Setting Our Hope in God

A Maskil of Asaph.

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth!

I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will utter dark sayings from of old,

things that we have heard and known,

that our fathers have told us.

We will not hide them from their children,

but tell to the coming generation

the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,

and the wonders that he has done.

He established a testimony in Jacob

and appointed a law in Israel,

which he commanded our fathers

to teach to their children,

that the next generation might know them,

the children yet unborn,

and arise and tell them to their children,

so that they should set their hope in God

and not forget the works of God,

but keep his commandments;

and that they should not be like their fathers,

a stubborn and rebellious generation,

a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

whose spirit was not faithful to God.

(Psalm 78:1-8, ESV)

When it comes to ministry priorities in the church, I’m afraid that many times we have ours upside-down. This shows up in at least two fairly common ways. First, while we often gravitate to teaching adults like ourselves, the psalmist lifts up the priority of teaching our children, the next generation. Our children depend upon us to tell them of God’s saving work in history and how to respond to it in faith. The psalmist declares its importance, and the community’s commitment to do this well. Second, while many parents take their children to church and expect others to teach the gospel story to their children, the Scriptures make it clear that parents play a key role in this effort, as well. Though others can and do play an important role in instruction within the Body of Christ, parents must not abdicate this responsibility to others. Both home and church play a critical role in children’s faith formation.

As parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, we have a primary responsibility to share the “glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders he has done” with our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. This directive means more than simply sharing Bible stories with them. It also includes the ways that God has done great things in our own lives, how He has answered prayer, the ways He has provided for His people in the present. We don’t want our children thinking that God’s works are confined to the past, that He used to do cool things but that day is now gone. If you have children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews, share how God has been at work in your own life, share your favorite Bible stories with them, and let them know why these stories are so important to you. If you lead Bible studies with adults, encourage them to do the same with their children, that they, too, might set their hope on God.

Within the church, I believe we need to rethink the priorities of our teaching ministries. Bible study opportunities for adults are important, but they are critical for our children and youth. Adults are more able to pursue their own study of the Scriptures, and many have been walking in the Christian faith for years. Further growth is always a value, but many of these people are ready and able to share what they know with the younger generation who have not yet had these opportunities. We are in a time that seems to carry great concern over whether youth who have grown up participating in the life of the church will continue to embrace their faith once they leave home. There are many reasons why this concern is legitimate, and there are many things that can and should be done to help youth grow deeper in an owned faith commitment. It begins with ensuring that they know the character of God as shown in the Scripture, the works He has done for His people, how good His law is, and how great His grace through Jesus Christ is for us as we fail to keep that law as well as we should.

We don’t mean to hide this gospel story from our children, but sometimes our neglect, both at home and at church, keeps it hidden or unclear. As a Bible study leader, continue to emphasize how important it is that we, as parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and church leaders prioritize the teaching of the wonderful gospel story—both past and present—that the generations to come would put their hope in God. Future generations are counting on us!

LORD God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, help me to be so overwhelmed by your love, your power, and your Word, that I cannot help but speak of these things to the next generation! Help me find ways to share of your mighty deeds, both past and present, so that my children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews would put their hope and trust in you and find that you are faithful in their lives as well. Help me to be more faithful in this, knowing your own great love for children – “Let the children come” (Matt. 19:14). Amen.

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