If we want our faith to endure for all generations, we must become increasingly confident and focused about the kind of faith we are trying to pass on to our children and grandchildren.
In Psalm 78 we find a blueprint of God’s grand method for faith replication throughout all generations. He chose to use the family as the primary place to nurture faith. The psalmist, Asaph, unveils God’s plan:
I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter hidden things, things from of old — what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. They would not be like their forefathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him. (vv. 2–8)
I grew up in a Christian family with parents who loved God. I can remember hearing stories about my rich and vibrant heritage of faith. When I became a parent, I didn’t want to be the one who broke the chain — the weak link who was unable to pass the baton to the next generation in the great relay race of life! When I think about what has been entrusted to me, I am often tempted to kick into “make it happen” mode. Yet Jesus warned against this type of faith.
Having faith is not about just “doing good stuff.” Jesus made this point when he gave the example of how we are to abide in the Vine. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NASB). We are the branches. He is the Vine. The vine is the plant’s food source. It is the way the branches are nourished with nutrients and water, which bring life to the budding fruit. Apart from him we can do nothing. He instructs us that as we abide, then and only then will we bear fruit. There’s also a caution in this for us to not just do “good stuff” without the power source that makes it good: God. I love the visual embedded in this passage.
Recently I was in Temecula, Calif., which is known as beautiful wine country. There are vast and picturesque vineyards as far as the eye can see. The imagery of the vineyard and what it means to bear fruit has always been intriguing to me. As I drove down the road that day, I saw something that stood out to me, a visual expression that I will never forget.
On one side of the road was a beautiful vine that almost looked fake because it was so perfect. It was a picturesque vine abounding with huge clusters of luscious grapes. Grapes still on the vine are a magnificent sight! Underneath these vines, somebody had painted on a wooden board the words, “Abide in me and you will bear much fruit.” In contrast, on the other side of the road stood a lonely, withered branch. It was lifeless, its leaves dead, and it just looked pathetic. Here it stood, just one ugly branch, useful for nothing. A wooden board also accompanied this branch, stating, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
Intellectually, I understand that only God can change lives. But I confess to you that I am tempted daily to simply “try harder” to walk this life of faith. Not only do I find this temptation in my own life, but I also struggle enormously not to impose this false faith on my children by encouraging them to “try harder” as well. How foolish I am when I either try in my own efforts to be transformed, or more foolish yet, when I ignore altogether the path that he has set out for me!
In Philippians 2:13, Paul reminds us that it is God who is at work within each of us, working out his will. Our job (and really, our privilege) is to place our children in the path where he is at work. We get to come alongside where he is already moving. We get to place them in proximity to the divine and then let the divine do the supernatural in their lives. It’s such an honor. It really is.