November 28, 2013 in So You Want to be Happy? (Teens)
Our good friend, Eric Owens, recently released his second book. It is entitled, So You Want to be Happy? (Teens). It is a wonderful companion to his well-received first book, So You Want to be Happy? Both books are available here at Digital Bible Study and have been published in both paper and Kindle formats.
So You Want to be Happy? (Teens) is laid out as a thirteen-week study book for youth groups. Each chapter is written with discussion questions at the conclusion to help encourage discussion. It would be a great gift for a young person and a converstation starter for helping you explore some valuable life-lessons with a teen in your life.
Eric has graciously released the first chapter of this book for free. You can read it below. After reading, we’re sure you’ll want your own copy.
So You Want to be Happy? (Teens) – Chapter 1
Sit Down, Be Quiet and Face Forward
Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8).
It was all fun and games when we met at the airport in Chicago. There were several of us recruits and we all sat together on the plane. We spent most of the flight talking and learning each other’s names. It was great; we were all going to San Diego, CA and we were all going to be Marines. The peanuts and sodas (cokes) were good and the mood was calm. But as we entered into San Diego air space, a cold air of silence filled the plane. Strangely, as if being told, we all just stopped talking. There were no more fun and games, no more talking and joking; there was only silent contemplation. We must have all been wondering the same thing; “What have I done and what is going to happen to me?”
I think they fly you in at night on purpose. We exited the plane and were met by a Marine. We were then ushered to a wall near an exit where we were told, “Stand still, wait and be quiet.” Once we were all accounted for, we were ushered outside to a waiting bus. I thought the bus driver was trying to tip the thing over. He drove so fast he would have made the folks at NASCAR proud. I’m not ashamed to tell you I was scared. I was somewhere between hoping we didn’t tip over and hoping that we would never reach our final destination. Maybe we could have just kept circling the airport.
When we reached the base, my heart was pounding so hard I thought my chest would explode. I sat quietly as we all did, we were anxious wondering what was going to happen next. We would not wait long to find out. The bus driver drove slowly onto the base. We made some turns and soon we were coming to a stop in front of some waiting figures in the darkness. The bus driver got off of the bus and went and spoke to them. Of course we couldn’t hear what they were saying. We soon learned that he was talking to soul stealers, I mean drill instructors.
A few moments later the shadowy figures came onto the bus. It was our first glimpse of a drill instructor; he seemed nine feet tall. He was probably only about five feet tall. His voice sounded like a cannon. Without provocation he started yelling and screaming. Who yells and screams when you haven’t done anything wrong? He didn’t ask anyone anything. He just started barking out commands. He told us that we were to get off of his bus.
We didn’t know it at the time but everything belonged to the drill instructors. I think they even have dibs on the sun and air. As we got off of “his” bus we were told that there were some yellow boot prints painted on the ground and that we were to go stand on them. This meant that our heels would touch and our feet would point out at a 45 degree angle. If you stand up and put your heels together and point your feet out a little you will know what I mean. We didn’t know it at the time but we were just taught how to stand.
Our journey had begun; from the bus ride to the yellow foot prints and every point thereafter, everything was simply a matter of obedience. Sit here, stand this way, do not say a word. Get in line, go, stop, wait, arms at your waist. Do not speak unless you are spoken to, sit down, be quiet and face forward. The orders continued all night and into the morning. This was day one and such was our welcome into the United States Marine Corps.
Teenagers are not in boot camp (maybe every one of them should go), but being young is a lot like being a new recruit. It simply requires obedience. Obedience seems to be a lost art. Maybe it is due to our obsession with self. Self centeredness hurts us as individuals and as a society. We focus so much on what we want to do; that we fail to do what we are supposed to do. Please, fix this firmly in your mind: God’s position is; young people are to obey their parents- period. The record of Ephesians 6:1 cannot be missed, substituted, altered or disobeyed if one will please God.
The verse is so simply stated it is impossible for anyone to misunderstand it. Young people are to obey their parents – period. I will discuss how to obey your parents later. For now let us agree that the Bible plainly teaches that as young people we are to obey our parents. Here are a few reasons:
Obeying Our Parents Is Right
Obeying your parents has no statute of limitations or age restrictions. You should learn to obey our parents when you are young, and continue that mission into adulthood. The Bible says more than just “Obey your parents,” the Bible also says that obeying your parents is “right.” The easiest way to understand this part of the verse is to know that the opposite of right is not left, it is wrong.
“Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right” is God’s charge. If you do not obey your parents according to scripture you are wrong. We should never make this more complicated. Disobedience is wrong. If you have been or are disobeying your parents stop and start obeying your parents, for this is right. You will never have lasting happiness in disobedience.
