Recently I was asked to write a letter to a young man on the occasion of his 13th birthday. The father asked a number of men to offer advice, counsel, and wisdom that his son could use as he navigated through the challenging teenage years. After considering the matter I felt that I should address the topic of Christian courage. Here is what I wrote: It is my joy to join with many others in congratulating you on reaching your 13th birthday. This is a significant milestone in a young man’s life. In biblical times the 13th birthday marked the threshold when a boy became a man. Even today the Jews recognize this event with a Bar Mitzvah, meaning “Son of the Covenant.” It is a sign that you have reached the age when you are truly an heir to the promises of God.
In the years to come you will face many challenges. We live in a world where Christian values are in increasingly short supply. Over 50 years ago the Quaker philosopher Elton Trueblood commented that America was a “cut-flower” society. He meant that even though we have been given a great heritage, by our own disobedience we have cut ourselves off from the past. If that was true in the days after World War II (and I think it was), I wonder what he would say today?
That may sound a bit pessimistic to share with a young man on such a fine occasion as this. But in my heart I am not pessimistic at all. I believe God is raising up a new generation of young men and women “for such a time as this.” These young people are learning to be bold in the face of pressure. Like Cassie Bernall, they have decided to say “Yes” even at the risk of their own lives. They truly want to know, “What would Jesus do?” As I look to the future I believe your generation, your friends, the young men and women of your acquaintance, they will be called upon by God to be bold for Christ. And I believe they will answer the call.
Where does this kind of courage come from? Certainly it rests in a bedrock faith in God. It also comes from knowing what you believe and why you believe it. In the exciting teenage years that stretch just in front of you, you will face many moments when you will have a chance to either stand up for what you believe or you can choose to remain silent. Go ahead and speak up when those moments come. Don’t be afraid to be counted a fool for Christ if that should be necessary.
May God fill you with courage to be bold, and in your boldness may He give you great joy. Congratulations once again. And Happy Birthday!