You’re having a conversation. An adult walks up. What is your reaction? Do you feel comfortable and confident—or awkward and aloof? Can you hold a five- or 10-minute conversation with an adult? Not many young people can.
Let’s take this a step further: Are you capable of having a spiritual discussion with an adult?
It is extremely rare for a young person to display this kind of maturity. But take a few pointers from the example of Jesus Christ.
Luke records an impressive incident that happened when Jesus was only 12 years old. It gives you an idea of what you are capable of if you take this example to heart.
When Jesus’s family kept the Passover in Jerusalem, they accidentally left Him behind. When they returned, they found Him in a remarkable setting. “And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors [the Jewish religious teachers], both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers” (Luke 2:46-47).
Really think about this. He was 12 years old! Well, He was the Son of God, you might think. I could never be like that. But don’t dismiss this example so quickly. God didn’t record this so you could just marvel at how unusual Christ was. He did it to give you an example to follow (1 Peter 2:21). Let’s break this down and see how you can walk in His footsteps.
First, Jesus put Himself in this situation. If you’re going to talk with adults, after all, you have to be around them. Whom do you speak with at Church services, for example? Do you ever venture outside your comfort zone and the circle of young people you always gravitate to? Jesus sought out these older people to converse with them.
Second, Jesus listened intently to these men. That is where we all need to start in order to gain more wisdom. Listening is a priceless skill. Even adults must practice and improve at this their whole lives long. Develop it in your early years like Christ did, and you’ll give yourself a super-boost in life.
Third, as Jesus listened, He thought earnestly about what these men said. He thought deeply and compared and contrasted what He heard to the knowledge He already had. When He wanted to understand something better, He asked a question. Sounds simple, but combined with listening closely, asking good questions is a potent way to multiply your knowledge. It demonstrates mature interest and a teachable attitude—very unusual qualities in young people. That alone impresses many adults, just like these adults were impressed at the 12-year-old Jesus.
But Jesus went beyond asking questions; He also answered questions. He spoke complete sentences that showed not only that He listened and thought about what He was hearing, but also that He deeply understood. People were amazed at this understanding, which was far beyond His years.
In order to contribute to spiritual conversation the way Jesus did, you must have your mind on the things of God. You have to regularly talk to God and listen to Him by praying and studying throughout the week. You have to think about what you study. You need to listen to the messages you hear in services, and ponder them. Then you have to find ways to apply them to your life.
And you have to practice. Learning how to speak about spiritual things is hard. Even many adults stumble at this because they don’t try hard enough. It takes constant, determined effort.
Practice at home with your parents. Here is a simple action step to get you started: At your next dinner, bring up a spiritual topic at the table and see what happens.
Jesus’s conversation with these teachers was not the first time He spoke about spiritual concepts with an adult. He had many prior conversations like that at home. He had grown comfortable with it. He had become good at it. So by age 12, He was able to hold an outstanding conversation with astute and devout men—men He didn’t even know. Luke 2:48 shows he amazed even His parents.
Your first few attempts might fall a little flat. Or you may succeed on your first try: Sometimes a great conversation can begin with, I was thinking about the sermon today after school, and I was wondering how it applies to me. It can be that easy.
Results will vary, but when you find a topic or a question that sparks a good discussion, keep it in your pocket. Save that one for bringing up at Church services when the opportunity arises.
After that first attempt at dinner, try out a few more topics and questions throughout the week over a meal or on a long car ride. Compare the principles you hear and read from the Bible to the situation with your history teacher, your relationship with your volleyball coach or your argument with your sister. Tell your family how the spiritual principle from the sermonette seems to apply to something that happened at school. Ask questions. Talk about a prayer God answered for you. Bring up a memorable proverb you read, and share what you think of it.
The only way to follow Jesus’s example in this way is to resolve to do it, and then—no matter how awkward it may feel—try it out. Then try it again. Then again. Then again. Practice. Each conversation will vary. But if you keep digging into the deeper topics—history, government, the Bible, prophecy, the nature of God, the difference between right and wrong—over time you will grow smarter, wiser and more mature. That is how talking with adults will become easier and more fulfilling.
Remember this extremely practical example Jesus set as a youth. Develop your mind. Put yourself in contact with adults. Listen closely to them. Compare what you’re hearing with what you’ve heard before. Ask thoughtful questions. Answer their questions in complete sentences, communicating your thoughts clearly. It will all get easier with practice—and will build your reputation as a mature youth with a bright future. And you know what? You’ll even come to enjoy it!