“I Write Unto You, Young Men”
“I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” (1 John 2:14)
Dear Young Men,
My attention was caught recently by the phrase “For he that will love life, and see good days.” (1 Peter 3:10) It occurred to me just how much this strikes at the depths of our desires. We may express it differently; we may approach it with some other motto or watchword; and yet, is it not our deepest aspiration to “see good days”? Is not a “good day” one in which we feel somehow fulfilled, that somehow we have “met the mark,” whether we are measuring by a measure we have imposed on ourselves, or a measure that is outside of ourselves? When you readers have finished a good book, when you laborers have completed a day’s work, when you organizers have finished organizing something, when you mental gymnasts have solved a puzzle, when you socially minded have had a good visit, when you helpers have been a great help, when you competitors have successfully competed, when you disciples have done what you believe the Lord asked of you, has it not been good? Do you not then love life?
I think that even on the basis of personal observation alone, I can safely conclude that most people are using or trying to use some means in which they are trusting to enable them to “love life, and see good days.” I can also safely conclude that most of them have only limited success at it, because most of them are building on foundations that aren’t very sound. If you were going to build a house in which to live, in a completely unfamiliar environment, you would be wise to find someone you could trust, who was familiar with the environment and the available materials, to advise you. Furthermore, if you had never built houses before, you would do well to have experienced guidance. That’s really how all of us are in this life. We are building a life with no prior experience of our own, in unfamiliar territory, and learning as we go. Fortunately, God is not only an expert builder, He is willing and interested in helping us. So we find in the scripture this counsel:
“For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” (1 Peter 3:10-12)
If you examine the context further, you find that the inspired writer has just been talking about responding to evil with good, and now he is explaining why and how this is successful. He is, in effect, showing us how to build a good house under adverse conditions.
“Let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile”: to refrain is to restrain or hold back. Guile is cunning, trickiness or deceit. When we are attacked in some way, there is an instinctual response to either fight back or flee. The tongue is a ready “fighter,” and it takes a great deal of self-control to restrain it when it is ready to fight. It is also able to use guile either to fight or flee. We might flatter, we might mislead, our lips may be used to get others into trouble in some way. But the Lord stands against all this, and calls us to hold the tongue back from these things.
“Let him eschew evil, and do good”: to eschew means to flee from, avoid, or shun. So not only are we restraining ourselves from returning evil for evil, but we are to flee from it, and do good instead.
“Let him seek peace, and ensue it”: to ensue means to follow or pursue something. Peace doesn’t just come, we must seek and pursue it. To make peace with God requires a seeking, a following after, a meeting of the conditions we find necessary on the way, until God sends His peace into us. When we are treated wrongly, we may find it necessary to press hard after the help God can give us to keep our peace with and from God. Also, inasmuch as it depends on us, gaining peace with them that are mistreating us.
“For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil”: God is watching and listening, always ready to help them that set themselves to follow Him. No matter what current outward circumstances may look like, the Lord disapproves and does not help those who want to do evil. The devil will, but God won’t.
Does this seem a high target, a noble and lofty ideal? For everything God calls us to, He stands behind it with the grace to attain to it. “His ears are open” to the righteous. Are you feeling unable? The strength lies in God, not in you. Are you unable to get this help from God? Perhaps you are not yet made righteous by His blood. Seek Him with all your heart, and He will help you to “love life, and see good days.”