Before You Change the World for Jesus

Long before we reach high school or college graduation, most of us have already laid out our hopeful plans for our young adult years. Whether it’s a mental bucket list or an entire notebook full of dreams and ideas, you have places you long to explore, skills you want to learn, and goals you hope to accomplish.

The message the world often promotes is that our best years are in our teens and twenties—and that life only goes downhill after that. We’re told to get out there and experience and accomplish as much of life as we can. Maybe the message you’ve heard sounds like this:

Your teens and twenties are all about enjoying yourself, discovering who you are, and experimenting with your body. These carefree years are for focusing on your own personal interests and appetites before the burdensome weight of adulthood is strapped to you. So get out there and enjoy yourself!

As a follower of Christ, you may hear this and notice some red flags. It’s not biblical advice. So then comes the gospel-centered version to counter the message we hear from pop culture. That counter message usually goes something like this:

Your teens and twenties are all about dreaming big, working hard, and becoming a mature, active Christian. As a single adult, your greatest desire should be to accomplish great things for God, such as starting a non-profit, publishing a book, or touring with a Christian band. So get out there and change the world!

Which philosophy should you make your mantra?

That’s actually a trick question. While the second message may be a wise reorientation away from a self-centered life, it could be interpreted to mean that you aren’t making the most of your young adult years unless you have a major accomplishment to show for it.

And that’s a problem.

Your desire to make a difference for the kingdom of God is absolutely a good thing! But we often set high expectations for ourselves or feel pressure from around us to dream big(!) with the assumption that all those dreams will be fulfilled right away.

Thirty Years of Anonymity

Author and blogger Tim Challies writes that “many young Christians have a noble desire to change the world and to do great things, but in most cases God intends to first change them and to do great things in their hearts and minds.”

Challies gives an example of a man who defied what we would consider the norm by spending 90 percent of his life away from the limelight, working quietly and steadily at a humble job in a small town. What this man spent thirty years doing doesn’t seem like the best way to make a massive impact on the world—certainly not in our prime when we’re young and energetic. But this is exactly what God sent His Son to do.

That’s right. This man was Jesus! And by the time He turned thirty, Jesus had no public accomplishments to speak of. No books published, no sermons preached, no charities founded. His résumé simply said “carpenter.”

Very little is recorded in Scripture of Jesus’ early years, yet they weren’t a waste. We know Jesus came and fulfilled everything the Father sent Him to do (John 17:4), and God Himself declared that He was pleased with His beloved Son (Mark 1:9–11).

From learning to walk as a toddler to learning a trade as a young man, the majority of Jesus’ earthly days were spent not in public ministry but in growing “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

What Matters More Than Dreaming Big

Jesus didn’t concern Himself with what others thought of Him. Jesus remained steadfast to the will of His Father throughout His life, keeping the Father His number one priority even when His family thought He was crazy and His enemies wanted to kill Him (see John 7:1–5).

As in everything He did, Jesus set an incredible example for us by focusing on His personal growth and godly character before entering public ministry.

Shouldn’t we follow His example?

Challies says it’s in your early years that “you will lay a foundation of godly character capable of guiding and sustaining you for a lifetime.” Now is the time to set in motion a lifelong pattern of prioritizing your relationship with the Lord!

Your Training Ground Is Right Now

Just as a doctor needs years of training before launching his or her own practice, these early years are your training ground for the future. Seeing life this way gives perspective when you’re eager to fulfill your dreams but instead find yourself in “waiting mode,” doing seemingly insignificant tasks.

You may be eager to set out and go big, but God may have a few more years of “faithful marinating” in store for you.

  • Be patient and use your time well.
  • Spend time in God’s Word getting to know Him.
  • Listen to wise counsel before jumping into action.
  • Be faithful even in the mundane as you babysit your baby brother, when you clean your room (and your sister’s mess!), or when delivering cookies to an elderly shut-in.

What you are doing right now is worthwhile and can make a difference in someone’s life.

