Fighting For The Generations
Fighting For The Generations.
Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 23rd June, 2019
Last week we were talking about Fighting the Good Fight of Faith, and the focus was on fighting for the faith that we carry in our own hearts. Fighting for what we truly believe. Fighting against the lies and deceptions that the devil tries to plant in our mind and heart, but fighting also for the joy and Passion of our salvation to be our strength and life.
All of us from time to time fight against things like apathy, fear, discouragement, rejection… There’s an endless list, and some of us are more vulnerable to certain things than others.
Having shared with you my very personal experience of being traumatised by as a child, wrestling and fighting with my father on the lounge room floor – you were probably all thinking – that explains a lot!
But seriously, there is a fight on the inside at times for the faith to believe who God says we are, what His promises say to us in the Word, and faith to believe for the destiny that is yet to unfold as we take the next step in the race.
I mentioned last week that part of fighting for our own heart actually involves fighting and believing for one another.
Hebrews 3:12-15 says: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God… “. Unbelief is a spirit that tries to overcome and destroy our faith…
But then it says: “but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,”
Exhorting one another means lifting one another up, encouraging one another, standing with one another, supporting one another… We are created and designed for community.
It’s hard to separate our personal lives and our personal faith from the lives and the faith of those we gather with and do life with. After all, we are the body of Christ together… There are no lone rangers… even though some would attempt to be.
So this leads me into another dimension of our good fight of faith… not only for others in general – but that we would engage in a fight for the generations that are coming after us.
For the sake of those of you who have been here for quite a while – like years…, I’m resisting the urge to read the Bridge Builder poem again, for the hundred thousandth time… but I will remind you that this poem is about an old man travelling along a highway… it’s dark and cold… he has to cross a chasm which holds a fast flowing river… and when he gets to the other side, instead of just keeping on with the journey, he turns around and builds a bridge. It’s of no benefit to him… and when asked why on earth he’s taking all that time and energy for no apparent reason, he says: I made it through OK – but perhaps there will be a youth coming after me who finds the crossing much more difficult – in fact, it may be his downfall. I’m not building the bridge for me – but for him.
The poem says it so much more poetically of course…
You can find the poem all over the Internet… but for me personally, it has always given me a much more expanded and enlarged way of looking at my life in relationship to the generations coming after me, and to ministry in general.
It’s not all about me getting through… me doing my best… me finishing the race… keeping the faith… it’s preparing the way forward and building a platform for the next generation to launch from, and the next, and the next…
Whatever generation you belong to – you are called to fight for the one coming after you. And we as the church together are called to fight with you…
So this is where things narrow down a littler further.
This morning, I want to exhort you to lift up your vision for our children.
I want us together to celebrate in our hearts, that our children are precious; they are valued members of Seacoast Church as much as any other generation; and we have the tremendous opportunity and privilege to present them to Jesus for His blessing, and to see them grow up into the fullness of their destiny.
I love Ps 145:4: “One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts.”
And in the Passion Translation: “Generation after generation will declare more of your greatness and declare more of your glory.”
What a high calling and challenge we have to partner with God in seeing this particular generation of children experiencing and proclaiming more of His greatness and more of His glory.
As leaders, we are wrestling with the best way of bringing a slight shift in the experience of our children, where they have the best possible opportunity to engage in every aspect of church life.
I want us to join with the parents in taking responsibility for their spiritual lives.
When I say that, I’m actually reminding us of the commitment we have already made when many of these little ones were dedicated to God, right here. In every baby dedication, we dedicate the baby to Jesus, we dedicate the parents in their role to bring up their child in a godly home… but we also dedicate ourselves as a congregation to stand with the parents – and to provide a church and a community that nurtures and loves the child in the ways of God.
We have some thoughts and ideas about how we might be able to better support our children spiritually, and we are hoping that all the parents would join me for a bit of an informal discussion straight after church next Sunday to explore what that might look like.
I am really encouraged that we are a generational church. We have the strength and wisdom of the older generation. And if we actually listed the many years of service, the various areas of ministry they have been involved in, the wisdom gained simply from walking through life… it would be incredible.
We are blessed with whole families, with young people… But we also have the gift of children. And you probably know as well as I do – some churches are facing an uncertain future, because families, youth and children are missing.
Psalm 127:3-4, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth.”
Our young ones are a heritage, an inheritance, a reward… They are an incredible blessing from God our Father.
Let’s lift our vision to see them in that light – and to see them exactly as God the Father sees them.
And I love that image of children being an arrow in the hand of a warrior.
We are spiritual warriors… Parents, you are spiritual warriors… In fact in this instance – you are archers. An arrow doesn’t shoot itself – it requires the skilful hands of an archer.
Arrows are precisely crafted. They are prepared for a purpose. But we don’t aim them off randomly into an unknown destiny. We aim them precisely at a target. What target are you aiming your children at? What does it look like?
We need to see these children as ones who will be placed in a bow and launched into their God ordained destiny. And if we do that – they will hit the mark!
Psalm 127:3 (Passion), “Children are God’s love-gift; they are heaven’s generous reward.”
So as a church, let’s create an environment, a space, a plan – where these children have every opportunity to grow in their understanding and experience of Jesus.
We already have faithful, gifted teachers and resources… Praise God for them. All of the classes that are happening in the background while we listen to the sermon, are producing wonderful fruit.
Now we have an enlarged vision for our children’s ministry to expand into areas of worship, communion and relationship building. If this vision captures something of your heart and imagination, perhaps the Holy Spirit is prompting you to be part of the team?
