If you are a parent, this series of lessons is especially for you. However, if you're not a parent, there will still be worthwhile principles for you to consider.
Let's begin by allowing Solomon to address our young people. He wrote in Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:1 - "Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh, for childhood and youth are vanity. Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, 'I have no pleasure in them.'"
Youth is undeniably a special time of joy & delight. Solomon advises young people to follow their hearts but also urges them not to forget that God will judge them. In other words, pursue happiness and pleasure, but do not do so in an unrestrained manner. Young people who are filled with wisdom will rejoice in the strength and vitality of their age. They will remove sorrow and evil from their lives, and they will do well to remember and serve God faithfully all their days.
There are several excellent reasons for remembering God in our youth. First, there is no promise of tomorrow. Such is the case even for those who are strong & healthy. Death is no respecter of persons. Second, one is more likely to obey God when young and before becoming deeply entrenched in one's ways (i.e., habits, vices, & worldview). Third, it is a great blessing to have one's entire life to devote to serving God instead of merely one's last days.
Unfortunately, most youth are going to grow up and be lost. We know this to be the case because of what Jesus revealed in Matthew 7:13,14 - "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." Few find the way to eternal life. Statistics vary on this subject, but some have estimated that 75% (or more) of American young people leave their religious upbringing as adults. This number may be slightly lower in the church of Christ, but it is still a very high number. Although we rightly assume that parents who don't serve God will generally raise children who, as adults, don't serve God, it is sadly the case that parents who self-identify as "Christians" often also raise children who, as adults, don't serve God. But what is the cause of this disturbing truth?
Many reasons could be cited, but fundamentally I believe much of the cause can be pinned to cultural influences combined with a lack of proper teaching. With the rise of media and the use of technological devices in the lives of our youth, the power of cultural influences is stronger than ever. TV, movies, video games, music, social media, internet, texting, etc., all influence our youth to think and behave in certain ways, and often these ways are ungodly. Even children brought up in religious homes often spend dozens of hours weekly with other children who aren't being raised to love God or His word. Their attitudes and actions can have a strong leavening influence. I believe that cultural influences can be minimized with proper teaching. I'm not talking about having good teachers at school or in Bible class; those are beneficial but cannot possibly overcome cultural influences alone. By "proper teaching" I am referring to the foundational role Christian parents must play in teaching their children daily. Daily, Stephen? Yes, every day parents must combat negative cultural influences and instill positive values from God's word. It is not enough to keep your children well fed and clothed and take them to church weekly. That is a naive recipe that will typically lead to failure! You must invest rigorously of your time, your energy, & your passion into your child's life so you can be positioned to teach them what is really important and show them how to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. You must stay well-connected to them daily so they trust you and look to you for guidance. Such is not easy but it is not impossible, either.
We will continue this study in our next lesson.