Young Americans are less likely to believe in God, seldom go to church and rarely pray.
That’s according to a new Pew Research Center survey released last week. http://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/u-s-public-becoming-less-religious/
Among the findings about the younger generation:
- Only 80% of millennials born between 1990 and 1996 said they believe in God.
- Only 38% say religion is very important in their lives.
- Only 28% attend church weekly or more.
- 36% say they seldom or never pray.
You can draw your own conclusions about these findings, but apparently the younger generation in America cares less and less about God and church.
That’s in sharp contrast to a young boy named Samuel, who became a prophet and priest for God. The early part of his story is found in the first three chapters of 1 Samuel in the Old Testament.
For a long time, his mother Hannah couldn’t have children. She prayed to God and told Him that if He would give her a son, she would dedicate the child to God for the boy’s entire life (1 Samuel 1:10-16).
God answered Hannah’s prayer and she named her son Samuel, which means “asked of God.”
Samuel was no more than 5 or 6 years old when Hannah took him to the house of the Lord and gave him to God (1 Samuel 1:24-28).
It’s not clear how old Samuel was at the time, but he could not have been more than a teenager. Please take time to read this fascinating story about young Samuel; here are a few lessons you can learn from the beginning of his life.
Lesson 1: God hears and answers prayers.
Prayer is our way of communicating with God. It’s like a child talking to an attentive daddy. He listens to our requests and answers. Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes it’s no and sometimes it’s not now. We might not get as dramatic a response as Hannah did, but God’s ears are always open to the cries of His children. He will always do what’s best for us, as any loving father would.
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:9-13 ESV
Personal application: How much time do you spend in prayer? Do you understand why it’s important to communicate with God daily?
Lesson 2: Children can start serving God at an early age.
At an age when American children are in kindergarten or the first grade, Samuel was in the house of the Lord serving Him. Children should be taught as soon as possible about God and how they should relate to Him. Dedicating your children to God is more than just a ceremony, it’s an acknowledgement that they belong to Him and should begin serving Him as soon as possible. (See Deuteronomy 6)
Personal application: What are the benefits of children serving God at an early age? How does that effect the way they grow up?
Lesson 3: God speaks to and through a child.
When children have a heart for God, they often talk to God and He listens to them, giving them guidance and instruction. God spoke to Samuel and developed a relationship with him. Sometimes parents and other adults underestimate children’s ability to grasp spiritual truths, but God doesn’t. It’s why Jesus said not to forbid children to come to Him and that all believers must have faith like a child.
Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:15-17
Personal application: Have you seen God at work in the life of a child? Can you describe in what way?
Lesson 4: God rewards faithful service to Him.
Samuel demonstrated his faithfulness to God at an early age and God chose him as His first named prophet since Moses. Like Samuel, if you are a Christian, you are God’s representative on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20). You might not receive recognition for your service to God at the present time, but He won’t forget what you do for Him. (See Matthew 25:31-46 and Revelation 22:12)
Personal application: How much have you thought about the eternal consequences of faithfully serving God?
Like Samuel, you should demonstrate a childlike faith. So listen to one of my favorite songs about having a childlike faith:
Next week: Timothy: The Student in Charge