Relay racing must be among the most exciting of all the competitive sports. I love watching the runners hurtling around the track, slapping the baton into the hand of the next man, panting with exhaustion but straining to see if their team will finally win.
The technique of baton-passing is very crucial. Within brief seconds safe communication must take place from the one who has finished his course to the one who is just beginning. For fleeting moments they run together, then the fresh athlete is away. Races are often won or lost in those vital exchanges. Pure speed around the track can never win such a race. In this team event, you must make sure you have grasped what was passed on to you.
God’s plans go beyond the part played by individuals. Naturally, you want to fulfil God’s purpose for your life, but do not think that He is concerned only about your leg of the race. Passing on the baton is part of your job. It cannot be allowed to fall. It must be passed, received and carried on.
Fathers and sons
From early times, God wove this principle firmly into the lives of His people. Fathers were given very clear instructions on how to raise their families: ‘Impress [these commandments] 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’ (Deut. 6:7). So the fathers were to tell their children, ‘We are God’s special people, his light to the nations, and He has given us His holy laws to follows. This is the lifestyle He wants us to have. These are His commandments. I’m teaching you these things so that you will obey them and in turn teach them to your children after you’ (see Deut. 4:9). As children quickly grow up and leave the family home, you realise how rapidly the baton-passing opportunity is gone. Don’t miss it.
Not only were fathers exhorted to pass on God’s commandments, they were also to recount His mighty acts. ‘We will tell the next generation … the wonders He has done’ (Ps. 78:4). They were to tell succeeding generations about the escape from Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the crossing of the Jordan, the taking of Jericho. They also had to pass on the great hope of Israel, the glorious future awaiting them when the Messiah came.
Children were similarly instructed to take note of what they were told. ‘Honour your father and your mother,’ God commanded them (Exod. 20:12). In other words, ‘When they teach you about Me, don’t turn your back on them. Honour them and take their words seriously.’ Scripture also advises, ‘A wise son heeds his father’s instruction,’ and, ‘He who ignores discipline despises himself’ (Prov. 13:1, 15:32).
Throughout recent decades, secular society has separated one generation from another. We have a new label for each successive generation: ‘baby boomers’, ‘gen-xers’, ‘millennials’ and so on. The inference is that each new generation of children is vastly different from any other and that parents cannot relate. Meanwhile some ‘experts’ become surrogate parents, or worse, peers become the most powerful influence.
The real needs of children have not changed, though times have. Children still need love, teaching, training, protection and provision from their wiser and more experienced fathers and mothers. Unfortunately, many parents abdicate.
And so it is with would be – and could be – spiritual parents. Since the days of Adam, this has been God’s call to us: to bear enduring spiritual fruit and teach our off-spring to observe everything that God, our Father, has taught us; to go and make disciples.