No person is an island. We are formed, shaped, and taught by others who have come before us. In turn, we help to form, shape, and teach those who come after us.
It is amazing to realize that when God made His covenant with Abraham, God was not thinking about Abraham as an individual who stands alone but Abraham the patriarch who would become the head of endless generations to come. God was not thinking about one person at a specific time and place, but He was thinking about billions [count the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the beaches] of people over many generations all over the world.
In Genesis 17:6-7, God says to Abraham, “I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”
Abraham believed God. He was faithful in following God. As a result he was blessed and his descendants, both biological and spiritual. God is intensely personal but at the same time He is global in scope and endless in time. More, He wants to use you and me to accomplish His purpose. And the primary tool God uses is the family.
The impact of one generation upon the next is made more vivid to me the longer I live. Let me share with you a couple of examples. I met an elder not too long ago at a retreat. He was friendly to everybody. The way he talked with people gave me the impression he was sincere, caring, supportive, and encouraging. Over lunch one day, I asked him about his family background. He shared with me about his grandparents and his father.
What strikes me most is the impact his grandfather had upon him. He lived with his grandfather for less than a year when he was only four years old. But the graciousness and kindness of his pastor grandfather made such a positive impression upon him. So much so that when he was five, his grandmother asked him, “What would you like to become when you grow up?” “Like my grandfather” he replied without hesitation. “Do you know what your grandfather does?” “No,” he said, “But I want to be like grandpa.”
Six decades have not diminished the impact his grandfather had upon him. He is pursuing the work of his grandfather by caring for people in his church. He particularly cares for those who are in the ministries or are preparing for the ministries.
Let me share with you another example. Several months ago, I had the joy of talking with a young mother. Her baby boy was just several months old. This mother learned one secret to calm down her baby by singing a particular hymn. This hymn calmed the baby down every time, even when he was still in her womb.
Being a song leader in church for years, she says, “I know thousands of hymns... but I have discovered that this one hymn works every time. I think it is his life hymn.” “You obviously have taken great care to nurture your baby. Do you have any role model?” Honestly I was impressed, and I wanted to know if there was any secret behind her behavior.
“Many years ago, I went to Hong Kong to spend a summer with my grandparents.” She began to tell me her story. “Every morning I watched my grandmother pray and read her Bible. Afterward, she would call people on the phone to encourage them.” I could tell the memory of her grandmother was still fresh in her mind. “Even though I could not communicate with my grandmother because I spoke very little Chinese and she did not speak any English, I was greatly impressed by her action.” “She made a great impression upon you?” “Yes, she is my role model.”
Let me close with the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy to illustrate the importance of cross-generational impact as not only taught in the Old Testament, but is also evident in the New Testament, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”
We are influenced by those who come before us and we, in turn, are influencing those who come after us. Let us be a positive influence for the glory of God.