As I have been reading through the book of Judges, I am drawn to the lessons we can learn. Reading about the cycle the Israelites kept going through reminds me of myself. It reminds me of the students I work with and the adults I know, too. I thought I would go through each of the judges and share my thoughts on them, from a youth ministry perspective. First up…
- First let’s look back at v. 4, “They (surrounding nations) were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the LORD’s commands,” God does leave people and situations in our life to test us and see if we will obey Him. Do your students recognize this? Do we (parents & youth workers) allow people to be there that might test the students or do we try to buffer them? Think about a few of your students. Who are their testers?
- The Israelites did not do well with this test. They quickly forgot God. (v. 7) How often does this happen to students? I think the Israelites forgot about God because things were going well. They didn’t have any major conflicts with the surrounding nations; besides the people seemed nice. When we become comfortable with our surroundings, we lose sight of God. This happens rather quickly for students. Keep God in the forefront and remind them of what God has done in the past.
- They got themselves into trouble, and God was willing to get them out. How amazing is that? Inevitably, the trouble is always our fault. Your students will make stupid decisions. They will make bad choices. They will think they are too far gone to be forgiven or loved by God – they might even think that all the bad stuff in their life is God punishing them. Take time to remind them of God’s love. Remind them that God wants to be there for them and will provide a way out of their struggles.
- After a war, led by Othniel, the Israelites enjoyed a time of peace (40 years). Two things about this; first, it took a war for them to get to the peace and the peace only lasted as long as Othniel was alive. In youth ministry, there are times where the only way to get to peace is through a rough time. You have to wade through some negatives in order to get to the positive. Working with students means there will be some seasons that feel like battle. When you get through those, you get to enjoy the season of peace. Be willing to go through the tough times!
- Students can depend solely on the youth minister. This is taken from the fact that the Israelites enjoyed peace as long as Othniel was alive. Just like the Israelites relied solely on Othniel, there will be students who live for God only when the youth worker is around. This could mean until the youth worker leaves the ministry or it could mean only moment to moment when a youth worker is around. Teaching the youth to wrestle with their faith helps them to not rely on the adults. The students have to be able to grow on their own or they will fall when the adult leaves. Be mindful of this as you work with students.
Next up, Ehud the left-handed.