Faith For The Future

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Faith For The Future

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim Whte

Sunday 27th September, 2020

One of the wonderful prophetic words that God has spoken over us a number of times throughout the years is that Seacoast is and will be a generational church.

I know that many of us would love to see more of the younger generations taking their place in the life of the church – but I am convinced that God has a plan for an incredible future – and we are going to stand in amazement and awe at what He is about to do.  

My own six grandchildren will be part of that plan – they already are…, as will many of your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.

My message this morning is focussed on our own faith for the future.  It’s about own own personal faith journeys. 

But it is also about stepping into a vision and faith that is much bigger than just ourselves.

And I want to start right there – the place that is bigger than just us personally.  

I want to start with that whole sense of generational blessing – that our God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…. God’s covenant blessing was with Abraham whom He called out to a new land – and that covenant blessing passed on to Isaac and then on to Jacob…

It includes an inheritance – an inheritance of land and things in the natural – but more importantly – an inheritance spiritually….  

Israel remains as a strategic nation and people under God – and multitudes of Jews are streaming back to Israel from all around the world –  but not only back to Israel – many are coming into the revelation of their Messiah – Jesus Christ.  

And all of us Gentiles are now included in the blessings of God because of Jesus.  He is the incredible link for all of God’s people, establishing a brand new covenant of grace – so that the generational blessings continue to flow into every people group and every nation under heaven.

I want to call us up to that high place of generational blessing.  It’s God’s pattern that one generation would call forth and bless the next.

I want that for us as a community – and as the family of God together.

Our young ones need mothers and fathers in the faith – and not necessarily just biological mothers and fathers – but spiritual ones.  And spiritual grandfathers and grandmothers.

At one stage Paul said to Timothy in his second letter:

2Timothy 1:3-5 (NKJV),   “I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the [b]genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.”

In his first recorded letter to Timothy, he says:

1 Timothy 1:2

New King James Version

“To Timothy, a true son in the faith:   Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.”

It doesn’t take long to recognise that Paul was a genuine father to Timothy – maybe not biological – but in many very important and godly ways.

And so as we talk about having faith for the future, surely our faith needs to be imparted into the lives of those coming after us in a very real and genuine way.

Paul is making a clear connection to the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother as the reason for Timothy’s own faith and passion for serving God.

That generational blessing of faith has powerfully fallen upon Timothy’s life.

We can only just imagine the prayers that had been sown by Lois and Eunice in calling Timothy forth into his destiny. But even more importantly than that – into his identity as a son.

I’ll never forget hearing for the first time this little quote – that until we know what it means to be a son – it’s difficult to then walk in the meaning of what it is to be a father.  I’m sure that applies to daughters and mothers as well.

It’s interesting that it was primarily the matriarchs in Timothy’s family that had the faith.  Where were the father and grandfather I wonder?

Whatever was missing from Timothy’s life in that respect was soon made plentifully available through Paul.

And that’s what I love about God’s grace towards each one of us.  He gives opportunity for the gaps to be filled.  

My own natural father might not have been able to equip me in the things of God – but I soon had other fathers in the faith come along when I really needed them.

Paul called Timothy a son in the faith.  He spoke blessings of grace, mercy and peace over Timothy.  He prayed for him.  He remembered the things that reduced Timothy to tears – but he also carried a joy for Timothy in his heart because of his genuine faith.  

Paul was his friend, his mentor, his teacher, his encourager….  But most of all, he was his father in the faith.

1 Corinthians 4:15

New King James Version

“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”

Paul is saying here to the Christians in Corinth that he had called them forth into life in Christ to become children of God.   He identified himself as a father in the faith.

That’s what we are all called to do – to call others forth into life – to father them in the faith…. Mothers and fathers…. Grandmothers and grandfathers…

Whether you impart generational faith to your natural family – or you carry the father heart of God for those younger ones walking with you, I believe each one of us is meant to be a vital part of how Christ is building His church – this beautiful, powerful, authentic, alive and very much connected body of believers.

It’s never going to happen just on a Sunday morning.  It’s life.  It’s a journey of being there for one another in life – as part of our corporate gatherings, but being there and walking side by side in life itself.

I read a story this week about a farmer who grew up in America – the son of a generation after generation of farmers.  But he was inspired to learn and extend beyond the boundaries of his family, and graduated as a teacher.  It was an extraordinary feat considering the traditions and family limitations he was brought up with.

 

But as soon as he graduated, his father died, and so he had to return straight away to the farm to support the family.

I picked up in the story a sadness and grief over a lost future which could have had the greatest of potential for influencing many young students.  I sensed the trauma of a sudden cutting off of a brand new future – but at the same time a strong sense of loyalty and commitment to family.

In his diary, he wrote this:

“I am sitting at the old table near the old stove, in the old room where I have sat so many, many times, and the old home seems dear to me tonight. Here I was born. Here I have grown to be a man, and here one year ago today my father died, and here I should love to live and die if I thought that I could here be as useful to God, the world, and to my fellowmen, as anywhere else.”

Those words seem like a cry for understanding and a questioning of what if.

Years later, his daughter wrote:  “When he died in the same old home at the age of eighty-eight, beloved by all the countryside, whatever might be said of his influence in the world, none could doubt his usefulness to God and his fellowmen.”

The truth is, in his own home town, he served as a Sunday school teacher from 16 years of age, til the age of 84.

Can you imagine the lives he influenced just in his local farming community over those decades.  She said that his influence might not have gone far and wide, but it went deep.  Deep into the community where he had been planted all his life – except for those few years of study and dreaming of a different future.

