When you get old, like me, you tend to look back and think, “I wish I knew then, what I know now.” For that purpose, this article is a letter from me, Jonathon Kamps, at 44 years old to my younger self at the age of 16. Who better to write a letter of advice to Jonathon as a young person than the one who knows him then and now? Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that everything that happened in those 28 years was the providence of God, so this letter is more of a “hypothetical, if you could do it again” letter. Here goes…
You are just heading into Covenant Christian High School, and if I remember correctly you are clueless, howbeit, very excited to be out of grade school and wishing you were completely done with school.
I want you to know that I am not going to try to change who you are. God made you. He does not make mistakes, and he created you as his workmanship for this time in history. Who am I to try and change you? However, the old adage is true, “Hindsight is 20/20.” Looking back, I am going to try to help you do a better job of walking as one of God’s children.
Knowing you, you are a carefree kind of kid that loves to have fun. This is not necessarily wrong. The Bible is clear that we are not to worry, but instead we are called to enjoy the life of service to God we have been given. But it is also one of God’s commands to be a good steward of everything he has given us to use. This is really the point of this whole letter.
Now that I am a father, I can see in my own six children that being a young man of your age comes with temptations. Not just temptations to live like the world. For example, filling your eyes and soul as you watch the world sin. This was primarily done with movies and television when I was your age. Now access to the world is so much easier. With the phones of today, everything there is in the world is at your fingertips. The Bible is clear that we are to “put no evil thing” before our eyes. Have you obeyed this command today? I could go on for a long time talking about the temptations of today, but what I really want to alert you to is the internal temptations that you do not even realize are happening.
A temptation of youth is selfishness. It comes very easy to you. I state it this way because I know that you do try not to be selfish, but you have an old man of sin, and because of this you are the most important one in your life. I will give you an example to try to explain what I mean. When you woke up this morning, think about what came into your mind. If I remember correctly, you thought about what you were going to do, what you were going to eat, what you were going to wear, what you were going to do for fun. Corny, again, there is nothing wrong with these things, but did you ever think about anyone else? And this self-centeredness happens within the first minutes of waking up! You have not even looked at all the important stuff on your phone yet.
Being on your phone can make your self-centeredness even easier. This age in your life makes it easy to forget about everyone around you. You have many new things, like being able to leave the home by yourself because you can drive now, being able to date if your parents approve, being able to buy things on your own. Thinking about these things can consume all of your attention so that you never think of others. This is not being a good, godly steward.
When we think of being a steward, most of the time we think of the money the Lord has given to us, but what about all the other gifts he gives, like our time and our abilities? We are called to use all things to the glory of God, not just our money. The Lord is not glorified by selfishness. When you wake up tomorrow morning, think about how your mother has prepared your breakfast and washed and ironed your clothes. Think about how your father has made it possible for you to have a car and has fed you since you were born. And those are still only a couple of things that they have done for you. What about all the things that your parents and the others in your life do for your church family and the others the Lord has put in their path? Think of the countless hours your mother has spent serving others at school, your father has served others on the council at church or school board. Open your eyes to how you can become that “good and faithful steward” that the Holy Spirit speaks of in Matthew 25:21: “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
I am starting to sound like Dad right now, aren’t I? Well, that is because he loves us. And I love the godly young people that may be reading this.
I should wrap up because I also know that your attention span isn’t that great. But before I go, I would like to leave you with a few things as advice. First, the worldly people around us would say that confidence and humility do not go together. But in God’s word we find his instruction to us saying that we must go ahead confidently, in “his strength.” If we are walking humbly, we will not go forward selfishly. So work on walking humbly. If you can figure out humility, the rest will fall in line.
Secondly, it seems that everyone in high school always wants to be cool. Well, let me tell you one thing that I remember from the kids we went to high school with: the kids that were actually cool, and not just thought they were, were always kind.
Finally, remember that little sign that Ma gave to us with the Abraham Lincoln quote: “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Go have fun, kid! But do it by serving others humbly for the glory of our God.
P.S. Corny was my nickname. J
*Jonathon Kamps attends Hope PRC in Walker, Michigan