The Bible clearly teaches that a young believer should learn from those who have been in the faith for a long time. Many older believers have a deeper understanding of God’s Word. Young believers, not knowing what the Scriptures say, will often make poor decisions. They do unwise things and need time to grow and learn. That is one of the reasons God has placed teachers in the church (Heb 5:12-14; 13:7; Eph 4:11-14). While not all older believers study God’s Word and put it into practice, those who do can provide an invaluable service to the young believer.
However, it recently occurred to me that in at least one way the younger believer sometimes has an advantage. The Lord hints at this in Matt 18:3. The believer who is humble like a child is the one who will be great in the kingdom. I wonder if, at least on occasion, the new believer finds it easier to be humble. More specifically, can the young believer sometimes find it easier to simply believe what God has said?
I thought of that when I looked at the example of Mary when she was told she would give birth to Christ. I am told that Mary was young, probably a teenager. When the angel told her that she would give birth even though she was a virgin, she told him that she accepted what God had said (Luke 1:30-35, 38). She knew what God had said, and she simply believed it.
I can’t be sure, but my guess is that as a young lady she thought those around her would be thrilled by the news. She would give birth to the Messiah. Her parents would be thrilled. The members of her synagogue would be as well. Her fiancé would be happy that he would get to raise this future King. In this, she was naïve. She did not realize the opposition she would face, and how people would laugh at the notion that a virgin would give birth. It seems to me that her lack of experience in living made it easier for her to say, “OK, Lord.”
In my mind I picture an older woman being given this news. She would, perhaps, have been much more practical and much more likely to say, “What will others say about me? How can I be sure this is on the up and up? Will Joseph divorce me? Will they kick me out of the synagogue? Will they stone me for committing adultery? Look, can you pick somebody else?”
Living life can make a person jaded. We read an example of this a few verses before Luke’s account of Mary. When the same angel told Zacharias that his wife would have a son, Zacharias was much more cautious. We must realize that he was righteous man (Luke 1:5-6). He had been following the Lord for many years. When the word of God came to him, he understood it.
But he had to think it over. After years of trying to have a child, and knowing that his wife could not have children, he received this news in a different way. His experience told him, even though he was a believer, that God wasn’t going to do this. My guess is that he was thinking about how he could possibly tell his neighbors the news. They would laugh at him. He didn’t want to get his wife’s hopes up. Maybe this angel was supposed to go to somebody else, somebody younger and with a younger wife. Zacharias expressed his doubts to the angel (Luke 1:18).
Zacharias was a man who knew God’s Word better than Mary did. There was a lot she could learn from him. But in this instance, Mary obviously comes across as responding to God’s messenger better than Zacharias did.
I think there is a lesson here for us. Those of us who have been Christians for a long time can sometimes become cynical. Life’s disappointments and trials can do that to us. We see the wonderful promises of God and think they are for others, or we wonder how God can do what He says. We might have to think over what we read. What are some possible ramifications? Sometimes, a young believer doesn’t have that disadvantage.
Wouldn’t it be great if us old folks were more like a child in that regard? Even if, after a lifetime of experience, I find something hard to believe, I should simply believe what God has revealed in His Word. Mary believed in spite of her naiveté. Imagine how great it would have been for Zacharias, as a callous old man, to have had the same attitude. He had been knocked down repeatedly, and now God told him that was going to change. However, after getting up off the floor all those times, he was skeptical.
Older Christians should pray, asking the Lord to teach us His Word. When we understand it, we should then ask Him to make us like a humble child who humbly believes what His Word tells us.