“And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua. … There arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:7, 10)
A quiet forest-dweller once lived high above an Austrian village along the eastern slope of the Alps. The town council had hired this old gentleman as “Keeper of the Spring”—to maintain the purity of the pools of water in the mountain crevices. The overflow from these pools ran down the mountainside and fed the lovely stream which flowed through the town.
With faithful, silent regularity, the Keeper of the Spring patrolled the hills, removed the leaves and branches from the pools, and wiped away the silt that would otherwise choke and contaminate the fresh flow of water.
By and by, the village became a popular attraction for vacationers. Graceful swans floated along the crystal-clear stream, the mill wheels of various businesses located near the water turned day and night, and farmlands were naturally irrigated. The view was sparkling.
As the town council met for its semiannual meeting one evening, while reviewing the budget, one man’s eye caught the salary paid the obscure Keeper of the Springs. “Who is this old man?” he asked indignantly.
“Why do we keep paying him year after year? No one ever sees him.” By a unanimous vote, the council dispensed with the old man’s services.
For several weeks, nothing changed; but by early autumn, the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches snapped off and fell into the pools, hindering the rushing flow of sparkling water.
One afternoon, someone noticed a slight yellowish-brown tint to the stream. A few days later, it had darkened.
Within a week, a slimy film covered sections of the water along the banks, and a foul odor emanated from the stream. The mill wheels moved slowly;
some finally ground to a halt. Businesses located near the water closed. The swans migrated to fresher waters far away, and tourists no longer visited the town.
Eventually, the clammy fingers of disease and sickness reached deeply into the village. The shortsighted town council enjoyed the beauty of the spring but underestimated the importance of guarding its source.
So it is with the faith. One generation has enjoyed the blessed relationship with the Lord, but the next generation fails to see the importance of that relationship.
Thus, the source of blessing is gone from their lives.
How does it happen that faith is lost in one generation?
Let me suggest a few ways.
Sometimes the failure was in the former generation.
1. The parents did not transmit the faith.
They assumed their children would “just know” and therefore they did not articulate the faith. Sincere questions were avoided and left unanswered. The message wasn’t modeled.
2. The parents did not make faith a priority.
For some, the Lord’s day has become like any other day, and church attendance has been relegated only to when there is nothing else to do. Personal and family devotions are pushed aside.
As a result, the power of spiritual life ebbs. Children who see the faith as only an occasional practice of their parents often do not practice it at all themselves.
3. The parents encouraged their children to chase dreams of “a better life.”
This can be bad if materialism becomes more important than spirituality and education more important than faith.
4. The parents destroyed all the heroes of faith.
It takes little talent to notice flaws. Few of us fail at that enterprise. There has only been one flawless Leader, and He was crucified. I build no case for justifying wrong. In fact, I feel that parents should honestly address issues raised when children offer legitimate criticisms of another.
But I believe that things should be framed in the best possible light. As a leader, it has not been hard for me to know when parents aren’t supportive—just by observing their children.
5. The parents made rules they never enforced.
Rules are appropriate for the operation of a home, church, or school; however they must be crafted with care and accompanied with reason. Moreover, there must be consequences for breaking rules. Parenting without those consequences is encouraging the breakdown of authority. When authority is broken down, spiritual problems result.
6. The parents were more concerned with image than character.
Concern for children’s behavior should relate to how well their behavior meet’s God’s requirements, not to whether or not it has offended others and thus embarrassed the parent. We should pray that our children will love God, and that their motivation for good will come from their heart of love.
7. The parents were more concerned with being right than having and maintaining a good relationship.
Parents can be so “right” that they effectively shut down all communication with their children. “Because I said so” is acceptable in some instances, but entertaining respectful questions builds relationships.
It is never too late to apologize for mistakes of poor parenting. Seek forgiveness. Strive to keep doors of communication open. Love your children and tell them often that you do.
Sometimes the failure is found in the present generation.
1. They simply choose to do things their way.
The best of parents may have wayward children because every soul has free choice. While a good environment is excellent and necessary for raising “good children,” even with the best care in the world, some children choose to go down the path of evil.
2. They want freedom rather than faith.
Perhaps they just want out from restraint and restrictions. They want to be “free.” However, they often end up exchanging real liberty in Christ for enslavement by the devil.
3. They have chosen to forget consequences and are choosing sin.
Some choose sin for some immediate end they are pursuing. They do not see the horror at the end of that road. They need to realize that “decisions and consequences come wrapped in the same package.” They forget the biblical example of sowing and reaping.
4. They want to wait for a while.
Procrastination can be spiritually devastating. It is one of the devil’s most potent weapons for keeping people from fully realizing their potential in Christ. If adults struggle with this, think of how vulnerable youth are. Remember, the young think they have a long future ahead and that some important things can wait until later.
However, even the young die. More importantly, the behaviors young people engage in “now” shape the trajectory of their character development. Making right decisions and acting on them in “the now” always requires moral energy, but brings substantial spiritual growth.
5. They do not think they can live the faith as their parents did.
The truth is that they are not required to live as others live. They are only required to live in a manner that pleases God. God is the source of their truth, genuine joy, and spiritual victory.
6. They blame their parents for their failure.
Blaming others is a waste of time because blaming another cannot bring change to your life, and, further, each individual will give an account to God for his or her actions.
7. They are seeking peer acceptance rather than a place in God’s family.
Peer acceptance pales in significance to having and keeping God’s approval. Moreover, at the day of reckoning, you will be judged by the measure of light you have received and how you conformed to God’s design for your life. Proper personal accountability is more important to God than prior peer acceptance.
Will the faith be lost in one generation? Everyone has the responsibility of being keepers of the faith and transmitting it to others in a winsome manner. Perhaps this message has stirred something within you and you realize that you failed—as a parent, or as a son or daughter. Prayer, honest confession, and forgiveness are the right steps in the right direction!
Originally published in the Ministry Library of God’s Bible School & College.