Leaving a godly legacy in your family is not guesswork, but it is hard work. The Lord has given us some basic responsibilities that will allow us to imprint eternal values on the lives of our children.
There are a number of places in Scripture to teach us how to do this. I have been focusing on Deuteronomy 4:9-10 – “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons; Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.”
Contained in this passage are three primary responsibilities we must fulfill if we would influence our children long-term for the kingdom of God. The first tool of influence a parent has is their personal example. (Some of the previous posts cover this in detail). A second tool is practical teaching. You can easily find both of these in the verses given above. There is a third responsibility, also, that we will review in a later post.
Years ago I read a helpful book on discipleship called “Making a Mark that Lasts”. That is our task; we are to be marking (discipling) our children with eternal values that will stay in their hearts. One of the ways we accomplish this is through teaching, but all teaching does not have equal results. What are the keys to effective teaching?
The Bible clearly teaches in the passage above (Deuteronomy 4:9-10) that our teaching is to be intentional and deliberate. The content of this teaching curriculum is centered in communicating how God has worked in your own life in the past (Psalm 78:1-8). It is more than imparting academic facts, but your own story of obedience and your failures as well. Sometimes we call this one’s personal testimony or their life message. A simple difference-maker that makes this type of teaching effective is that we are focused and intentional about it.
One of the greatest reasons for our being careful and attentive to teach these lessons is our propensity to forget how God has worked in our lives. Often in the Bible God warned the nation of Israel to not forget what He had done for them (Deuteronomy 4:9, 23; 6:10-12). And, yet, they did – again and again. We are no different today. This is one of the reasons God gave us the observance of the Lord’s Supper – to remember His sacrifice for our salvation (I Corinthians 11:23-25). It is hard to believe we can forget the awfulness of what it cost Christ to pay for our salvation, but we can and do sometimes.
It is in our human nature to forget even the greatest blessings God has given to us and to become ungrateful. Again, we see this in the life of Israel that the legacy they passed down to their children and grandchildren began to degenerate and was not one of godliness, but wickedness (Judges 2:7-11). The reason it happened was that the parents became lethargic and indifferent and didn’t have fresh stories of God’s working in their lives to pass on to their sons and daughters. We must learn from their mistake else the same thing happen to us.
The great Bible commentator John Phillips summed the issue up succinctly, “The first generation has conviction; the second generation doesn’t have to pay the price of the first generation and has a belief; the third generation only has an opinion”.
Many parents have no influence spiritually in the lives of their children even though they live upright lives. Perhaps the problem is in a failure to be intentional about teaching and sharing our life’s message with our children. As I mentioned above, some of this is because we have forgotten the many blessings of God. The Bible teaches that God “daily loadeth us with benefits” (Psalm 68:19). There are daily opportunities to see God’s goodness if we would be alert to them. Then, let’s be sure to express those blessings to our children. This is intentionally teaching them about the heart of God, that He is kind, benevolent, gracious, faithful, holy and just. It is easy to become blind to these multitude of blessings, but it is at great cost to our children (and to us!).
God has given us examples of having visible reminders that we might not forget His goodness. For example, when Israel crossed the Jordan River miraculously (Joshua 4:4-7) there was an intentional plan to help remind the people in future years about the event. Samuel used a stone as a monument to remind the people of how God had helped the nation (I Samuel 7:7-12). The very term monument means to establish something visible that is a reminder that we might not forget something or someone of significance.
One solution that has helped me to remember is to keep a written record of God’s faithfulness and power of His activity in my life. It can take the form of a detailed journal or just an accounting of specific stories. A computer is excellent for this type of recording, but not necessary. In fact, much of my recollections are in my own handwriting because I didn’t have a computer for most of my life. (There is something to be said for writing in longhand, too, as your children are able to not only read the words, but see it in your own handwriting. One day this will be a treasure to them – and a way to perpetuate your legacy by repeating them to their children after you are gone). Also, I’m not suggesting you do this every day. I think as you begin to do so it will become something you will enjoy doing and not be a burden. Your written (or typed) testimony will influence your children and bless you as you read them in the years to come and are reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness to you.
The stories you have written on legal pads or in a journal, or typed into your computer will jolt your memory and serve as reminders to teach your children and grandchildren of God’s reality in your life as a family. One day when you are gone what you have written will be read again and continue to teach. As it was said of Abel it will be true of you – “…he being dead, yet speaketh” (Hebrews 11:4).
Let me be honest. This is not as easy as it sounds. This is why you must be intentional about it. To write down what God is doing and has done takes time. You will have to turn off the television and give yourself to the task. It is the key to your not forgetting what God has done for you in order that your children and future descendants will remember you served a living God. Also, it will encourage your children to do the same for their children.
If we fail to have remembrances we will forget what God has done and when we forget to pass on what God has done for us we are only one generation away from our family walking away from God even to the point of doing evil (Judges 2:7-11).
Do you have a place to record the working of God in your life? If not, go out and buy a notebook and begin today. Open up a file in your computer and start writing and then make sure to tell those stories to your children. Many children have never heard how their parents have come to put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and forgiveness of sin. This is a great place to start.
Sometime this week gather your children (even adult children) and your grandchildren and tell them about your spiritual journey. Effective teaching is intentional. I heard someone say, “One of these days…” is “none of these days”. Don’t delay. Don’t let other lesser duties rob you of this rich heritage you have to pass on to those you love the most. You won’t regret it!
“He who seeks one thing, and but one,
May hope to achieve it before life is done.
But he who seeks all things wherever he goes
Must reap around him in whatever he sows
A harvest of barren regret”. (William H. Hinson)