Summary: 55th in a series from Ephesians. Principles to help us pass on the baton of faith to future generations.
In the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the United States’ women’s 4 x100 meter relay team took the track in the finals as the favorite. After the first two legs run by Angela Williams and Marion Jones, the United States was in front as expected. But as Jones attempted to pass the baton to her teammate, Lauryn Williams, they were unable to make the exchange, and as a result they finished dead last. That is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that the relay team with the fastest athletes fails to win because of a botched baton exchange.
Unfortunately, the same thing can also happen when it comes to passing on our faith to those who follow behind us. Paul certainly recognized the importance of passing on his faith to the next generation. That’s why he spent so much time and effort training younger pastors like Timothy so that they would be equipped to carry on his work. But Paul also realized that the primary place where the baton of faith is to be passed on is the family. That is clearly Paul’s focus as we continue on our journey through Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. Let’s read our passage out loud together.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)
This verse contains two commands – one negative and one positive. Last week we looked at the negative command: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children...” We looked at some very practical ways that we can avoid exasperating our children as well as others in our lives. This morning we’ll look at the second, positive command.
You’ll notice that the two commands are separated by one word – instead – that Paul uses to contrast the idea of exasperating our children from that of bringing them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. In fact, that word of contrast seems to indicate that training and instructing our children in the Lord is the primary way that we avoid provoking them to anger. That certainly would be consistent with our discussion last week of how a lack of consistent standards is one of the primary ways that we exasperate our children. And therefore the antidote is to apply standards that are consistent with God’s Word.
Paul doesn’t necessarily give us a whole lot of detailed instruction on how to pass on the baton of faith to our children. But we know that Paul would have certainly been familiar with an Old Testament passage that does contain that kind of practical instruction. Let’s also read that passage together:
And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up. And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (NASB)
This text is part of the best-known portion of the Scriptures among those of the Jewish faith. Jews commonly refer to verses 4-9 as the Shema, which means, “hear,” the first word in this section. The Shema is the Jewish creed that opens synagogue worship and is recited twice a day by devout Jews. Fortunately for us, when we look at that passage in conjunction with our passage from Ephesians, we discover some very practical principles that will help us be more effective in passing on the baton of faith to our children.
Once again, although thee principles deal primarily with passing on our faith to our children, all of us, regardless of whether we are raising children or not, can apply these principles in same way. Maybe you have the opportunity to help pass the baton on to your grandchildren or to other children in your extended family. And all of us can use these principles in helping others in the body of Christ to grow in their faith. In fact, these are even guidelines that I can use as a pastor as I oversee the spiritual development of this flock here.
HOW TO PASS THE BATON OF FAITH:
1. Develop my own relationship with Jesus
...of the Lord.
I’m going to begin with the last phrase of verse 4, since it is the key that will unlock our ability to apply all the rest of the principles we’ll discuss this morning. This phrase – to the Lord – should look pretty familiar to us by now. I’ve actually lost count of how many times Paul has used this phrase and others like it throughout his letter. There are a lot of things that we can and should teach our children. For instance, it’s important to teach them good manners and to develop their character. But none of that can be done in a vacuum. All of the training and instruction that we give to our children is to be done within the framework of our relationship with Jesus. We can see this even more clearly in our passage from Deuteronomy: