Beyond a Single Generation

It is not unusual to see that when a powerful personality leaves a ministry for that ministry to falter and possibly even die. It’s a sad commentary on the fact that we still often build institutions for the glory of the Kingdom of God but we try to do so largely on our own power without a vision for the future. One could say that we’re so busy that there’s not enough time to get the things done that are demanded today, so how can we possibly carve time and effort off for the future? But in reality that’s just postponing a problem. And usually when a problem gets postponed it grows and grows and grows. For instance, if you have a slow leak in your house and you don’t do anything about it, that slow leak may become a bigger one, mold may begin to grow, and things get damaged that would have been okay if you had fixed that leak up front. Ministry and faithfulness and devotion to God work the same way.

But when the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the LORD was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.  – Judges 3:9-11, ESV

The people of Israel had turned to evil and therefore God gave them over to their sin. He brought judgment in the form of a foreign king until Israel realized the depth of its depravity and sought God’s face again. Then He raised up a deliverer, Othniel, who did exactly that – deliver them. For the forty years Othniel was the judge over Israel, the land was okay. But as soon as Othniel died, things started to slip again. Verse 12 tells us that the people did evil in the sight of God again and yet again He raised up a foreign king in judgment. This is actually the cycle we see repeated throughout the book of Judges. Which raises the question, “Why did this keep happening?” Why were things okay for one generation but then they went back to the way they were? In fact, why is this pattern repeated throughout Israel’s history? I have a sense that they did not prepare well for the future. Not like this:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  – Deuteronomy 6:4-9, ESV

Moses’ instruction was that we must intentionally prepare the next generation to know who God is and what He has done for us. We must teach them God’s commands and we must do so with diligence. God’s instructions are to always be a topic of discussion, more so than any other. When I think about this level of standard, I have to admit that a lot of days I’ve not gotten there. Why is Moses saying this is God’s desire? Because God understands that this world rejects His commands. It will do everything in its power, because of the current ruler, to undermine those commands. Satan does not want us to worship God, but rather, to turn from that worship. And so he targets every weakness, every opportunity to turn us from a focus on God onto something else. Moses’ words say, “Stay focused. Keep God and His Word firmly in your minds. Let it be an integral part of your talk, your work, and your activity. Let the Word permeate every part of your life. It should be more important than anything else. You can see that by how much time you spend on it compared to other things.”
The next generation partially learns from our example. When they see we’re about devotional and faithfulness to God, they can see that it’s important to us. If they see positive effects in our lives, they learn to value what we value. However, have you ever been an observer to something and not totally understood what all happened? Did a conversation later make things more clear? For instance, maybe you saw your mom or dad or someone you respected do something but you didn’t understand why. Later, when you asked, they explained and you saw the wisdom of their actions. Just watching isn’t enough. There needs to be intentional and diligent sharing from us to those who will follow after us. We need to seek to impart our wisdom and our experience so that the next generation will be properly prepared. We also need to clearly teach what God’s expectations are, what He promises, and what He has already done for us. This is true whether we’re talking about our children or we’re talking about those who will follow us in our current ministries or those around us in the body of Christ. This is the expectation God places on us. There’s isn’t an “out” here.

So how best do we do this? First, we have to be in the Word and know the Word. We can’t impart and teach that which we do not know. Then, we have to build lives where we intentionally are about the discussion and sharing of God’s Word. I don’t just mean on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. It should be the dominant topic in our lives. More so than NASCAR, than SEC or Big Ten football, than our latest hobby, or how large a buck we brought down the previous weekend or the size of the bass we landed the week before. It certainly should be a larger topic than our issues at work or how we feel ripped off by a mechanic or how the government is unfair or full of crooks. I know I’m stepping on some toes here, but believe me when I say that as I consider the command God gave to Moses, I’ve done a lot of stomping on my own feet, too.  Finally, as we’re striving to accomplish these two steps, the last one is to share. We share with those who will follow us. If you’re in ministry, it’s grooming the next generation. If you’re a parent, it’s teaching God and His Word to your children. If you don’t meet either of these, it’s sharing with those believers around you who are younger and/or less mature in the faith. And I bet if we got serious about these things, we would see the revival our land and our world so greatly needs.

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