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Advice for a 12-year old from Joel Beeke

Posted in Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Discipleship, Family, Parenting

Cassie Sasser told me about this letter from Joel Beeke to a 12 year old on his birthday. It's great fatherly counsel from a man of God to a future man of God.

Advice for a 12-Year-Old

June 28, 2013
By Joel Beeke

Paul Washer’s son, Ian, is turning twelve tomorrow. Brother Washer asked me, and several others, to write a letter to Ian providing advice to him. After this letter was written, I thought it might be helpful to others as well.

Dear Ian,

Happy 12th birthday! It is exciting to be growing up, and as a friend of your father, I pray that God would greatly bless you. Twelve is a great age. In fact, in all the years between Christ’s infancy and the beginning of His ministry at age thirty, the only time the Bible gives us a picture of Christ is when He was twelve. No doubt you know the story from Luke 2:41–52, how Jesus went with his parents to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. Let me give you some friendly counsel based upon that Scripture.

1. Thank God for parents that bring you to church. Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Jerusalem every year for the Passover (v. 41). So he grew up hearing about how great God is and how He saved His people by works of power and by the blood of the lamb. So many kids grow up never hearing about the Lord or not experiencing biblical worship. Thank God for a father and mother who bring you to worship every Lord’s Day!

2. Trust in Christ as a sympathetic Savior. Jesus was twelve too (v. 42). One reason Christ was born a baby and grew up, instead of appearing on earth as a grown man, is so that He could experience life as a child. He understands you. He knows what it is like to be twelve. He has experienced the temptations and trials of a child’s life. This makes Christ such a merciful and wise Priest (Heb. 2:18). He died for sinners just like you and me. He knows exactly what you need to be saved from sin, and can give it to you. Trust Him!

3. Love God’s presence. Christ was not eager to get away as soon as worship was over, but “tarried behind” or stayed in the temple (v. 43). He really loved to be close to God. Like David, the one thing He desired was to dwell in God’s house and gaze on His beauty (Ps. 27:4). Do you love to worship God? Do you drink in His presence like a thirsty man drinks water? If God has given you a heart to love His presence, thank Him and come eagerly to worship. If not, cry out to Him to change your heart, so that you may be born again, and exercise faith and repentance every day by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

4. Don’t resent your parent’s concern for you. When Mary and Joseph did not find Jesus with the caravan of their relatives, they searched for Him (vv. 44–45). They did so because they loved Him. When your parents show concern for your physical or spiritual safety, don’t get irritated. Be glad they care enough to ask you questions and give you advice. They really do want things to go well for you.

5. Learn as much as you can about the Bible and its teachings. They found Jesus with the teachers in the temple, listening and asking questions of surprising depth and maturity (vv. 46–47). We should not think that Jesus was born quoting the Bible. As a real human boy, he had to listen, study, memorize, and think just like you do. He had to depend on the Holy Spirit to give Him insight. Just like Jesus did, work hard at getting wisdom from God. Study. Listen. Ask questions. Read good books. Meditate. My mother died this past year, Ian, at the age of 92. The last year or two of her life, she could not even remember my father, to whom she was married for 52 years. How sad that was! But you know what? She could sing psalms with us, sometimes the entire psalter, that she had memorized when she was your age. If you fill your mind with worldly things now and in your coming teen years, worldly things will press in on your mind all your life. If you fill your mind with good things, you will remember them all your life. These years are the most important of your life. Don’t waste them; but like Jesus (and Caleb, see Numbers 14:24), follow God fully. You will never be sorry.

6. Don’t be surprised if your parents don’t always understand. Mary and Joseph were rather upset with Jesus when they found Him, and gave Him a mild rebuke (v. 48). They loved Him, but they did not understand why He had stayed behind. As you grow up, you will realize that your parents are not perfect. They do not always understand you, and sometimes they may rebuke you when you did not sin. But don’t have a critical attitude towards them. Continue to honor them. We all make mistakes in various ways.

7. Know God as your Father in Christ. Jesus answered his parents, “Wist ye not [don’t you know] that I must be about my Father’s business?” (v. 49) The word “must” tells us that even at twelve years of age, Christ felt an inward compulsion to seek His Father and to do His will. If you trust in Christ alone for salvation, God is your Father. Make it your ambition to always please your Father, even when no one else is around to see what you are doing. Remember, His eye is always upon you—even when no one else’s is. Live in such a way that this fact is not your terror, but in the mercies of Jesus Christ, your comfort.

8. If you don’t understand something about God, keep meditating on His Word. May and Joseph did not understand what Jesus was talking about, but Mary kept thinking about what He said until the Spirit helped her to understand (vv. 50–51). Sometimes you too will find the Bible hard to understand. Things will happen in your life that don’t make sense. The way to respond is to keep God’s Word in your heart, constantly meditating on it with prayer until God reveals Himself to you more.

9. Submit to your parents’ authority. Jesus was the Lord, but He “was subject” or submissive to His earthly parents’ authority (v. 51). How much more should you honor and obey your father and your mother. As you grow older, you will, by God’s grace, grow smarter, stronger, and more independent. That’s good. But never let that cause you to show less respect for your parents. You are still under their authority and in their house.

10. Grow into maturity in every area of life. Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” That means He became stronger, wiser, and more mature in His mind and education, in His physical body, in His worship and devotion, and in His social life and friendships. You too need to keep growing in every area of life. Don’t be satisfied to be growing in one area while remaining weak in another area. Try to become a well-rounded young man, like Christ was. And like Christ, be a leader rather than be one who is led. Resist negative peer pressure and promote positive peer pressure. To that end, fear God more than man. Make God big and people small in your life. Live the childlike fear of God which counts the smiles and frowns of God to be of more value than the smiles and frowns of people.

With these ten thoughts, Ian, I want to wish you again a very happy birthday. May the Lord bless you out of His glorious riches with the inward power of the Holy Spirit, so that you will be filled with Christ Himself and God will be greatly glorified through your life. Pray much to hate sin, love Christ, pursue holiness, and live for eternity. And always remember, if Christ is your life, death will be your gain (Phil. 1:21), and eternity will be your joy (Rev. 21).

Joel Beeke

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