Passing Faith to the Next Generation
Faith is the substance of things hoped for (Heb 11:1).
As parents, we hope for few things more than for our children to become people of faith. Since the time God called his people from Egypt, he has given us instructions and encouragement about passing on our faith to the next generation.
The Passover, for example, was instituted in part to remind God's people of his goodness and faithfulness to them. It was to be a witness through the generations. Exodus 12:26-27 states, “’And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when He struck down the Egyptians.’”
The question asked isn’t simply, “What does this ceremony mean?” but, “What does it mean to you” as the parent? Our children want to know how our faith relates to us personally. With the onslaught of secularism, particularly regarding Christian celebrations and holidays, it is easy to focus on how the holiday came to be as a matter of history. For instance, we might let our children know that Easter is not about bunnies and eggs, but about the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. But it is also important to talk about what that means to you personally and to all of us as a family unit. What difference does Easter make now? Developmentally, children are unable to make abstract connections until junior or senior high, so it is important that you help them to see the story continues between the Bible then and life now.
At Sinai, God gave the ten commandments as a model for godly living, and then said "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates" (Dt 6:6-9). God's Word, and how it impacts every aspect of our lives, is to be a constant topic of conversation in our homes. See and speak of God's fingerprints in everything.
After forty years of wandering the Wilderness, the Israelites were out of Egypt, but God was still busy getting the Egypt out of them. He was preparing them to be people of faith before they entered into the Promised Land. Moses had some last words for his people as they were about to enter the land flowing with milk and honey. He told them that the power to choose blessing and cursing, life and death, was their own. He states, “Choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Dt 30:19b-20).
We all know that our children watch us like hawks. They observe our choices and decisions and compare them to what we say we believe. Children do as we do, not as we say. When we choose according to life, following God’s precepts, we demonstrate authentic faith to our family. We prove our love for God, our ability to hear His voice, and our desire to cling to Him by choosing to follow His direction. One way that our family chose to do this was by praying for our neighbors. Often we would go door to door with our small group and ask our neighbors if we could pray with them. This action proved our belief system more to our children then a thousand Sunday school lessons. It was faith in action, in practice; faith made real.
It is true that faith is the substance of things hoped for, but it is also the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1). Sometimes parents watch their children struggle with faith in God. Sometimes it is difficult to see faith bear fruit in our family’s life. Still, we trust in what the scriptures say. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). When we have watered the seed of the Word of God with our corresponding actions, we turn our children over to God and trust that he who began a good work in them will carry it on to completion (Phil 1:6). Our children are responsible for their own choices, but we have assurance that nothing separates them from God’s love (Rom 8:39). “And when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you” (Dt. 30:2-3).
The Lord is waiting for families and individuals to return to Him. He is forgiving and full of mercy. We can mirror the image of the father in the parable of the Prodigal, waiting with open arms for our returning sons and daughters when one or more seem to stray from the family faith. Do not lose heart! God’s Word is incorruptible and will not return void. It is His desire for entire families to serve Him for generations to come.
By Kim Sullivan
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