"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."
Job 32:8

Monday, July 15, 2013

Owning the faith

This past Saturday, I was tasked with preaching to the youth group on how we relate to our parents. And so I prayed on it because I wasn't quite sure how to relate to my fellow brothers and sisters on the topic. I say this because most of the youth group consists of youth raised in Christian homes while this wasn't the case for me.

But regardless of my differences with those around me when it came to parents and their views, I, no doubt, could relate on how we respond to our parents. Just about all of us have been through that rebellious stage in our teen years where we begin to strain against the boundaries set up by our parents. We begin to test them and question them, and on these grounds, I could easily relate.

And so I felt led to challenge a trend that seems far too dominant with Western culture. Something that likely worries a great deal of parents which has to do with the loss of faith that takes place shortly after teenagers leave for college or university.

For a Christian parent, it would seem correct to claim that one of their most important duties is to pass on the faith to the next generation.

But while many well-meaning Christian parents do their best, that doesn't seem to be the case, does it?

So what issue do we face?

Their faith is not their own.

The youth may follow along with the traditions, go to youth group, pray, read Scripture or anything else that may appear godly, but there is no personal conviction... only tradition, a means to please the folks.

Now I don't want to generalise anymore than I already have nor do I want to deviate from the message I want to share here.

After doing a quick search on Google, it would seem some of the major reasons for such a trend tend to revolve around a central theme.

Community. The very community we place ourselves in. Now, I can't speak from the perspective of a parent and I will do my best not to do so but it feels as though a great deal of effort is put into shaping the community Christian youth grow up in, so that the community not only best reflects the Christian views they want their children to adopt, but also to protect them from the ways of the world.

But we cannot hide from the world forever, and we cannot serve to the capacity God requires without getting our clothes dirty, so to speak. Jesus never said this life as a Christian would be easy... so why would we ever portray it in such a way?

But I'm not writing this to lecture parents... or anymore than I might already have (please leave angry comments below). I am writing this to show the responsibility we all have in response to our own parents.

It would seem expected that if one were giving a message on parents, the topic of the fifth commandment would come up... and it needs to. It is the one commandment with a promise.

Exodus 20:12, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." (ESV)

God places a great deal of importance on honoring our parents, regardless of what age we are. And I would say one of these ways would be to not take their wisdom for granted. God has these people in our lives to not simply dictate what we can and cannot do until we turn 18, generally speaking. 

But He has them in our lives so that we may learn not to make the same mistakes they have made and if we do so, to seek the guidance we so desperately need, because Satan would love for us to rebel against our parents and not listen to a word they say. When our parents say, "Don't get drunk", Satan goes and whispers, "Well, parents can't always be right, can they?".

When, all the while, our parents tell us this, not to keep us from enjoying life, but to keep us from harm.

Sound familiar? I hear that phrase a great deal when talking about God and His commands and guidelines for Christian living. Even the author of Hebrews understood this connection between what our earthly parents say and what God says in Hebrews 12.

Hebrews 12:7-11, "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (NIV)

But let's take this further for a moment and seriously touch base with the issue of faith because not only will Satan try and get us to ignore our parents rules and guidelines, but he will try to keep us from approaching them in times of need.

When we need to be accountable to someone close to us, Satan will tell us that our parents won't understand and instead of going to someone older in the faith, like our parents, we go to someone with... less maturity and we miss the very opportunities God has for us to learn and grow.

And this applies just as much for those without earthly parents who can provide this support. Just as Paul was a father figure to Timothy in the faith, so to are those older in the faith fathers and mothers to us in a spiritual sense. And when we're in need, Satan will whisper this same lie all over again.

But at the end of the day, there is one thing we know for certain.

We all stand before God, fully accountable for our actions.

Hebrews 9:27, "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" (ESV)

We all stand accountable, regardless of who we are. And, I don't know about each one of you reading this but for me, when I think about this, my parents and those I consider as spiritual parents no longer seem like the people trying to dictate my life or the choices I make. But instead they begin to seem like some of the best accountability partners God has placed in my life.

So if we were talking about the topic of faith in the beginning, why bring accountability up? Because if we are to grow in our own faith and seek Him, rather than lean on the faith of another, then sometimes the best ways to grow are through seeking God through fellowship with those closest to us in the faith.

Which is often our parents, spiritually or biologically speaking.

And God has promised again and again that He is with us through the trials of this world.

1 John 4:4, "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (NIV)

John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

In light of such promises and the tribulation we all face and will face, instead of trying to protect ourselves from the world, perhaps it's time we allow our faith to grow through suffering, which produces perseverance, and perseverance, character which leads to hope (Romans 5:3-5).

And how better to do this than to be in fellowship with those closest to us, like our parents?

God bless you all.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13 NIV

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