The great thing about obedience is it is an easy thing to see, measure and know. If one is given instructions and one does not follow or obey those instructions, that one has not been obedient. When I was in the Marine Corps the task was always plainly stated. We were always posed with one question; “Did you complete the mission?” It did not matter how big or how small, the expectation was always the same, complete the mission.
This kind of training places an extreme emphasis on obedience. Marines complete their mission! Marines obey commands! Our complete dedication and attention to detail has caused some to suggest that “Marines don’t think; they just do.” Obviously that is an over simplification that upsets Marines.
However, in a sense, it has some merit and that by design. When young men enter boot camp they come from different parts of the country. Each has a different background, upbringing, education level, ethnicity and more. Drill Instructors have less than eighty training days to turn a group of individuals into a unit. There is neither time nor energy to placate to seventy individuals who believe the world revolves around them.
These young men must be turned into a unit of one. The quickest and surest way to do that is to condition them to obey. A task is given; complete the task. An order is given; follow the order. March left then right then left and, well, you get the picture. Eventually, seventy men become one. They have one mind, one goal and one intention; complete the mission. The end result is a unit of Marines. This is what is meant by obedience. If a Marine does not complete his mission he is wrong. If young people don’t obey their parents they are wrong. The mission is clear; obey your parents for this is right.
Of course, not every recruit was quick to join the party. There were those young men who tried to “buck the system.” These individuals simply refused to follow the rules. They did not want to do the tasks that were given to them. The result was some of them had a very difficult time and some didn’t make it at all.
Rebels were dealt with swiftly and severely. The same should be done by parents with teenagers who rebel. Correction should be swift and severe so as to discourage and turn the young person from a path that leads to destruction. Listen to God’s command to parents. Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death (Proverbs 19:18).
Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge. Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol. My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad (Proverbs 23:12-15).
God teaches that young people need instruction and correction from parents who love them. If your parents aren’t correcting you and even sometimes punishing you, they are doing something wrong (Proverbs 13:24).
There are two kinds of discipline and both need to be employed when necessary. First, there is instruction. God constantly calls us near so that he can teach us his ways. The book of Proverbs should be read by old and young alike for just this reason. God is instructing his children.
The constant refrain is, “Hear the instruction of your father and do not forsake the teachings of your mother.” Should instruction fail then the rod of correction is used as the means of turning the young from a path of destruction. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).
We had recruits in the Corp who did not want to obey. Families have teenagers who are refusing to obey. God’s family the church has members who refuse to obey. When we don’t obey we are wrong and there should be corrective consequences for disobedience.
Others did not rebel, per se; they simply thought they had a better way of doing things than the drill instructors. They did not want to obey the drill instructors orders. Instead, they wanted to discuss the pros and cons of the drill instructors decisions. These offered their wisdom on how the Corps could improve the way it did things.
They did not consider that they had arrived on base only a short time ago while the drill instructors had done their jobs for years. While it might be thought nicer than boldly refusing to obey; it is nevertheless disobedience. These rebels found out an important truth. As it turned out the Marine Corps is not big on group discussions, breakout sessions and individual expression. Who knew? The only ones fooled about what they were doing was themselves.
Once, when a recruit attempted some deep contemplation, one of the drill instructors said something like, “The Marine Corps has been doing things a certain way for 212 years. It will not be changing because you have come.” The point was made; obedience does not mean discussion, and things do not have to meet the recruit’s approval before they are done. The same is true with young people and the sooner they learn it the better. You don’t have to agree or approve in order to obey. You just have to do what you are told, soldier. Obeying our parents is right.
Obeying Our Parents Is Reasonable
To repay a debt is one of the most reasonable things anyone can do. It is suggested that of all of the kinds of babies born into the world, human babies are among the most helpless. I believe that is true. Think back to when you were an infant. What could or did you do for yourself? What did you provide for yourself? If you said “nothing” you answered correctly; none of us did. From your arrival on the earth until now, someone else has been providing for you. When you were hungry someone fed you; and, when you were wet someone changed you. When you wanted to sleep someone held you; and, when you cried someone comforted you. Your parents gave you a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear and a bed in which to sleep. They gave you medicine when you were sick. You have been given nearly everything you have for your entire life.
It is difficult to imagine something more reasonable than one obeying the ones who have done all of these things for them. More than likely, many of these things are still being done for you. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul speaks of our service to God being our “reasonable service.” Like our parents God has provided for us, his children. He has given us everything we needed spiritually (Ephesians 5:1). Therefore, it is our reasonable service to obey him. Are you a reasonable person? Do you think it is reasonable for one to receive so much and refuse to obey the one who gave it?
