We have all seen either on the news or in person the passing of the Olympic torch from one relay runner to the next until the torch is finally lit at the next Olympic site. The “passing of the torch” is a pretty good metaphor for life. One generation must pass the torch to the next.
This takes on added significance when are talking about faith. Each generation has the responsibility to pass on the truth to the next generation. God has not designed faith to be something that can be passed along genetically, it must be done personally. If we do not actively pass along the faith, its flame will die. It has been rightly said, Christianity is potentially only one generation away from extinction.
This morning as we wrap up our study of the life of David we see him as he passes the torch to his son, Solomon. David had served faithfully as the King of Israel for forty years but now the years had caught up with him. He knew his days were coming to a close so he made preparations for the orderly transition of power and he sought to point his son in the right direction in terms of his faith. David understood that his job was not only to pass on the scepter; he was also to pass on the torch of faith.
What I want you to see in these final chapters of the book of 1 Chronicles (specifically chapters 22, 28 and 29) are three key elements in passing the torch to those who follow us: Preparation, Instruction and Prayer.
Like many of you, as soon as we had children one of our top priorities was to make a will and secure adequate insurance policies so we could make sure that our children were provided for in case something happened to us.
Often from the day children are born (sometimes even before) savings accounts are begun for the college education of your children. Nurseries are equipped with various contingencies designed to meet the needs of our children. It is not uncommon to see dads coming into a hospital nursery with a football or a newborn size baseball jersey. Parents know they must make preparation for their children.
Certainly David had been providing for his son all his life. However in 1 Chronicles 22 David provided for Solomon in a very specific way. God had given David a vision of a temple to be built in Jerusalem. God had told David that he was not the one to build that temple but that Solomon would build it. David made all the preparations so that his son could succeed in that mission. To provide for his son, David secured the supplies, he had the blueprints made, created a building plan and even put together an interior design plan. David even wrote down the organizational structure for when the Temple was operational!
David understood that his job was not merely to prepare his son to be a new King; he also needed to prepare his son to carry the torch of faithfulness. His spiritual preparations for his son were equal in importance to all the physical preparations he made. David left his son a lifetime example of faithful living and godly character. Even in his failures and disappointments David left an example of how to handle the hard times in a faithful manner. He left his son a stack of original songs and reflections that have come to be known as the Psalms. David also left his son a host of godly advisors.
The question begs to be asked doesn’t it? What spiritual heritage are we leaving our children? Are we working as hard to prepare them for eternity as we are to prepare them for college? Are we working as hard to prepare our children to attain the crown of life as we are to get them a starting spot on this year’s team? What are our children learning about the importance of Jesus Christ from the way we live our lives? These questions are at least as important as questions about the custodial care of your children if you should die.
The words of Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5 are fairly familiar:
“4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” It is called the Shema, one of the most sacred texts of Israel. Do you know what the very next verses are?
6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
The Bible tells us that it is important to instruct our children in the way of faith and to do so in the various settings and contexts of life. Just as we will sit down and do homework with our kids, throw the ball in the yard, or work on an FFA project, we need to talk to our children about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ!
Think about the average young person. They hang with their friends, watch Reality Television, walk around with their iPod, visit with their friends on Facebook, watch videos on YouTube, and send text messages from their phone. They are bombarded with information and much of it is ungodly (some of it even perverse). The notion that an hour of worship, combined with Sunday School and youth group is going to be sufficient to counter-balance all of these influences is naïve. We need all the help we can get but parents need to be instructing their children in the ways of God.
I’m sure David often spoke to his son about the Lord, however in 1 Chronicles 28 David spoke in an urgent and heartfelt way as an aging father seeking to communicate essential truth,
9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 10 Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.” (1 Chronicles 28:9-10)
It seems there are two directives: Acknowledge the God of your father and serve him with wholehearted devotion.
Acknowledge God David admonished his son to have a knowledge of God. David isn’t telling Solomon to simply be knowledgeable about religion or theology. He is admonishing his son to actually know God in a personal way.
