I remember as a kid going to Lake Michigan for a swim and trying to decide whether to run full tilt into the waves or to just get my feet wet. You can probably guess which way won out. After the first shock I would get used to the water temperature and swim for hours. Now, as an older and supposedly wiser man I approach Lake Michigan with caution. I begin with my feet and if it seems warm enough I slowly work my way out to deeper water.
The greatest danger for Christians is being the people of the wet feet. We carefully test the temperature of everything to make sure it is comfortable for us before we will go any further in. When Jesus was choosing disciples He was not looking for timid souls. He wanted to have disciples ready to take the plunge into the depths of God. According to Ray VanderLaan there is good evidence to support the fact that all of the disciples but Peter (who was likely in his early 20s) were teenagers. Why would Jesus choose these younger men as disciples?
A researcher named Dr. Casey has looked at the hormone development vs. reasoning maturity of teens. He writes, "The trouble with teens, Casey suspects, is that they fall into a neurological gap. The rush of hormones at puberty helps drive the reward-system network toward maturity, but those hormones do nothing to speed up the cognitive control network. Instead, cognitive control slowly matures through childhood, adolescence, and into early adulthood. Until it catches up, teenagers are stuck with strong responses to rewards without much of a compensating response to the associated risks." In other words, teenagers are much more likely to take the plunge into discipleship than timidly get their feet wet.
We might call them foolish and laugh at their lack of "maturity", but Jesus didn't laugh and entrusted His salvation work in this world to twelve of them. Now there is a difference that we need to look at for a moment. At age twelve they were working for a living alongside their fathers (James and John and Peter and Andrew in the family fishing business). The average lifespan for a peasant Jew in Israel was fifty years. Middle age was mid-twenties to mid-thirties. But all this doesn't change the fact that it was these hormone charged young men to whom our Lord gave authority and responsibility for the church. So what does all this mean to us? We can't go back to those years in our lives. But we can do two important things.
First, we must do all we can to encourage our own young people to take the plunge into radical discipleship. Any church that welcomes and supports their youth to take the lead in living for Jesus is a blessed church. We need to put aside our need for our comfort to do all we can to focus on building up our youth as young leaders among us. If there are new things from God for our church they are likely to be led by these young trailblazers. We must do all we can to train and support these younger disciples.
Second, we have to keep our faith young. We have older members in our church who have young hearts. They are not afraid to step out in faith to follow Jesus. They are not ready to fade away into quiet lives waiting to die, they are living as much in the fulness of the Holy Spirit as they are able. A young heart is still very much concerned about the mission of the church instead of their comfort. A young heart is looking to be on the adventure of walking the life path with Jesus each day. A young heart is still willing to take the plunge. A young heart is bold not timid. Do all you can to keep your heart young. Don’t be one of the people of the wet feet.