This vision is not only a nice idea… but there’s a responsibility that we have to not place any obstacles or hindrances in the lives of these little ones.
Luke 18:15-16, “Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”
And again, verse 16 from the Passion: “But Jesus called for the parents, the children, and his disciples (including all those at Seacoast) to come and listen to him. Then he told them, “Never hinder a child from coming to me. Let them all come, for God’s kingdom realm belongs to them as much as it does to anyone else. They demonstrate to you what faith is all about.”
For me, this verse causes me to ask myself – are we in any way hindering our children from coming to Jesus? Have we created or allowed a culture to develop – and I’m specifically talking about worship, where the children find themselves disengaged?
Of course we’d never deliberately hinder them… but it’s our responsibility to lead them and proactively show them the way…
In any case, I want you to agree with me that we will find just the right way forward. I personally think there’s an exciting opportunity here to build some bridges for our children to cross over. It might cost us some time, some effort, some sacrifice in some way, but I sense it’s right.
There’s actually something prophetic about all of this. There’s an end time prophetic call that comes through Malachi. He’s speaking about the spirit of Elijah being released in the last days.
Malachi 4:5-6, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
First comes the turning of the hearts of the fathers to the children – then the response is the hearts of the children turning to the fathers.
Fathers – adults – are to take the initiative. Children respond.
If we can align our hearts with the Father’s heart for our little ones – and make room for them to thrive, to worship, to pray for one another, then I know we will see a shift happen in the children.
Over the years, many have had visions of the children praying – even praying over the adults – and seeing healing and miracles happening like never before.
I think we need to lift our eyes and our vision for our children. Who knows…?I’ve read about revivals over the centuries that have started through children praying together in places like Poland and Scotland.
Let’s not limit what God can do with and through our children.
Remember when the angel of the Lord came to Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharias? The angel said, you will have a son and his name will be John. Of course this John is who we now know as John the Baptist.
The angel also said, this baby will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even in his mother’s womb.
But here’s the exciting thing… the angel then recalls the prophetic word from Malachi, and speaks it again over the baby…
He says: Luke 1:16-17, “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
And then later on in verse 44, when Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus, came to visit Elizabeth her cousin, Elizabeth says:
Luke 1:44, “For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”
I believe God still calls children and ordains them to great things even from the womb… They are spiritual beings right from the moment of conception. If only the world in general would recognise that… the spirit of a man is there from the very beginning… what a difference it would make to our treatment of babies in the womb.
God still speaks in the spirit to babies in the womb, just like He did to Jeremiah, when he said: Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
Where is our faith for our children? What are we speaking over our little ones? What prophetic declarations are we decreeing over them?
We’ve been talking about fighting the good fight of faith – searching our own hearts and fighting for our own inner world. We’ve talked about fighting for one another.
What about the fight of faith for the generations that are rising up behind us – in our midst?
We can start with the ones we already have responsibility for. The ones that our parents have already entrusted to our care and our influence on a Sunday morning.
If this vision is grabbing your heart, I need to talk with you. Some of you young adults, young married couples, young singles… our kids need your passion, your energy, your example…
And as we close this morning, and as we talk about the spirit of Elijah turning hearts this morning – in this time in history in which we believe are the last days before the second coming of Jesus Christ – I’m drawn to this sobering scripture:
Luke 18:8, “…when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
Luke 18:8, (Passion Translation) “God will give swift justice to those who don’t give up. So be ever praying, ever expecting, just like the widow was with the judge. Yet when the Son of Man comes back, will he find this kind of persistent faithfulness in his people?”
I thought it was really interesting that Allan Kirchen felt to speak to the men yesterday about having faith the size of a mustard seed. He had planned earlier to bring a totally different message, but Saturday morning, he felt the Holy Spirit prompt him to speak about faith.
And I want to challenge us as well – don’t look at things with your natural eyes. Look with the eyes of faith – the eyes of the Spirit. Don’t look at what might feel like an insurmountable mountain – look at the greatness, power, might and faithfulness of our awesome God.
If He came through the front doors this morning, would He find faith at Seacoast? Would He find a people who are willing to enlarge the place of their tent, stretch out the curtains of their dwellings, lengthen their ropes, strengthen their stakes…
This is the prophetic word in Isaiah 54.
And it goes on to say:
Isaiah 54:3, “For you shall expand to the right and to the left, And your descendants (your following generations, your youth, your children) will inherit the nations, And make the desolate cities inhabited.”
The generations are a big deal for God. They need to be a big deal for us!
So with all this in mind, I’d like to lead us all into sharing communion together, giving thanks for the gift of faith – and giving thanks for the gift of our children.
We come to the communion table by faith… Faith to believe that the broken body of Christ and His shed Blood avails for every single one of us – including the identity and destiny of the generations coming after us.
Let’s remember this morning that these elements that are being handed around right now, are for our children as much as they are for us.
Let faith arise in your heart for our young people and our little ones… faith that the price Jesus paid for their lives is real and powerful.
Let’s believe together for them to have a revelation of Jesus – to the point that their little hearts desire to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
Our prayers for them are part of our responsibility and our commitment to see them rise up into the fullness of their destiny.
We are being the spiritual archers this morning – releasing our children like arrows into their future – knowing their God – knowing how to worship – knowing how to exalt Him through this own lives.
Let’s pray while the elements are still being handed out, and then we’ll eat and drink together.