This is the difference between children going to church because they have always gone to church or going to church because they want to honor and serve the Lord. There is a big difference. One is a socially acceptable thing to do; but the other is a life-changing thing to do.
Throughout the course of our children’s lives we must encourage them to come to a personal faith in Christ. They must commit to him not because it will make other people happy but because they have become convinced that He is the only way, the truth, and the life. Our goal is not simply to have them affirm the faith . . . it is for them to embrace the faith.
Serve the Lord. Solomon doesn’t just say, “Serve the Lord!” as if it were a bumper sticker to put on his favorite chariot or a plaque to hang over his throne. He told him to “serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind . . . for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.”
Solomon was encouraged by his dad to be a man of deep and genuine faith. This is the way David lived. Instruction and action must go together to be effective.
This is a quite a challenge. You can only be wholeheartedly devoted to one thing. You can be committed to a few things but wholeheartedly devoted to only one. There is only one thing you choose above all others. It may be your career, sports, hobbies, your appearance, having a good time, or even your status. Solomon reminded his son that the direction you choose in life will determine where you end up. What you commit your life to will determine how your life turns out.
David impressed upon his son that if he sought the Lord and did it wholeheartedly, He would find Him. By finding the Lord, he would also find meaning, purpose, joy and depth in living. However if he did not seek and serve the Lord wholeheartedly, the Lord would reject him (because he would have essentially rejected God) and even though he might end up with an estate worth millions, a trophy room the size of Texas, and a funeral that had to be held in a sports arena, he would miss out on true life; eternal life.
In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon looked at being wholeheartedly devoted to things other than the Lord. He looked at the life of pleasure, academic achievement, and material wealth and concluded that all of these things are “meaningless, meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” It’s not that these things aren’t temporarily satisfying or enjoyable for a season, they are. If these things were not enjoyable they would not be tempting. The thing about them is that they are choices that lead to nothing. They leave people empty and lost.
Steve McNair used to be the star Quarterback of the Tennessee Titans. McNair had lots of money. He had fame. He had a lovely family. He could have lived the rest of his life off the fame of those few years of playing a game well. However, that wasn’t enough apparently. As you may remember, McNair was found murdered by his mistress. Apparently he was looking for something more. The direction you choose determines where you end up.
Michael Jackson has been called the “King of Pop”. He was known throughout the world as a gifted talent. When he died millions of people wanted to attend his funeral. Should we envy Michael Jackson? I don’t think so. He lived his life tormented, looking for happiness. Though he seemed to have it all he discovered that it was all just a mirage and he really had nothing. The high powered drugs he needed to sleep appear to have eventually killed him.
The only way to find meaning and purpose in life is to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ. Anything else will leave our children lost and empty. If we love them, we must tell them.
In 2 Chronicles 29 David prayed to God. In that prayer he prayed for his son. I think David understood that the greatest gift he could give to his children was his intercession.
There is a battle going on for the soul of our children. It is a serious mistake to think that we will win that battle by simply being nice people. Nice people guys finish last if they only rely on being nice. They also have to work! If we are going to win the war for the souls of our kids we must get into the battle and part of that battle is fought on our knees.
We all pray for our children when they are going through a crisis. However, what about all those other times? Every day our children make critical decisions. We need to uphold them in prayer constantly so they make good decisions. Only prayer can help
- Turn a child’s heart to Christ
- Shelter them from unseen disaster
- Lead them to wisdom when they face tough decisions
- Give them strength to stand by their convictions
- Help them learn to see life and other people with perspective
So what should we do?
1. Be deliberate about preparing for the spiritual future of your children. Start by taking them with you to worship, Sunday School and encouraging their involvement in youth programs but go beyond even that. Look for ways to show how being a follower of Christ impacts the decisions we make. Help them understand how our relationship with Jesus impacts the language we use, the activities we get involved in, the way we play the game, and the choices we make.
2.. Expand (or start) your prayer list to include issues of character and faith development and keep that prayer list right in your Bible.
