I still remember the day—the day that everything changed. I was no longer just a teenager, I was someone who would be watched carefully. I would be checked out on a weekly basis and the words I said would be heavily scrutinized. For most people, seventeen is just a year of their life. For me, it always reminds me how God blessed my life tremendously.
When I was thirteen we moved to a new house. My mom insisted that we buy a park bench to make the outside of the house decorative. I could not have despised that bench more than I did. Once a week, I would have to remove the bench to mow the lawn, and then bring it back again. Four years after we moved in, I got back from camp and decided to begin a Tuesday night devotional. All of my friends had been talking about how cool it would be to start something like that. I wrote my first lesson, went into my room with my computer and recorded everything I wanted to say in the lesson. When I went to post it onto Facebook, the Internet would not let me upload the video. The wifi signal was not strong enough. Anywhere I tried to go to get a better signal wouldn’t work. I could not post the video. Finally, I went outside and sat on the park bench – the bench that I detested so much. The signal worked, and I was able to post my first video. After several good responses and feedback, several people asked when the next video would be.
I posted the next video on the Prodigal Son. A very dear friend of mine gave me some great tips on how to make my presentation better, and how to film it better. Months and months went by, full of lessons. A few friends began to help me, and some of them even recorded lessons with me. Eventually, we stopped recording lessons, and for a year and a half, we completely abandoned our mission. Then in 2012, I met with Mark Teske and Don Blackwell, the management team from the Gospel Broadcasting Network. Not only was I privileged to begin working there for GBN, I was also privileged to start recording more “Lessons From A Park Bench” in a new, revamped setting. I never imagined that I could be a part of something that amazing. I was only seventeen. I had never written books like Tom Holland, or preached in lectureships like Robert R. Taylor Jr. Yet, I was given an opportunity to make an impact. You may be told constantly that you are “too young,” you are the “church of tomorrow,” or you need to “wait your turn.” I am here to tell you that you can make an impact, a difference, be a symbol for Christ.
Imagine you were taken away from the United States of America during war. If you were brought by force to another country away from your family, how would you react? When you were given orders to do something or die, what would you choose to do? This is exactly the situation Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah found themselves in when they were taken into captivity. However, the key to their faithfulness is found in Daniel 1:8. Daniel decided before the choice had to be made that he would stand up for what was right. Daniel and his friends knew that they could make an impact (Daniel 1:20-21; 2:48-49; 3:29-30; 5:29; 6:1-3, 27). We see over and over again that they stood out from the people and stood up for God. They distinguished themselves from others and God blessed them with positions of prominence among the foreign nations.
Jesus was another example of a young guy who stood out and stood up from those around Him. When He was only twelve (TWELVE!) years old, He was already distinguishing himself among the teachers in the temple. He got so preoccupied with answering and asking questions, that He let His family leave Him in Jerusalem as they travelled home. With His understanding of the Law, He amazed the teachers who had been studying the Law their entire lives (Luke 2:41-52).
2 Timothy 4:2, Paul writes to Timothy, “Preach the Word, be ready in season and out of season.” You know the names Michael Jordan and Lebron James and Kobe Bryant. One of the reasons you know these names is because they (arguably) are the best to ever play basketball. The reason they were the best was because when the season was over they worked just as hard as they did during the season. It may have been months before the next season started, yet they treated it like the playoffs were coming. Their attitude was if they found out that there was a game that night, they could play in it. They took the attitude of being ready, no matter what, to heart. God wants us to have that same tenacious desire to be ready in the Scriptures. If we are not expecting it, and someone asks us a biblical question, we should be ready and willing to answer it.
When we study hard and we know the word of God, we can be steadfast and immovable (1 Corinthians 15:58). There were those in the NBA that were scared to try to score on certain players. These athletes were so good at their position that they could keep anyone from scoring. Some of them even prided themselves in the fact that no one could score on them. You and I need to have that same type of attitude for the defense of the church. We should know the Word so well that we will never compromise on the Truth. We should keep others from compromising the Truth. It should be the case that when it comes to defending the gospel, the Devil can never get past us. Christ proved that it was possible, in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. There may have been times in your life before where he (the devil) has gotten past your defense and has brought you down. However, we must develop the faithful Christian attitude that says, “You will not get past me again.” You may be saying, “I’m only a young person, I can’t fight against an enemy that strong. When will I be old enough to do this?”
When Paul wrote to Timothy, he was writing to a young person. One of the things Paul did not want Timothy to miss was that age does not matter. Paul told Timothy to not let anyone “despise your youth” (1 Timothy 4:12). He told him to be an example in “word, conduct, love, spirit, faith, purity.” Since we know according to 2 Timothy 3:16 that all scripture is inspired, we can take what Paul said in 1 Timothy 4:12 and apply it to our own lives.
I never thought that I would be on GBN or have these opportunities, because when I was seventeen, I did not think that I could make a difference. You may be thinking the same thing: “I can’t teach my friends the gospel, I’m not strong enough yet,” “I need to wait another year,” “I’m at a new school,” “My friends are smarter than I am,” “I need more time to prepare,” “I don’t have a good defense of the gospel yet,” “At my age, what could I do?” Most people have these excuses running through their minds, yet it is just the Devil trying to keep you from stepping up. When I started Lessons From A Park Bench, God blessed me with an opportunity to come to GBN. When you are struggling with a new school or a new environment, think of Daniel—he was in another country, surrounded by people who did not believe in the God that he did. Yet, Daniel was still victorious. When you are dealing with people who are smarter than you are, think of Jesus. Think that even at the age of 12, He was able to answer and ask questions to men who had been studying the Law their entire lives. When you are worried about not being prepared, let that motivate you to study more! That is the only way you can truly be immovable. Your age is truly just a number. It was just a park bench. I was just a seventeen-year-old boy. It was just the Gospel, the thing that was (and is) the power that gave the impact. You’re just a teenager. Now what are you going to do about it?
By: Michael Clarke, GBNTV.org