“I am 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.” (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV)
It is good to know that we all have roots. We do not just appear out of nothing with no history or inheritance. Whether we know it or not we are part of a continuing purpose.
Paul thought it useful to encourage his young protegé Timothy to be fully aware of the divine plan that was being handed on to him. For the Jewish Paul, ancestry – traced through the mother’s line, was very important to maintain a valid witness. Accepting this cultural reality in the narrative, I would dare to say that we all need to be strengthened and encouraged by finding our spiritual history. Linking our purpose and prayers with those who have preceded us can create a powerful synergy to bring more of God’s ultimate plan and presence into our current experience.
Honouring parents – recognising the contribution and foundations laid, is a strong Biblical principle guaranteeing success and sustainability.
“Honour your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2, 3 NIV)
The prophet Joel’s words – also echoed by Peter at Pentecost, push to align the dream of the old man with the vision of the new generation.
“No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:16, 17 NIV)
Bridging the Old and New Testaments, the prophet Malachi (4:5-6) cries out for a reconciliation, a healing, of generations – the older Jewish root with the budding Gentile nations, a reconciliation which is taken up centuries later by the ministry of John the Baptist.
“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17 NIV)
Timothy, having a Greek Father, was a young man who incarnated the diversity of a new global season of God’s work which needed a new form but which also needed the substance of faith from the past. He represents each new generation having to struggle with the age-old equation of inventing new forms but maintaining the foundational substance of the past. Listen to what Dee Hock – the founder of Visa, has to say about this:
“Substance is enduring, form is ephemeral. Failure to distinguish clearly between the two is ruinous. Success follows those adept at preserving the substance of the past by clothing it in the forms of the future. Preserve substance; modify form; know the difference. The closest thing to a law of nature in business is that form has an affinity for expense, while substance has an affinity for income.”
Can you discern the essential difference between form and substance in the challenge to build mission in today’s world?
Indeed, Paul’s challenge to Timothy was to preserve the substance of faith, not throwing the baby out with the water of a changing world. He encourages Timothy to do at least three things:
1) Guard the good deposit.
“Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:14 NIV)
Partner with the inner conviction of the intelligent fire within to discern the essential substance of your life and mission and defend it as a good soldier against the onslaught of the enemy.
2) Fan into the flame the gift of such substance.
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (2 Timothy 1:6 NIV)
I do not think that the laying on of Paul’s hands was just a charismatic transfer of power. It was more of an apostolic recognition of the synergy of generations that was coming to bear on the young man. He wanted Timothy to be energised by this recognition of his specific place in the history of God’s purpose. May we too “fan into flame” the inheritances that await to be discovered on our own faith journeys.
3) Be bold, loving and pure.
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)
Recently I went back three generations into my own family history. I discovered an amazing deposit of faith handed down via a “Penny and a Prayer!”
Why not try and find out what you might discover in your own synergy of generations?
I think the same principle might also work for the history of churches and missions? My own beloved mission is in its third generation, launching young Timothy’s out into an ever-changing world.
Not all of our inheritances are useful. We can sadly – and only too often, get bequeathed pain and curse rather than love and faith. Often, like the parable of the garden sown with both good and bad seed in Matthew 13:24-30, we struggle between the positive and negative of our pasts.
What do you do with such wounds?
This is indeed the subject of a whole new devotional, but, in a nutshell, we need to bring “such empty ways of life” into the eternal redemption of Christ.
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” (1 Peter 1:18-20 NIV)
We are still in these “last times” following Him who was from the beginning into the final frontiers of world history. Like Timothy, may we “preach the Word”, “endure hardship” and “fight the good fight.”