I have been praying about some relationships in my life for years. One has come to the forefront lately. What is blowing me away is God's faithfulness to speak into my life about this situation. I can look over the past few months and see how He has led particular people into my life to address this with me, led me to books I've read to deepen my understanding and thinking, and led me to Scripture which is instructing and comforting me.
I am experiencing God in answer to my prayer. This never ceases to amaze me each time it happens.
I posted on a Bible forum about running a good race. Someone commented 2 Timothy 4:7. I went to this verse and was drawn to verse 8. It brought me joy. I believe there are no coincidences. I believe God speaks through my circumstances to lead me. As a result of this interaction I re-read all of 2 Timothy, a book I have studied in depth in the past.
But something impacted me this time which has never before. And it was about generational faith.
2 Timothy 1:5
For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and you mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.
How many times had I read this verse? It never spoke to me before. Ever. Yet it literally jumped off at me this time. I immediately wrote "Generational Faith" beside this verse.
After I read the entire book, I wanted to dig deeper. First I went to the references in my Bible. 2 Timothy 1:5 refers to Acts 16:1.
Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek,
Lois and Eunice are not mentioned by name anywhere else is Scripture except for 2 Timothy 1:5. From Acts 16:1 we learn Timothy's mother, Eunice, was a Jewish Christian. A woman of Jewish heritage who believes in Jesus and is therefore Christian. Today we call Jewish Christians "Messianic Jews." Timothy's father was a Greek though. This means he was not a believer. We do not know if he later became one.
2 Timothy 3:15:
and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
"from childhood" and "sacred writings" stuck out to me. And of course that salvation is through "faith" and "Christ Jesus."
Yesterday at church the minister was talking about the joy of our salvation. At the end he asked people to come up to the microphone and say, "I believed in Jesus and received salvation when I was __________ years old at _______________." Whoa! I immediately thought this was a bad idea because of the people sitting there who had not yet believed in Jesus. How uncomfortable would they be sitting in the pew and not coming up front? I was so wrong on this one though! It was wonderful to hear about the salvation of others. Many people were choked up and had happy tears as they repeated when and where they came to believe. And what struck me was many of them accepted Christ at a very young age - 6, 8, 10. And many of them said their parents or one of their parents led them to Christ. One woman cried and said her mother and her were unloading groceries in their kitchen and her mother led her to Christ there on the kitchen floor when she was only 8 years old!
It made me think of Proverbs 22:6.
Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.
I also thought about how many people leave the spiritual training up to the church. Yes, the church should train, but that training should begin and continue at home.
What joy it was to celebrate our salvation! It also brought me some sadness though as I thought, 'Oh, how I wish my own mother would have taught me about faith in Christ. Oh, how I wish I had taught my own children.'
Here's the thing. I have grown in my faith leaps and bounds in the past 20 years. I have believed for the past 10+ years that my main purpose in life was to share what I've learned with others. I have been pouring my time into that. I do think that is one of God's purposes for my life. But I have never poured this knowledge into my very own family.
Generational faith. What if my main purpose all of this time should have been to train the next generation? Specifically my next generation. It seems too late for me to do now. I can't help but have a truckload of "wouldas, shouldas, couldas."
I came to accept Jesus as my Savior way back when I was in 7th grade. I was on fire for the Lord and I wanted to be a minister when I grew up. I was raised in a family which rarely went to church and never talked about anything spiritual. Faith was not discussed or evident in my home. I had no one in my immediate family who trained me or taught me; who explained the why of what we believe. I went to church weekly by myself and sat with friends and their families.
I had accepted Jesus as my Savior, but in retrospect not so much as my Lord. I was very immature in my faith. And when a major life-changing event happened (my mother died when I was 20 years old), I turned from the Lord. A decade goes by with little thought to God. Then my 30's hit and I start thinking about spiritual things. I was cynical and skeptical though. Bashing on Christians - thinking they were judgmental and hypocrites. (I later found out I was way off! It was really my warped perception of people who call themselves Christian and really my own mind issue. Most Christians I know are loving and genuine. Just regular people who are trying to live out their faith, sometimes failing, but trying.) That decade of my 30's I wanted a relationship with Jesus, but not so much with other Christians. God was drawing me back to Him, but I wasn't very purposeful about my spiritual journey.
Then my 40's hit and another life-altering event happens. A series of several events sent me into severe depression. It was at this point I surrendered to Him. My life was so screwed up I didn't think I could make it through one more day. I truly needed Him and I asked God to take over. He did. God saved me in every sense possible.
I often pondered if I had died in those years between me turning my back on God (in my 20's) and me coming back to Him (in my 40's), would I have ended up in heaven? Honestly, I don't know. I think so because I never stopped believing in Jesus and His death and resurrection. There was little evidence in my life that was what I believed though. It is a waste of time to dwell on it because that isn't how my life played out. God didn't give up on me. Praise Him!
But I didn't immediately get on board with it all when I first turned back to God. I had way too many questions about most of it. I became purposeful about figuring out what I believed and why I believed it. With each question I had, I dove deeper and deeper into Scripture. I took classes. God brought mentors into my life. I participated in many Bible studies. I read dozens and dozens of Christian books. I matured in my faith. By my mid 40's I was all in. Smile. I believed the essentials of the Christian faith. I believed the Bible was the word of God. And I knew why I believed these things. I began to share what I had learned. And I continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is an endurance race after all.
However, what I was learning in those first few years was somewhat of a private journey and I did not share it with those I loved. My upbringing and that of my husband's was that faith is private. Oh how wrong that thinking is! Nothing could be further from the truth! Faith is a public thing.
I had a window of opportunity to train my children, but I didn't really. I left the training up to the church.
First of all I was beginning this decade of finding answers to my questions just when my oldest was entering high school. If any of you have raised teenagers, you know they often don't value what their parents say or think. It didn't seem like opportunities came up to discuss my faith journey with my oldest. They probably did and I missed them. And actually I assumed she got it and perhaps even got it more than I did.
Also I was recovering from depression. A long journey. As I experienced God's healing power, I did not share it with my family and loved ones. I think I was trying to shelter my children from the hot mess I was at that time. And I was somewhat ashamed of the depression as I was going through it. (Not any more.) Also, it wasn't completely my story to tell others. Other people were involved and I could not talk about it without bringing them in. There I was going through this rock-my-world experience which brought me to true faith, but I felt I had to keep the specifics private to protect others.
Next my husband wasn't on board with me about spiritual training. He just wasn't. This has been a source of conflict with us over the years. We are in different places. We weren't when we were first married. But as I continue to learn and grow and rely more on God, he continues to be content just where he is spiritually. Spiritual discussions in our home were shut down.
My youngest did ask many questions and he did get some guidance from me. But definitely not to the extent he should have.
I should have taught them the reasons for my belief. I should have taught them about the Bible. But I was figuring it out at the time and I didn't know what I didn't know until I knew it. My children don't really have any idea what I know now! That is the part I want to share with them.
And now they are grown. I don't have the influence over them that I once did. They aren't interested in these conversations now.
I sometimes feel like I failed them in the worst way possible.
And the generational faith, or lack thereof, continues. My parents did not train me. I didn't train my children. My children may not train their children.
Just to be clear, I am talking about salvation, but I am more so talking about the day to day walking with Christ. People often focus entirely on if they are going to heaven or not, but seem to give little thought to the impact their faith has on this life on earth. All I know is I've lived half of my life without Christ's leadership and half with it and I testify it is way better with Him in it! Way better. And this is what I want to scream at my loved ones. Wake up! Realize what is important! I wasted decades in partial belief with unanswered questions. Without Him as my Lord. Wasted time. I can't do anything about it now. It is what it is. It is my spiritual journey, unique to me. But don't make the same mistake I made. Oh, please don't.
I read that Timothy was raised with sincere faith which dwelt in his grandmother and his mother. That from childhood he had known the sacred writings. And that led him to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
I think about the opportunity I had. The opportunity I squandered. It should have been my priority.
I know God doesn't need me to accomplish His purposes.
I know He loves my loved ones more than I do.
I know God hears my ongoing prayers.
I am certain God has this.
I poured over my various study Bibles and commentaries with regard to the above verses. In one of my study Bibles, I read that in order to influence for Christ those who are in our relational sphere, we must have a good grasp of doctrine and mentor them. This is what Eunice and Lois did with Timothy. What love they showed him.
Take some advise from someone with regret. As you grow in your faith, pass that on to those around you, but especially with your children.
Faith should move from generation to generation.
You might also want to read: Teaching the Generations, April 11, 2017 (Passion to Know More's 100th post.)