Faith of our fathers, living still
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword,
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious word!
Faith of our fathers! Holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!
(Farber, F.W., 1849)
The refrain to the above nearly 200-year-old hymn ends in the phrase, “We will be true to thee till death.” Yet in today’s world, faith does not seem to last nearly as long. Were the church to come under persecution today, would such hymns be written as a tribute to the faithful who remained true to the end? I am not certain that it would. Something seems to be missing in our lives that those earlier generations, even as near as fifty years ago, seemed to possess. What could that be?
This question troubles me daily as I visit with young professionals who have not only left the church of their fathers but have abandoned faith in God entirely. In my readings and conversations with these young people, one possible reason seems to surface each time. As children and teens, they “went to church,” but they developed neither their faith in God nor a relationship with Jesus Christ. We must ask the question: If going to church is not helping to build our children’s faith, what must we do to assure their young faith matures?
An Old Testament Example
God directed Moses to tell the Israelites, “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19). God’s Word was to be a constant in their lives, not a three-times-a-week ceremonious break. With all the distractions in our lives today, the urgency to teach our children daily and in every instance is even more essential!
But does this mean we should shield our children from the world? I do not think so. I believe it is important that children see and experience the world while they are under our loving care and guidance and that we are responsible to make those experiences into teachable moments. Returning to the Israelites under the care of Moses, through God’s guidance, we can easily see that they were not protected from the evil of the world. However, when evil crept into the assembly, a lesson came with it. Remember how even before Moses finished receiving the Law on the mountain, the people turned to idolatry? Moses burned and powdered the golden calf and added it to their drinking water, and then he commanded the Levites to slay their brothers with the sword (Exodus 32). Without a doubt, the Israelites would not soon forget that event.
A New Testament Example
Fast forward to the early church and we see that they spent their days together, not just assembling on Sunday (Act 2:42-47). Rather, they became family, eating together, studying together, praying together. The result of that, according to Acts, is that the Lord added daily to the church those who were being saved (v. 47).
That time was unique in that people had come from many nations, and upon hearing Peter’s sermon became followers in a foreign land. They put everything they had together so that they could survive away from their homes and jobs. Once they returned to their homelands, they took that newly acquired faith with them. The church spread quickly and their numbers grew. So what about today? What is so different about how our children are learning than how we or our parents learned God’s Word?
Establishing a Family Culture of Faith-Building
One of my most vivid memories of my childhood was our preparation for Sunday. On Saturday nights we had a routine that was different from every other night of the week. Hair was washed and rolled, shoes were polished, Bible lessons were completed, and early bedtimes were mandated. There was never a question, “Are we going to Bible Class today?” as it was the one constant in my childhood.
Our weekdays might have variety and surprises, but the weekends were set aside as time to focus on God. I remember filling out my lesson book or handout for Sunday morning’s class up through my teens. Bible study was required at home just as surely as English, math, and science. Questions I heard on Saturday nights consisted of, “Is your Bible lesson completed?” or “Do you have your memory verse ready?” This weekend process was one element of my faith-building, but there was so much more!
Hearing the Gospel
My daddy was an evangelist, not just a local preacher. He took the gospel into people’s homes and traveled widely to preach the gospel of Christ to other congregations. I was his travel buddy, and, when old enough, his driver. Because of this blessing, I heard the gospel message over and over again.
When was the last time you heard the gospel preached from a pulpit or taught in a Bible class? We seem to have strayed from that simple request that Jesus gave His disciples in Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15-16 to “go into all the world and preach the gospel.”
Oh, I understand that we need to encourage one another and perhaps address moral issues in the family, but if we are not teaching the gospel often enough that when asked we are not able to “give a reason for the hope that is in us” (I Peter 3:15) then we need to hear it more often! Additionally, if we cannot give that answer, how can we possibly expect our children to be able to defend their faith? We can’t!
Leaving a Legacy of Faith
The faith of our fathers was a faith worth leaving father and mother, worth leaving jobs and friends, and even worth dying for. We are asked to teach our children that kind of faith. In order to do so, we must have that faith ourselves. Faith comes through hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17) and if that “hearing” is not found in listening, then it must be found in reading God’s Word.
I challenge you to begin a faith journal for yourself and as a legacy for your children. In your journal be sure to include :
(1) why you believe that Jesus is the only Son of God,
(2) why you believe that baptism is essential for salvation,
(3) why you partake of His Body and Blood each week, and
(4) why, even in chaotic times, you still have faith in God.
With each of those answers, be sure to include the scriptures supporting your beliefs.
Also include times in your life that you felt that God had forgotten you, because you couldn’t see His plan for your life. Our children will have those same times and we need to let them know that we did, too!
Faithfulness does not just happen. God draws us, but we must respond with study, prayer, and daily living. May your life be one of faithfulness so that your children may see your faithfulness and long to make it theirs. #HeartWords