But that’s not all.  This man’s own daughter, Georgia Harkness, in. the early 1900’s, became one of the first female theologians and academics of religion in the USA, and author of about 30 books – some award winning books.  She not only studied and taught in the USA, but in Japan and the Philippines.  Her influence went world wide.  In 1958 she was named American Churchwoman of the year.

What an incredible legacy her father passed on to her – and what incredible fruit…. The fruit and the inheritance of generational blessing.

I wanted to tell you that little story because it’s a wonderful example of how one man’s life – lived within the tight borders of a local farming community, had an extraordinary influence on the generations coming after him.  

And as much as he was grieved and questioned his influence in the world because his own plans for a teaching career were dramatically cut short, the depth of his influence in the lives of hundreds of children – including his own daughter – was extraordinary.

So as much as we might think we don’t have opportunity to fan the flames of faith in the generations coming after us – think again!  

It’s not necessarily how far and wide we go – but how deep we are willing to go in the relationships we do have.  The ones that are right there before us.

Our faith for the future is most likely going to be expressed as we sow our hearts and lives as fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers into  the ones that are right in front of us.  Not just the biological sons and daughters, but the the spiritual ones.

And there’s no excuse for age…. Moses didn’t really get going until he was 80 years old.  That’s how long it took God to get Moses into shape – a place where He could use Him most effectively.

I was around 40 – and I’m sure God is still working on me and getting me into shape.

The one scripture that turned my life around came from the prophet Jeremiah.

You know how last week I said that when the Holy Spirit and Venese line up, I really listen?   I could not tell you how much godly influence Venese has brought to my life – right from the very moment we started going out together at 16.  

If God hadn’t opened my eyes to her at Lismore High all those years ago, I wonder were my life would have gone.   God’s grace abounded towards both of us.

Anyway, it was many years later that Venese got so sick of my moodiness and sulking every Sunday evening at the thought of going back to work on Monday morning, that she came and plonked the bible in my lap one day and said read this:

Jeremiah 29:11-13

New King James Version

“For I know the thoughts (other versions say plans) that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Those 3 verses lifted me out of my self focussed depressive state and ignited in me faith for my future.

It was that moment – when I had the revelation that God, my Father, had a wonderful plan for my life – which included a good future and a hope – that I changed.  

Nothing around me changed straight away – my circumstances didn’t automatically align themselves with my future – but I changed.

There’s a key in that.  Because I changed – and my trust in God’s goodness changed – then I started to get a fresh vision for myself and my family.

I started to make choices based on faith.  Well it wasn’t just me – Venese and I together made decisions about our future through the eyes of faith. 

And let me tell you – some of them were really scarey.  They affected all of us as a family.   In the end, they affected our financial situation – I went from a full time wage earner to become a full time Uni student.  

They eventually led us to move interstate – which impacted on our own parents, our children’s schooling and their future.

Our decisions took us from secular working environments to full time ministry.  

In fact, everything about our lives changed dramatically.

But the moment I read those verses from Jeremiah – all of a sudden I had faith for the future.  

Faith that required an enormous amount of courage.

We both had a deep conviction that God’s word was true and it was a firm foundation for us as a family.

Psalm 33:11-15

New King James Version

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever,  The plans of His heart to all generations.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,  The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.

The Lord looks from heaven;  He sees all the sons of men.

From the place of His dwelling He looks. On all the inhabitants of the earth;  He fashions their hearts individually;  He [a]considers all their works.”

He fashions our hearts individually.  And He calls us all to very different callings.

But I know for a fact that whatever your calling is, it will require faith – and it will require courage.

Psalm 27:13-14

New King James Version

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living.

Wait[a] on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!”

That wait means to wait in faith.  And to wait entwined with him – not just sit around and do nothing – but actively position yourself in His presence and listen for His voice and His leading.

What is he saying?  Because your faith is individual – and He will speak specific things to your heart.

And out of what you believe, you will have the confidence and courage and strength to go forward.

Faith and belief work both ways – whether you believe positive things or negative.

There is a Psalm that is aptly titled – “Listen to Your Father.” In the NKJV.

This verse is particularly speaking about people saying one thing and thinking another…. But the first few words are very telling:

Proverbs 23:7

New King James Version

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…”

What you think in your heart about your life, your God, His Word…. Whether you believe He is for you and has good things for you…. This all then becomes manifest in the life that you live.  And the steps you are willing to take.

What do you think and what do you believe about the future for your life – because most likely, whatever you believe will come to pass.

Whatever you put your faith in – the negative or the positive – that is what will happen, because faith is a principle of life.

Perhaps you’ve believed for certain things and they haven’t come to pass.  Just like the farmer in the story…. With his own plans and vision for his future all of a sudden taken from him.

And yet the many lives that he touched right where he lived was amazing.  He became known as a man of God right throughout the countryside.

He might not have reached the outside world directly with all the things that he had learnt and experienced – but many of those he was a spiritual father to would have gone on to walk in many different callings.

His own daughter excelled many of them.

It was her own insight that revealed to her that influence and legacy doesn’t always go far and wide.  Sometimes it just goes deep.

My prayer for us this morning is that our hearts would be stirred and the fires would be fanned by the faith we have for the future.

We’ll need faith and we’ll need courage.

Sometimes it will be scary.  Sometimes we will be overwhelmed with what God will do in and through us for His glory.

But He has chosen a people as His inheritance.  And that inheritance will flow down from one generation to the next.  Blessing upon blessing.

That’s who we have been called to be.  That’s what the church has been called to be – a living and breathing body of believers full of mothers and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers in the faith.


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