Every day, news reports about tragedies, wars, and other shocking developments shake us to the core. Politics are increasingly volatile, violence seems rampant, cultural norms are tough to figure out, and even our faith systems appear to be fraying at the seams. Morality is portrayed as subjective, suggesting that following Jesus is a drag-and-drop customizable lifestyle choice.
The idea of living under any kind of kingdom is a foreign concept for the average teenager (and for us!). When authority figures reveal themselves to be all too human, it becomes extra-challenging to grasp what it means to serve a God who’s King, Lord, and friend. Understanding what a practical life under Christ’s reign looks like can seem confusing and even impossible.
Submitting our lives to Jesus brings freedom and peace. So in times of chaos or uncertainty, it’s essential to equip young people to know the difference between serving the priorities of God’s kingdom and serving priorities of the world.
For starters, challenge them with these three kingdom questions:
Who has my heart?
To determine whether we serve the kingdom-of-God priorities of Jesus, first we must check if he has our heart. Many other things compete for our love, devotion, and attention. Our heart’s priorities impact every aspect of our day-to-day lives, including our decision-making. If we view God as a distant, cruel ruler, then we’ll approach our relationship with him as requirement-based. This can foster rebellion, leading us to do what we want to do. But when Jesus truly has our heart, it’s much simpler to let him actually be Lord.
What are my motives?
In other words, “Why am I doing what I’m doing?” Our motives represent the “why” that dictates our decisions. If we begin by checking our bedrock motivations, we can more readily determine the source of our actions. That, in turn, helps us evaluate our struggles and discover whether we’re making excuses for our choices.
How do I make choices?
From what we eat to what we listen to, we must consider how we decide. Do we pass every decision through a filter of what we want, when we want it—or do we know when and how to ask Jesus what to do? Do we even contemplate asking Jesus what to do?
In 1961, coach Vince Lombardi gave a famous back-to-the-basics speech to a Green Bay Packers team that would later dominate professional football. “Gentlemen,” he said, “this is a football.” After showing players the field, the out-of-bounds lines, and the end zones, he explained the game’s basic rules. That challenge to a bunch of seasoned professionals is a leadership example of what it means to return to the fundamentals. In our day-to-day interactions with the world, we can become weighed down and overwhelmed. Yet life becomes far less complicated when we focus on the basics—the Christian life is really a willful submission to the guidance and value system of our one true King. Once we give ourselves to Jesus, in trusting obedience, our way forward becomes more clear.
In a generation marked by stress and anxiety, kingdom-of-God living brings peace..