When I entered the Marine Corps I had one thing in mind; I wanted money for college; and all I had to do was spend four years in the Marine Corps to get it. I had it all figured out. I would enlist, serve my time, go to college, get my degree and get on with my life. It was a flawless plan, if I do say so myself.
My plan was going along great. I finished boot camp and went home and married my sweetheart. Life was good. After thirty days leave I went to school for training. My military occupational specialty (MOS) was 1811 tank armored crewman. My training was held in Fort Knox, KY which is an Army base. I had no idea that the Army trained Marines but they were great to us.
I said it already, but life was good. After finishing school in Kentucky I was stationed in 29 Palms, CA. this was my permanent duty station. I was now in the fleet. At last, I was a Marine. I arrived in California in early 1989 and my time was quickly getting away. I was playing lots of basketball and having a good time. I would be out by June of 1992 and then I would be on my way. Then a strange thing happened on the way to college. It turned out that Saddam Hussein did not know about my college plans. He invaded Kuwait August 2, 1990. Soon, as in thirteen days later, I found myself in Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf.
Wait just a minute; didn’t he know that I was on my way to college? For the first several days I was in shock. For the next several days I was in shock. For many of the days following I was in shock. Did I mention I was in shock? When those days passed we left the pier and went out to the desert. In the desert I slept; I was no longer in shock; I slept. I was hopeful that I could sleep through it and when it was over they would wake me up and say we were going back home. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months, and we were still there.
I remember complaining especially long on one occasion. During the day it was so hot it felt like I could have fried an egg on my head. At night the cold made me shiver like a sheep in Alaska with no wool. Flies landed on and off my face like planes at the busiest airport in the world. I had eaten as much pink stuff as I could stomach and I was angry. I lost it and I got started and could not be talked down.
I was going to town in my rant. “I did not sign up for this!” “Who goes to war in the 90’s?” “Why am I here?” “What is going on?” Then, just when I was getting good and steamed, my tank commander said something to me. He said, “Owens, you volunteered for this.” I think he went on to ask me, “What did you think the Marine Corps was all about?”
After he spoke, a cold silence filled the desert as his words trailed off into the night and for the first time it hit me. Up to that point all I had done was take from the Marine Corps. I had never contemplated paying back what I owed. I had been trained and I had been paid. I had been given food, shelter and clothing. Yes, you can look good in green. The Corps had given me everything and now they needed something from me.
I wanted what I wanted and forgot about what I had been given. I wanted to go to college but I joined an organization that is in the business of training men for war. War had broken out; I was a Marine and obedience was my reasonable service. There was nothing to complain about and so I didn’t anymore. I was only doing what was reasonable. Young person you have been given so much from your parents. Have you thought about all you have been given? If you have, then you will also conclude that obeying your parents is reasonable.
Obeying Our Parents Is Required
This would be a good time to connect the complete idea of this chapter: to obey your parents is to obey God. Even in Ephesians 6:1 Paul make’s the connection with the phrase, “in the Lord.” It is imperative that we make the connection. God works through representatives. This means when God puts someone in place and charges him with a task that person is representing God in that function. One great example of this is Moses delivering the nation of Israel from Egyptian bondage. The Israelites’ crossing of the Red Sea is recorded in Exodus 14. The triumphant victory over Pharaoh and Egypt is highlighted in these words:
The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses (Exodus 14:28-31).
That great victory led to the wonderfully, jubilant celebration of chapter 15. God was praised, the people were excited and relieved but this great celebration soon turned to bitter complaining. The water was bitter and they could not drink it. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink’ (Exodus 15:23-24).
God provided them water and the nation drank and was satisfied (Exodus 15:25-27). However, this was not the last complaint. Soon the issue of food arose and the children of Israel complained to Moses citing the great feast they enjoyed in Egypt.
And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’ Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not’ (Exodus 16:2-4).
Unfortunately, neither was that the last complaint. God had provided so many things for them but still they complained. On that occasion Moses cautioned them that their complaining was not against him but against God.
So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him–what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD” (Exodus 16:6-8).
Moses and Aaron were God’s representatives. They were only doing what God told them to do. It was God who delivered Israel out of Egyptian bondage and parted the Red Sea. God was the one who directed their path through the desert, gave them water to drink and meat to eat. Moses’ question to Israel was sobering, “Who are we that you grumble against us?” He was only doing what God charged him to do.
God uses representatives in a variety of ways. We are to be good law abiding citizens because God uses government as his representative to execute justice on the wicked and extend praise and protection for the righteous.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience (Romans 13:1-5).
