What advice would you give your 18 year self?

This is graduation season. Thousands are graduating from high school. Some will be going to the next level of education and some into the full time work force.  As they will soon discover, life is full of surprises and challenges that they have not anticipated. When we look back at our life in retrospect we all have some things that we would do different.  As the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.

I have been thinking, now that I am in my twilight years, if I could go back to my 18 year old self and give him some advice what would I tell him?  Or what if  I could speak to an audience of 18 year old high school graduates, what advice would I give them? Three things come to my mind as I anticipate this conversation.

Make sure of your salvation –  If you ask the average religious person on the street, “If you died tonight are your sure that you would go to heaven?” They would probably say I am not sure, or I hope so, or no I am not sure.  This is the most important aspect of life to settle. The scripture tells us in 1 John 5:13,  I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.”  Salvation that Jesus gives us is a “know so” salvation.  When we trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross for our sin, and put our trust in Him for our salvation, He gives us eternal life. (John 3:16)

Why is it important to settle our salvation?  It gives us inner peace and assurance that heaven is our home.  Also, at salvation we get Jesus in us, changing and conforming us to His image.  It gives us confidence that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  We now have a “belongingness and an identity.”  We are a child of God that is positionally “seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” We are now on a spiritual journey, not trying to work our way to heaven, but moving toward spiritual maturity that allows us to be salt and light to the world. 

Set your moral compass –  There are many voices that are clamoring for your attention.  If you don’t set your moral compass early on, then the many voices around you will determine your direction.  There are two primary models of moral compasses, the moral compass of culture and the moral compass of the Bible.  Your level of peace, contentment, satisfaction, happiness and inner joy is directly related to which moral compass you follow. If you follow the cultural model your moral compass will change as the culture changes.  Your morality will reflect the movement and trends of the culture.  You will have no moral absolutes because when the trends of culture change so will you.

But if your moral compass is based on a biblical model then your morality is driven by truth. You have a set of absolutes that guide your life.  These absolutes are given by the wisdom of God. He gave us these moral principles based on His foreknowledge.  He knows what happens to humans when they reject the moral absolutes of scripture. 

Having moral absolutes takes a lot of pressure off trying to conform to cultural demands.  Your moral compass will always guide you in the right direction.  The moral compass also includes the indwelling life of Christ and the Holy Spirit to guide you in all your decisions.

Let go of your life –  The most important command of Scripture is to “love the Lord God with all your heart, mind and soul.”  In other words, live life in a state of full surrender and abandonment to the will of God.  Happiness is always found when you are willing to surrender all your dreams and plans to the Lord.  Does that mean that you don’t plan for your future and work toward success in your profession?  No, it just means as you plan and dream ask the Lord to guide in the direction that pleases Him and fulfills His will for your life.

This is where having a correct moral compass comes into play.  Instead of trying to keep up with the trends of culture, you are able to avoid the mental struggle of being like everyone else.  You realize that God loves you and has made you unique to the whole world. He has a plan for your life that will suit your natural gifting and that will bring joy, happiness and inner peace to your heart. That can only happen if you are willing to let go of your life and trust God with your future.

Bottom Line

There are things in life that happen that we can’t explain or change… that’s just life.  But there are many things in life that we can prevent or change if we had the proper tools to make those decisions  

When you are sure of your salvation it gives you the boldness to believe that God is always with you to navigate every challenge of life.  When we set our moral compass it gives us confidence that we are not going to throw away our life on the whims of the culture. Because we have a compass, it always points in the right direction.  When we practice letting go of our life, then we open ourselves to all sorts of possibilities to serve others and give God the glory in the process. 

Now that you are older, what advice would you give your 18 year old self? It’s never too late to apply these principles to your life.

Death of a Vision


The human is unique to all of God’s creation in several ways, but the most distinguishing feature is the need to produce and excel in life. Within every believer God places desires and ambitions that are unique to them.  There are some who are able to discern and discover what they are to do with their life at an early age. But more often than not, it takes many years for most adults to get it all figured out and discover their calling.

