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Question: Do you still believe what our national hero Jose Rizal said
Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan?
When you look around today, our culture does not expect much of us
young people. We are not only expected to do very little that is wise or good,
but we're expected to do the opposite (not doing what is supposed to be
The trained elephant of India is a perfect picture of the power of
psychological captivity. Tamed and utilized for its enormous strength, the
great beast stands nearly 10 feet tall and weighs up to 5 tons when fully
grown. Its tasks may include uprooting full-grown trees, hauling great
boulders, and carrying enormous loads on its shoulders. And yet, when the
days work is done and this powerful beast must be kept from wandering off
during the night, its owner simply takes a piece of twine, attaches it to a
small branch embedded in the ground, and ties it around the elephants right
hind leg. Reason dictates that the elephant can easily snap the twine or pull
the twig from ground, and yet the owner does not worry, fully confident that
when morning comes he will find the animal exactly where he left him. And
he does. How is that possible? The answer is that it has little to do with
the piece of rope around the elephants ankle and everything to do
with the invisible shackles around the elephants mind.
The young adults of our generation are like the elephant-strong, smart,
holding incredible potential but somehow held back by nothing more than a
piece of twine (the 20th century concept of adolescence/myth of
The word teenager is so common today that most people dont even
think about it- if they do, its usually not positive. According to the dictionary,
a teenager is a person between ages of thirteen and nineteen years old.
Most of us fall in that category.
But would it surprise you to find out that at one time teenagers didnt
even exist? The first documented use of the word teenager was in 1941 by
Readers Digest. So what was it like to be a teen back then, even before the

idea of teen existed? To answer it, Id like to introduce you to some young
people in Americas past. They were George, and David.
The father of our country, George Washington, though never thought
to be particularly bright by his peers, began to master geometry,
trigonometry, and surveying when he would have been a 5th or 6th grader in
our day and ceased his formal education at 14 years of age. At the age of 16
he was named official surveyor for Culpepper County, Virginia. For the next
three years, Washington earned nearly $100,000 a year (in modern
purchasing power). By the age of 21, he had leveraged his knowledge of the
surrounding land, along with his income, to acquire 2,300 acres of prime
Virginian land.
David Farragut was born in 1801 near city of Knoxville, Tennessee
where his father was serving in the state militia. At ten years old, David
began a career at sea, serving as naval cadet on the warship Essex. At
eleven he saw his first battle. At twelve, David was given command of a ship
that had been captured in battle and was dispatched with a crew to take the
vessel and its men back to United States. On the journey home, the captured
British took issue at being ordered by a twelve-year-old and announced that
he was going below to get his pistol. David promptly sent him word that if he
stepped foot on deck with his pistols, he would be shot and thrown
At young age, they were given increasing level of
responsibility at early ages, and they only survived, they even rose
to the occasion.
The question is: what changed? Why is it that young men and women
of the past were able to do things at sixteen that many of todays twenty-five
or thirty-yr-olds cant do? The answer is people today view the teen years
through the modern lens of adolescence. The problem we have is with the
modern understanding of adolescence that allows, encourages, and even
trains young people to remain childish for much longer than necessary.
For the powerful elephant, a shackle looks like a piece of twine. For
young people today-a powerful, educated, and usually blessed generation-

our shackles hide in simple, deadly ideas like adolescence and teenager.
Around the year 1900, a cascade of labor- and school reform laws were
passed in an attempt to protect kids from the harsh conditions in factories.
These laws were good because conditions had been brutal, and childrens
health and education suffered. Unfortunately, the laws had some unintended
and far reaching consequences. By completely removing children from the
workplace and mandating school attendance through high school, teens
once-established role as key producers and contributors came to an end.
Suddenly their role was exclusively that of consumers. And so, the
teenager was invented- a young person with most of the desires and
abilities of an adult and abilities of an adult but few of the expectations or
Consider a minute how far the expectations have fallen. Twelve-yearold David was expected to successfully return a ship, its captain, and its crew
to the United States. And were expected to endure the hardships of doing
the dinner dishes? (hehe, but true). Its almost gotten to the point that
people expect of teenagers than they do of toddlers. Why do babies, with
inferior motor skills, reasoning ability, and physical strength experience
nearly 100 percent success in overcoming difficult challenges while teens
often falter? Well, one is expected and the other is not. Why does every
healthy baby learn to walk while very few teenagers have learned to dance?
One is expected and the other is not. The truth is all of us are susceptible to
low expectations. Once we have satisfied the minimum requirements, we
tend to stop pushing ourselves.
WHAT the BIBLE has to SAY
You might be wondering what the Bible has to say about adolescence.
The answer is simple. NOTHING.
Paul, in his letter to a young pastor in training: Dont let anyone look
down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in
speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity (1 Timothy 4:12). In other

words, as young people we are called to be exemplary in all areas of life. But
then we see, our generation is falling incredibly short of that calling. What we
find is clear evidence that God does not hold two standards: one for young
adults and one for adults. He has high expectations for both. Where some
might look down on or excuse young adults, God calls us to be examples.
Where our culture might expect little, God expects great things.
The world says, "You're young, have fun! (Pepsi)" It tells us to "obey
your thirst (Sprite)" and "just do it (Nike)." Or it tells us, "You're great! You
don't need to exert yourself." But those kinds of mindsets sabotage character
and competence.
Remember our elephant in India, shackled by nothing but a piece of
twine and a wooden post in the ground? Whats going on there? Why doesnt
he just break free? The strength is there but why doesnt use it? Heres how
it works. When the elephant is still young, his owner takes him from his
mother and shackles him to a large tree- with a heavy chain around his right
hind leg. For days and weeks, the young elephant will strain and pull, trying
to break free, but all he succeeds in doing is causing the shackle to cut deep
into his leg. Eventually he gives up and accepts that the idea that he cant go
anywhere when there is something around his right hind leg. Soon, the
owner can replace the tree with a post and the chain with a piece of twine.
Once the elephant feels resistance, he stops. Theres nothing but a piece of
twine around his ankle, but there are heavy shackles around his mind.
We see that we are like that elephant. We have proven strength and
God-given potential- potential to do hard, important things- but we are held
captive by a lie. We have been conditioned to believe what is false, to stop
when things feels hard, and to miss out on Gods incredible purpose for our
teen years.
Heres a question I want to ask individually and corporately: What is
holding us back? History demonstrates that we are far more capable than
we think we are.
We face a crisis and an opportunity. A crisis, in the sense that we can
no longer afford to slowly drift towards adulthood, viewing the teen years as

a vacation from responsibility, and an opportunity, in the sense that we can

embrace life now and make a difference for the glory of God, and for the
good our family, our nation, and our world. Look down at your ankle and
see the pathetic contrivance that has been restraining you. Now renew your
mind in the light of Gods Word and take a step forward.

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