Note how often the Bible connects the representative to God:
• No authority except for God
• The authority that exists is instituted by God
• Whoever resists the authority resists God
• He is God’s servant for your good
• He is the servant of God
• An avenger who carries out God’s wrath
• Therefore be subject to avoid God’s wrath
In the church of our Lord there are men who are representatives of God. The elders or shepherds oversee God’s people and they are given this task and charge by God. Paul warns these men that this is a serious charge and a very serious responsibility with these words, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). However, there are also serious warnings to those whom
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17).
God was represented through Moses, therefore, if one disobeyed Moses he disobeyed God. God is represented through government so government does not bear the sword in vain. If one disobeys the government he disobeys God. In the church God is represented by elders. If one disobeys the elders he disobeys God.
In the home God is represented by parents. Parents are charged with teaching their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-10), training their children (Proverbs 22:6) and bringing their children up in the nuture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Friend, this is not about parents; rather, it is about you. Your parents represent God in your home. Therefore, to disobey your parents is to disobey God.
God did not hold the Israelites guiltless when they disobeyed Moses. Listen to this very stern warning written to Christians about Israel and Moses: “Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses” (Hebrews 10:28). Moses did not give the Law on Mount Sinai; God did. And yet, it is often referred to as the Law of Moses or Moses’ Law. Why? Because Moses was God’s representative. When an Israelite disobeyed the Law he disobeyed God.
Before we leave this point note one more passage with me. I need you to know how seriously God takes the role of his representatives. As Paul closed the first chapter of Romans he made a list of sinners. Among the list are disobedient children. Note the company disobedience to parents keeps, and the punishment God says is due it.
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them (Romans 1:29-32).
It is difficult to imagine in our society of “me me and more me,” but God takes very seriously children obeying their parents. Please consider that God says those who practice disobedience are worthy of death. Disobedience is not cute and it is not funny. Not obeying one’s parents is not a demonstration of how smart you are. It is really just the opposite. A fool despises counsel and instruction. It does not cast you in a good light and eventually it will hurt you. Actually, it will hurt much more than just you. Disobedient children hurt their parents, their family, the church, society and God.
In order to know if you are obeying your parents take this quick test. You have only obeyed your parents when you have done:
• What they said – If you didn’t do what they said you didn’t obey. “Close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes.” Complete the mission; do what you are told.
• When they said it – If you are constantly telling your parents, “I will get around to it,” you are not obeying your parents. Stop what you are doing and immediately do what your parents said.
• Why they said it – Obedience is not negotiation; it is doing. If they didn’t ask you what you think then don’t tell them what you think, rather, do what they said.
• The way they said it – It is not your house; you can do things your way when you get your house. Your parent’s home is not your play ground. Don’t have it your way; instead, do things their way.
“Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1), is a wonderful passage. We just spent an entire chapter talking about children obeying their parents. It seems both we as children of our parents and all of us as God’s children are prone to forgetfulness, so remember Ephesians 5:1. It says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Paul also teaches us how we became God’s children, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Galatians 3:26-27 KJV). Please apply the things in this chapter about obedience to yourself and to God.
Look at the quick test on obedience and apply them to your relationship with God. Are you doing what God says, when God says it, why God said it and the way in which God said it? All Christians, young and old, are God’s children; and, children need to obey their parents for this is right. Let us make sure we are not being disobedient to God.
Before I close this chapter this one thought seems very important to discuss. Obedience does not necessitate understanding. God told Israel that they could not wear garments made from two kinds of different fabrics (Deuteronomy 22:11). No one in Israel needed to understand this command but everyone in Israel needed to obey it. The reason is very simple; God said so.
Please do not argue and refuse to obey until what they say makes sense to you. There will be things you don’t fully understand. But that is why they are the parents and you are not. Trust them they are representing God. You will understand more when you get older. Your understanding is not essential to obedience. Doing what, when, how and why is. I can’t count the number of commands I received in the Marine Corps that I did not fully understand, but they had to be obeyed.
Additionally, your agreement is not a prerequisite for obedience. Often when people say they don’t understand what they mean is that they don’t agree. This happens far too frequently in armies and homes. Obedience is not negotiation. Obedience doesn’t require an explanation.
The fact is, young soldiers cannot fully understand what and why parents do what they do and say what they say. This is why you must trust your parents. They have been providing for you. They have taught you God and they are trying to live an example before you. By the time you are ready to start understanding, their track record for caring for you is already established. If you do understand, great! If you do agree, even better! But don’t disobey just because you don’t.
1. Are you obeying your parents – take the test on page 15?
2. How would you change if you believed God was watching
your actions toward your parents?
3. When you become a parent will you demand that your
children obey you?
4. Consider the following statement, apply it to your life and then
explain its application to others: “When I disobey those whom
God appoints, I disobey God.”
5. In your estimation, how has disobedience impacted our
homes, schools, congregations, and society?