The 4 Generations of Faith CycleJul 18, 2022
One of my favorite people in the Bible is Grandma Lois. When I get to heaven, she’s one of the first people I want to talk with.
Sure, Grandma Lois isn’t as well known as her grandson Timothy, and she’s way less famous than her grandson’s mentor, Paul. But she played a vital, if behind the scenes, role in advancing the gospel and the Kingdom of God.
Lois briefly shows up in the book of 2 Timothy (which is named after her grandson), when Paul encourages the young pastor, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” (2 Timothy 1:5)
There it is. The one and only time she’s mentioned in the Bible.
I love it. Why? Because Lois was a leader in her family. The way she thought and lived impacted her daughter, then her grandson, and by extension, all the people that he led as a pastor. She was a part of what I call “The 4 Generations of Faith Cycle.”
I’m not making an argument here that the success of your faith is defined by the faith of your great-grandchildren. Or that the success of their faith is defined by yours. But what I am saying is that there is a soft model in Scripture of passing faith down to children and through generations.
Let me show you.
Through the millennia, the Jewish people have probably said one passage of Scripture more than any other—“Behold, O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). This verse, called the Shema, has defined them as a people for centuries.
But keep reading. Here are the next two verses:
“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 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.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
Moses is telling the people that these things aren’t just for them, but they’re for the coming generations as well. They were encouraged to start and perpetuate a multi- generation legacy of faith.
Throughout the Old Testament, God is called “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Those three men are essentially generations 1, 2, and 3. Generation 4 was Jacob’s 12 sons, headlined by Joseph. Essentially, God is saying, “I’m not just your God, I’m also the God of your son and your father, your grandson and your grandfather.”
“One generation shall declare your works to another,” sings one writer, and in the New Testament, Peter declares the message of the gospel and says, “The promise is for you and your children.”
There’s just an assumption throughout the Bible that faith should never end with us. It often doesn’t start with us, as well, but it should never end with us.
People of faith ought to have a multi-generational vision.
We are part of a relational chain stretching through the centuries, and we should think about things like legacy and influence. Harvard Business Review had an article a few years ago about legacy and, among other great ideas, the author says, “Research shows that when we know we have benefited from the legacy of the prior generation, that gets us thinking about the positive legacy we want to leave for future generations and we tend to make better long-term oriented decisions.”
Most parents want to pass on truth to their children. We want to teach them about having a great work ethic, how to treat people, how to manage money and many other things. But let’s also teach them to have the faith and to pass on the faith.
Conclusion—Which generation are you?
Which generation are you? My wife and I are 2s, meaning that we both had parents who started a new family direction and passed down the faith to us—which makes my kids 3s.
I remember a family vacation, where I started a conversation and challenged them to raise up 4s. It sounds a little Disney (“Someday, all of this will be yours”), but it was something that was important to me.
Of course, the reality is, I want my kids to be 1s as well. I want their great-grandchildren to look back at them someday with appreciation for the faith they were handed.
Don’t over-restrict this discussion to just your physical grandchildren. Paul tells Timothy to build a multi-generational faith cycle among his friends and peers. He writes, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
Look at your life, and ask these questions:
- Who passed the baton of faith to me?
- Who am I intentionally passing it on to?
- How am I doing that?
- Am I casting vision for them to do the same?
If you’re a 1, make sure there’s a 2. If you’re a 2, thank your 1 and make sure there’s a 3. And so on.
Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-Fil-A, supposedly said, “You can judge your parenting by how your grandkids turn out.” While that may not be true every time, I completely agree with thinking about the generations down the road. I’m thankful Grandma Lois did.
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