There are many elements to a calling, such as natural giftedness and talent, a burning desire, how we relate to people, spiritual gifts and experience.  Sometimes those elements are present from early on in our life but most often they develop as we step toward and participate in our calling. However, these are all secondary elements to our calling.

The primary aspect of a calling is the vision God births in our heart. One way we know that our vision is from God is it’s impossible for us to accomplish apart from His supernatural intervention. We see this throughout Scripture as God calls His servants to a particular task for a certain time in history.

Visions from God have a unique aspect that separates it from how man normally operates.  When God gives a vision there is usually a time where the vision seems to die.  This is called “death of a vision.” We see this pattern throughout Scripture.  Joseph was given a dream and vision about him rising to political prominence over his brothers. But the next events led him to being sold as a slave and then being put in prison and falsely accused.

Abraham was told to leave his home and set out on a journey and God would tell him later where to go. One night God said to Abraham, “Look in the sky, how many stars you see?” Abraham said, “There are too many, I can’t count them.” Then God said, “That’s how many people will come from your seed.”  You can imagine how excited Abraham was to learn that his children would birth a whole nation; so many that you can’t even count them.  But twenty years later, Abraham was older and his wife was past child bearing age. His vision was dead – even biologically impossible.

Death of a vision is a pattern throughout scripture and it is a pattern that is often seen today among believers. God must have a divine purpose in the death of a vision.  It is part of a death process that must be present in every believer in order to be productive in the Kingdom.

Paul gives us a glimpse of the purpose and the value of a death process in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 where he conveys the principle of dying to our self-life.

“We are afflicted…perplexed…persecuted…struck down….always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to the death for Jesus‘sake that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. So death works in us but life in you.”   

In order for the life of Christ to be manifested throughout our life, we must go through a death process, putting to death everything that hinders His life from shining through us.  In God’s economy of things the death process actually prepares us for the day when He will fulfill the vision He has placed on our heart.  During Joseph’s and Abraham’s death of a vision God prepared them in ways that could not have been possible apart from the failures, disappointments and delays they encountered while waiting on God to bring the vision to pass.  But when God finally fulfilled their vision, wow what a spectacle. God miraculously birthed more than they ever thought or imagined.

I vividly remember the day when I sensed God’s call for me to enter full-time ministry. I remember where I was sitting in the church service. The call was so real that I looked at my wife wondering if she heard the same thing I heard.in the weeks and months that followed I felt as if God was going to call us to the mission field. Matter of fact I just knew somehow we would be involved in missions somewhere in the world.  When I left for Bible College the plans changed and I ended up training to be a pastor. My vision for missions was dead. When I rethought what God was saying to me regarding missions, I thought maybe He just wants me to support missions as a pastor. I did that, but there was still that strong pull toward personal, hands on mission involvement.

But fifteen years later God began to fulfill the vision He had given me for missions.  After my first mission trip into Russia, Romania, and Hungary, I knew that this was the end of the “death of a vision” and the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s plan. Over the past 20 years God has verified that calling and we have seen abundant fruit on several continents.

Here is my observation.  God allows the death of a vision in order to do at least two things. First, He wants to rid us of all those things that are inconsistent with “who we are in Christ”.  God’s calling is a serious matter and it’s important that God prepares us for spiritual warfare.  You can’t do battle with the enemy when you are out of shape spiritually.

Secondly, God allows the death of a vision to cause us to come to the conclusion that we cannot “make it happen” on our own.  God’s call always involves the impossible. Chances are if you can do it without God’s help and supernatural intervention, then it’s probably not of God.

Are you carrying around the “death of a vision?” Do you yet have an unfulfilled vision waiting for God’s intervention and open door?  Remember, if God has given us a vision, He has already equipped us to fulfill His calling in our life.  (Romans 5:3-5, Romans 8:28)  When God is ready He will open the doors, clear the way and make it possible.  Just maybe it’s time to begin crying out to God in behalf of your vision? I leave you with a chorus from an old gospel song that conveys the importance of praying through.

“Just keep on praying, till the light breaks through.
The Lord will answer, will answer you.
God keeps his promise, his word is true,
Just keep on praying, till the light breaks through.”