Today’s post is another (like the wildly popular one on singleness) that doesn’t exclusively apply to women. But in thinking about what to include in 31 Days of Women Empowering Women, it seemed like a good fit to share something that would (I hope) be empowering for my younger sisters in their own personal growth. These twelve points were originally my preaching notes from a sermon I gave to a group of young adults about six years ago. I had just celebrated my 30th birthday, and the message was born out of reflecting back on all I had learned during my Adventuring Twenties (which I loved!). I’ll run the post in two parts – you can read part two here.
She found me after the service and tugged on my cardigan. “I’ve always wanted to study Mandarin,” she confessed, sheepishly. “Do you think that’s strange?”
I smiled at her warmly and rested my hand on her shoulder. “No. I actually think it’s perfect,” I shot back with a wink.
“Your message gave me courage and I think it might be time for me to just do it,” she concluded.
I wonder how many young twenty-somethings sit in our pews like this sweet girl – full of hopes and interests and dreams and yet unsure how to put them all together and start living the grown-up life they think they see around them.
It’s like they’re waiting for permission to do what’s already on their heart. They’re waiting for permission to start living out their destiny.
My hard drive is full of teaching notes and sermons and lectures that I’ve prepared and delivered throughout the last fifteen years, mostly to young people in search of God and meaning and identity and calling. I came across this one the other day and I immediately remembered the young college-aged girl with a Mandarin dream who approached me after the service with tears in her eyes and a burning question on her heart.
Maybe like her you also need encouragement for where you’re at. This one’s for the young-uns, our twenty-something friends.
Here are twelve essentials for your twenties that will help you life your best life and set a good foundation for your future:
1. Discover God.
Don’t get overly wrapped up in doctrine as you question and seek; zero in on learning (and internalizing) who God says He is. We spend so much time listening to what other people say about him, but what we really need to learn is what he says about himself. (Start with Ex 34:6-7a.) Get familiar with his word and his voice. And if you’ve not learned how to recognize his voice yet, make listening your mission. Knowing his voice will change your life and everything about it in the best possible way. As we better understand his nature, character, and ways, we can more accurately discover how he is revealed around us, what his stance may be on particular issues, and how he wants to relate to us. But all of that needs to be discovered through an accurate filter of who he is.
2. Discover identity.
When you know you are somebody, you will quit wasting time trying to be somebody. “You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ” (Col 3:3). I like to think of this as me in a Jesus suit – like a space suit. I’m still completely me, but surrounding me is Jesus – the one who helps me to not only survive the elements, but thrive (“live, move, and have my being”). Discovering your identity has to do with identifying the false guises that you have lived under (or have been labeled) and seeking to find what God thinks about you. Knowing him (see above!) will help you to know yourself. And then knowing yourself will help you with #3, which is…
3. Discover calling.
Get into the Word and see what God has already said about our role as Christians on the earth. Corporate calling (why do we exist? what are we here for?) is more important than individual calling. Why? Because when you have a grip on the big picture, it becomes easy to use that as a filter for the smaller picture of your personal life. You simply use how God’s wired you (gifts, skills, personality, experiences) to further the big picture. The reality is that anything you do with your life can be used for God’s glory if your heart is in the right place. There is no “sacred” and “secular” when it comes to serving God; we are all a part of a “royal priesthood” (1 Pet 2:9) whose job it is to offer worship, connect people to God, and connect God to people. He needs pastors and plumbers that are working wholeheartedly on behalf of others.
4. Develop character.
Character development is a life-long process, but during young adulthood your character is being formed in a way that can set the tone for the rest of your life. Take the time to let your heart (and thoughts, words, and deeds) be shaped. It will open up doors for you; it will lead you into knowing your personal gifts and how to follow “the call” on your life; it will define your relationships; and it will become your greatest gift to offer others. King David spent long years herding sheep and slinging stones and dodging spears in obscurity, even after he had been anointed as king. But it was the shaping of his heart during those years that would set him up to be an incredible leader when the time came to walk into his most famous of roles – the most celebrated king in Israel’s history and a man known as being “after God’s own heart”.
5. Develop discipline.
Spiritual disciplines are a tool to help you access God. He is never inaccessible to us, but sometimes we struggle with getting over ourselves enough to access him. Spiritual disciplines aren’t meant to make us better people (although they will), they are meant to help us to connect with God. In other words, they are a means to connection, not an end in itself. For an example of how not to do this, just check out the New Testament Pharisees. (If you’d like to explore this topic in depth I highly recommend “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster. It’s a modern day classic that should be on every Christian young person’s shelf.)
6. Develop your values.
Determine early on what matters most to you, write it down, and live by it. Look at Jesus’ life as an example, look at other godly people you trust, but most of all, take time before the Lord to really think these through for yourself. More than goals (which are always time-specific), your values (which are timeless) will guide you through major life decisions. Knowing God’s character (#1), knowing your identity (#2), and knowing your values (#6) are perhaps the three most important filters for your life when it comes to seeking God for direction or finding wisdom in decision-making.
#7-12 will be continued in part 2 tomorrow…
Dear friends, tomorrow I will post part 2 of 12 Essentials for Your Twenties – focusing on “become” and “be”. If you want a preview of what else I’ll be writing about, just check out the image above. 🙂 I hope you’ll come back and read the rest! In the meantime, if you are in your twenties, do any of these resonate with you? What do you hope most to get out of this decade? And if you are past your twenties, what life lessons would you pass down to your younger self?
- “Why are you still single?” (A single woman’s perspective on the dreaded question.)
- Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor.