“Generation to Generation
By Nupur James-Araujo
Sunday, October 15, 2023
Reading: 1 Timothy 4: 11-16
Have you ever received a family heirloom? I am the youngest in my family, so I have never had a chance until I got engaged to Aaron. I was passed on this beautiful engagement ring that belonged to Aaron’s great aunt. I still remember the day when Aaron’s mum called him and asked if he would like to give it to me. I was so happy and felt that being given something that’s so beautiful, I must be loved and accepted. It’s all true I have been. It’s still the most precious thing I own. Not because of its monetary value, but because of it legacy. It reminds me of what I have become part of and how I am loved and appreciated.
I believe TEMC is a church filled with stories of legacy. After all, our church tag line is: “a place for life”. Oftentimes I have met someone here who started coming to church and I will ask them how they know about TEMC. They often reply by saying, my grandparents were baptized here, or my great grandparents were married here. It shows that our church has passed on faith and its legacy from generation to generation. I will go as far as saying this is a generational church.
As we continue to look more deeply into this text I wanted to talk about this passage. As we know Paul wrote this epistle. These are compiled letters from Paul to Timothy. As we study the life of Timothy, we discover God has given us a model of how to pass on our faith to the next generation.
When Paul returned to Lystra on his second missionary journey, around five years after his first, Timothy was a young man. It's possible that on that initial visit Timothy's family accepted Christ. During those five years, Timothy matured in his faith under the spiritual guidance of his mother and grandmother. In Paul’s last letter to Timothy, he talks about his family’s spiritual environment and says, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice …” (2 Tim. 1:5).
Our next generation will mimic our faith experience: they pray as we have prayed in their presence, they may raise their hands in worship when they see us raise our hands. Timothy is no longer acting a part; his faith has become his own. Paul has seen the evidence of this faith in Timothy’s actions.
Paul has become his spiritual mentor. Timothy joined Paul on his journeys, and their relationship grew to the point that Paul called Timothy “my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). I love their relationship. It shows the legacy of passing on wisdom and faith from one generation to another. We have all been called to be Pauls in someone’s life and Timothys in others. Paul is teaching Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because he is young. I would assume he was in his early thirties, so biblically I can say I am a youth too (I don’t think my youth will agree). Anyway, Paul is giving him specific instructions on how to not only preach the Gospel but live it. In speech and conduct, if Timothy teaches the Gospel he should apply the truth in areas of his life, in the way he speaks and acts when he is angry, upset, hurt and grieving. That truly goes for us too. How are we portraying ourselves to the world? What are the things we are teaching the next generation?
The second thing he talks about is to live in love, faith, and purity. These are inner traits Paul is teaching to demonstrate love is for God and for others. To live in faithfulness, the word that’s used here, and trustworthiness rather than right belief. To live out his faith. Also, he focuses on purity, not just sexual purity, but integrity of heart. So, I want to ask, how are we living these traits in our lives? Are we loving others, our next generation or do we think of them differently? Have we judged them before even getting to know them? How can we love them boldly and instill faith in them if we don’t even take time to understand them?
As we go further into the passage it talks about devoting ourselves by publicly reading the scriptures, to exhortation and teaching. Listen to these words of Justin Martyr he was an early Christian apologist and philosopher he says:
“On a day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has finished, the president speaks, instructing and exhorting the people to imitate these good things.”
Did you notice how he talks about both apostles' and Old Testament writings? Also, notice the length of the service: "as long as time permits." They didn't spend all day doing a church service. They gathered for worship then got back to living out the truth and their faith in their community. I believe we need to do the same. This is what Justin Martyr inherited at the close of the first century. This is what Paul is instructing Timothy to do here. Devote yourself to the public reading of scripture to exhortation and to teaching. This is what Timothy is called to do. This is what we are called to do. When we gather, lay down the word, learn and mediate on it, and go out and boldly live that faith.
One must ask what does it have to do with me? I would say, everything. We can’t give something we don’t have, can we? We can’t give our next generation the gift of faith if we do not live out that faith. We can’t make them understand us if we haven’t made time to understand them. We see that Paul is giving Timothy specific instructions so he will succeed. He is passing on His wisdom, His faith legacy. He is taking time to write him instructions. When was the last time we took time to sit with someone younger than us and talk about life, faith, and purpose?
There will always be a legacy. Things will be passed on to the following generation. Even if we don't leave a lot of material things behind, we'll pass on our character, abilities, hobbies, skills, and more. But is it enough? Will we leave anything behind that is beneficial for this life and eternity?
The legacy of our faith in Christ is the most priceless inheritance we can leave for our next generation. There are things we can do to foster an environment where faith can flourish, even if each person must make their own decision regarding Christ. It's a legacy when we continuously demonstrate to them the worth and relevance of their trust in Christ. When we consistently show them the value of faith in Christ. That’s a legacy that cannot be easily tossed aside.
God knew the necessity of one generation passing the torch of faith to the next. He even laid out a plan for us in His Word. We see in Bible when Israel was poised to enter the Promised Land, God – through Moses – told them how important it would be to not only model faith to their children, but to also purposefully teach them God’s Word, so they don’t stray away from his will and blessings. This is important to God.
Passing on our faith begins in the family home as spiritual practices. If we wish to foster knowledge and obedience of God in the lives of our own children. There are a few ways we can leave a spiritual legacy.
First, it starts with us.
Love the next generation! Love the kid next door or the teenager across the street. Love the children at your church—even the ones who are loud and you don’t seem to have anything in common with! Don’t be afraid to live your faith in front of them – all the great, exciting, difficult, and messy parts. They’ll see your faith is real. Authentic. Relevant. Whatever age or stage we're at, God calls us to be a blessing to the next generation.
Second, please pray for them. Getting down on our knees for the next generation is the most powerful thing we can do. And there is nothing they can do about it. Even if people reject what we say, they can't stop our prayers.
Third, share your family stories with them. Give testimonies of God's mighty works in our world and His steadfast love for you and your family. Include them in the narrative of your family's past. I still have vivid memories of my parents' and grandma’s testimonies of faith, which helped me to see and understand how faithful God has been to my family.
Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, friends, I know you will impact the next generation.
What kind of legacy will you leave? What are we doing right now with our family to instill faith in them? What can we do?
We can lead a devotional life!
We can try to be influential people in their lives. Someone once said, “Influence is born out of trust and finds it strength in the connection of heart and soul.” We are privileged that we have their ears, we must use this time wisely, to build them, encourage them, love them. I urge our congregation to get involved in our children and youth ministry. We must evaluate where we want to stand in the gap for our youth. How can we influence them to follow God’s teaching, not in a cutthroat way, but in a way that they will receive and want to follow Him? How can we help to create a safe space for them to come to wrestle with their thoughts and spiritual growth? How are we investing in their character?
I got to learn about a church in Singapore called “Heart of God Church.” They are doing some amazing God’s work there. This church is run by youth, for youth, and they believe that they are not the leaders of tomorrow, they are leaders today. Their pastors will often say that the next generation is not our replacement, they're our reinforcements. They wrote a book about this called, GenerationS, a must-read by Pastors Lia and How. In their words: "Let's not miss the moment to empower the next general of world changers." In other words, let’s not just invite youths to the party, but give them a seat at the table. I do believe we have done this at our church. Let’s do more!
Also, I would encourage our amazing youths: we see you; we love you; take time to chat with a new person at church, say hello to them, ask them questions. I am sure they will love it. Help out in Sunday School so you can get to know younger kids and be a good example. I know they look up to you.
I know at times it is discouraging and overwhelming since we don’t see results right away in these ministries. But I would like you to think about this scenario with me: Ten years from now you are shopping at Costco, one of our youths comes to you and says, “years ago you were my youth leader/choir leader/pastor/Sunday school teacher. You helped me, I felt loved, I felt heard. Thank you for helping me form faith in the early years of my life. Thank you for letting me explore my doubts and always encouraging me. We want to be that leader, as a church we want to be that safe place.
In the Bible, Daniel 4:3, “How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders!”
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation. He has been faithful to us, let’s stay faithful to His words. There are so many things we can leave behind and we surely will, but our legacy, our stories, our faith will live for generations to come. So, at the end let’s focus on this. Let’s, together as a church, leave a legacy of faith.
As a church, their leader, their friend, their family members, it’s not on us to make them believe in Jesus (that’s His job. He’s got this, trust me). Our initial goal should be to make the next generation feel that they belong here so that they will keep coming back. Let them come as they are, love and accept them.
I would like to finish my time here by quoting from one of my pastors, something I have held close to my heart. Listen to it and discern who these people are that God is calling us to take under our wings:
“Listen more than you talk. Affirm more than you rebuke. Pray more than you protest. And above all, don’t be afraid to love them.”
This is for the sake of a generation! We are making history here. I hope you feel encouraged and reminded that we are all called to be Pauls and Timothys in our lives. May we live in conduct and speech that reflects our fierce love and bold faith Amen!