3. Be diligent about your own example of faith. Be a genuine follower in your own life.
4. Take advantage of the dinner table to remind your children that the decisions they make determine their destination in life and eternity.
What It Means To Live With The Heart Of God
Over the course of six months time we have studied the life of David to learn what it means to live with God’s heart. I hope you have found it to be as challenging to your faith as I have found it to be. As we reach the end of David’s life it is good to look back and think of some of the lessons we have learned and need to pass on to our children.
First, we can’t live with the heart of God until we have made a true commitment to follow Him. The contrast between Saul and David was that Saul served God only in name. David served God in his heart. Saul wanted to keep from offending God; David tried to live to honor God.
Most of the religious people in our day are Saul-like followers of Christ. They want to be known as his followers, they want to be blessed as his followers, but they prefer to follow on their own terms. They want to follow when it is convenient to them. Unfortunately God sees this for what it is. When we live this way we are seeking to control the relationship rather than living under His control. Frankly, that is unacceptable to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
We need to ask ourselves: Are we committed to the Lord or are we only playing at faith? The direction we choose determines our destination.
Second, the person who lives with the heart of God never forgets that he is a recipient of grace. Even in David’s final public prayer he continues to proclaim the truth that everything comes from the Lord. The person with the heart of God lives every day of life grateful that we have been given the chance to live with and for the King. It is not a right, it is a gift. We live humbly and gratefully.
Third, the person who lives with the heart of God focuses on the big picture. As David stood before Goliath he focused not on the giant in the armor but the Almighty God who was in Heaven. When David was fleeing from Saul or Absalom he did not bemoan his circumstances, he trusted God’s wisdom. David had learned to put more confidence in God’s character than in the circumstances of life.
If we are going to live with the heart of God we must do the same. Instead of looking at the struggle we must focus on the goal. Instead of focusing on the mountain we must dwell on the mountain-mover. Instead of trusting what we can see, feel, and trust, we must trust the One who is unseen and eternal.
As in any relationship, trust develops over the course of time. We learn to trust God in the major difficulties of life by first learning to trust Him in the everyday situations of life. How do we do that? That leads to the fourth principle:
Fourth, the person who Lives with the Heart of God cares more about God’s reputation than their own. Time and again David was confronted with a choice between doing what was right (what God had commanded) and doing what was popular (what others wanted him to do). Living with the heart of God means that sometimes we will have to choose to disappoint the world rather than dishonor the Lord. Sometimes it means keeping your word even though it hurts. Learning to obey in little things makes us able to obey in the big things. Sadly, people often compromise throughout their life and then wonder why they have a great collapse of some sort. The daily compromises are like termites in the soul eating away at the structure of our character.
Fifth, living with the Heart of God doesn’t mean we won’t fall, it means when we fall we will get up and get right with God as quickly as possible. We saw David’s faults. We observed many weaknesses. However, what made David a man after God’s heart was not that he was perfect, but that he did not stay in his sin. When he stumbled, he acknowledged his sin, turned from it, and got back on his feet. We will all fail on occasion. The difference between the faithful follower and the less faithful follower is what we do when we fail. You can gauge the heart of a believer not by whether or not he stumbles but by how long he makes excuses for his failure.
Finally, living with the Heart of God means: finishing strong. If you watch kids play summer ball you learn that one of the things that drives coaches crazy is when a child hits the ball and then sprints toward first base only to slow down as they get to the base only to be called “out!”. You’ll often hear the coach yell: “Don’t slow down! Run through the base!” The person with the heart of God tries to live in such a way that they are still sprinting as they cross the finish line of life. They may have to serve the Lord differently as they age, but they keep serving. David was still working hard as he finished his journey.
Those who live with the heart of God may or may not leave material wealth, but what they will leave is an imprint of faith that is unmistakable, unforgettable, and eternal. And by God’s wonderful grace it will also be a torch that can be carried by their children and hopefully also their grandchildren as they continue the next leg of the race.