in the late autumn, not without a touch of frost, perhaps, but yet kindly and fruitful, may be ours. And instead of shrinking from the end, if we follow Jesus, we shall put our hands quietly and trustfully into His, as a little child does into its mother’s soft, warm palm, and shall not ask whither He leads, assured that since it is He who leads we shall be led aright.
Dear young friends! ‘Follow Me!’ is Christ’s merciful invitation to you. You will never again be so likely to obey it as you are when you are young. You need Him to keep you in the slippery ways of youth. You could not go into some of those haunts (troubles), where some of you have been tempted, if you thought to yourselves, ‘Am I following Jesus as I cross this wicked threshold?’ You may never have another message of mercy brought to your ears. If you do become a religious man in later life, you will be laying up for yourselves seeds of remorse and sorrow, and in some cases memories of pollution and filth, that will trouble you all your days. ‘To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.’