Whether you’re currently working overseas for a charity or bagging groceries at your local store, what you are doing right now is worthwhile and can make a difference in someone’s life. Let’s follow in Jesus’ footsteps and make the most of the time God has given us.

  • Do you feel like your skills or talents are wasted unless used right away in public service or ministry?
  • How does Jesus’ example affect the way you plan for the future?
  • Are you being faithful to do what God has asked you to do today?

About Author

Leanna Shepard

Leanna began serving on staff with Revive Our Hearts in the summer of 2014. Though originally from Arkansas and now residing in Michigan, her citizenship is in heaven, having been adopted as daughter of the King at age ten. She loves a cup of hot tea with a good book, experimenting in the kitchen with a new recipe, and cheering for the St. Louis Cardinals.

HEY, GIRLS! We love hearing from you, but feel limited in the ways we can help. For one thing, we’re not trained counselors. If you’re seeking counsel, we encourage you to talk to your pastor or a godly woman in your life as they’ll know more details and can provide you with ongoing accountability and help. Also, the following comments do not necessarily reflect the views of Revive Our Hearts. We reserve the right to remove comments which might be unhelpful, unsuitable, or inappropriate. We may edit or remove your comment if it:

  • * Requests or gives personal information such as email address, address, or phone number.
  • * Attacks other readers.
  • * Uses vulgar or profane language.
  • Tera V.

    I like this Josh Wilson song called “Dream Small”! It goes along well with this article’s message! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrkYjmMAgN0

    • hannah

      I love this song already but it also fit this topic so well.

  • Jadedsprinkles

    Ugh.. I’m creeping up on 30. That has me nervous. I keep feeling as if I have an expiration date that’s labeled at 30-years-old where I’ll no longer be valuable. That makes me sarcasticy life will be over. And I’m definitely not where I thought I’d be at this age.

    • Jade

      *feel like life

    • Leanna Shepard

      Jade, I’m sorry you’re feeling discouraged and anxious. There’s something about crossing over into a new decade that makes one think hard about their life. (I’m right there with you.) As I brought up in this post, Jesus’s public ministry did not even begin until age 30. Moses wasn’t called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt until he was 80! You may not be where you hoped to be by age 30, but rest assured God is not through with you! Praying you find purpose and hope in God’s plan for you, even while it remains an unknown.

  • Rachel Ward

    I have a question. Should we also be trying to do some “big” things in our youth while we are “training”?

    • Leanna Shepard

      That’s a great question, Rachel. God is not limited in what He can do by the level of competency of those He chooses to work through. In other words, my limitations, weaknesses, or age doesn’t hinder God’s ability to do great things through me. If the Holy Spirit can move inside John the Baptist while he was still in his mother’s womb, I’d say God can work with any age. 🙂
      Of course, it’s important to evaluate your motives for why you’re doing what you’re doing–and that’s true for anyone at any age. Our life goal is to glorify God and enjoy Him. Fulfilling this for some means stepping up in your youth, if God makes that clear for you; for others, it means waiting and “marinating” until the time is right. Either way, redeem the time and honor the Lord. That’s always a “big” thing in God’s economy. 🙂

      • Rachel Ward

        Thank you!!

  • hannah

    This fit so well were i’m at in life right now. I just stared helping in kid ministry and had be praying about for a week or two then asked my mom she said yes then the next day our kids director texted her asking if I would like to help. But for a long time before that I felt like if I wasn’t helping in church I wasn’t being a good christan. Thanks for this post.

  • “B”

    Proverbs 24:11-13!!!
    Says it All for Any Age or Gender!!! God Calls on the Righteous To Armor Up and Fight!!! I am a Kingdom Warrior for Jesus….not Simply a “fan”
    I’m Going To Fight Against evil as Long as God Gives me Breath!!! Especially Perverse, Sexual Sin being Promoted like these Hanis Sex Robots!!!
    JESUS COME QUICKLY!!!