BUILDING A HEALTHY FAMILY
Your Family Tomorrow
April 2, 2006
How do you pass on the baton of the Christian faith to your children and those around you? How do you ensure that you pass on a Christian legacy? Join Ben Young as he discusses practical ways you can be a successful relay runner in the race of life.
Centuries ago, people would pack stadiums. Thousands of men, women and young people would go into these stadiums to watch a spectacle, to watch an event. The event—the sport—kill the Christians! During the Roman Empire, killing Christians was a sport. After 33 A.D. as Christianity began to grow, as it took root, and as the disciples and Paul spread the Good News in that part of the world, the Romans didn’t like people going around saying, “Jesus is Lord.” They didn’t like it because they said “Caesar is Lord.” Many Christians paid the price with their lives. People would gather in these stadiums to watch the Christians be burned at the stake, or fed to the wild animals.
The first recorded martyrdom, after the Apostles died out, was a guy by the name of Polycarp. I like that name—Polycarp. I can’t say it is in use today; but I am sure back then, it worked. Polycarp was a guy who I really admire. He had a lot of stoke for God, to say the least. He served God for 86 years. After 8 years, the Romans finally hunted the guy down, brought him out in the big stadium, put him on a stake and tried to burn him. The fire wasn’t catching onto Polycarp as they wanted; so some enraged soldier just jabbed him right in the heart and killed him.
How did Polycarp get it? How did this guy have such an intense, real relationship with God that at the young age of 86, he was willing to lay it all down? How did he get it? Look at II Timothy 2:2. You have another guy here writing—his name is Paul. Paul, as you remember, was a guy who used to hate, and detest anybody who was a Christian. He was there at the stoning, the martyrdom, of a guy named Stephen. He held the coats of the people who were throwing the rocks so they could get a better shot at the guy. Something happened to him. Jesus appeared to him, and it radically changed his life.
Now, the Romans and others were hunting down Paul. He was about to die, and he was talking to one of his disciples—one of his mentorees, if you would, by the name of Timothy. Here is what he said to Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Another translation says this: “Pass on what you have heard from me – the whole congregation is saying Amen! – to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others.”
After Jesus Christ rose again on the third day, He ascended into Heaven. Before He ascended, what was the last thing He said to His disciples? Stay put—relax and be happy? No, He said, “Go! Go! Go! And as you are going out, I want you to make disciples—make learners.” That is what the word “disciple” means. Make learners of this way of life I have taught you.
So how did Polycarp get it? How did Timothy get it? How did we get it? We got it, because someone first was willing to share the life and the news, and the message of Jesus with us. It is our obligation; it is indeed our privilege to pass it on to others. Jesus has given us that calling; He has given us that purpose. His disciples passed it on to others, who passed it on to us. So really, once we begin to grow and have this understanding of who God is and of what He has done in Jesus; the next thing we do, and we continue to do for the rest of our lives, is pass it on. Pass it on. Pass it on. Pass it on. Pass it on. That is what it is all about!
Someone said this: “Christianity is basically one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread.” I like that! We are not enlightened people who have it all figured out. We have realized our absolute hunger before God. He has given us His bread; we have been satisfied and we want to share that bread with others. Many of you here are still seeking to experience and to take of that bread. We are not here to take that loaf and just shove it down your throat—-no, no. It is something we pass on—it is something we share. Some people take the bread and eat; some people don’t.
When I was in third grade my family moved from Greenville, South Carolina, to the Metropolis of Columbia, South Carolina. I remember moving there in October. I came into the classroom, and I was really scared. I was upset; I didn’t really want to move. So I went to this school, and there was a desk open by this guy. I eventually came to know this guy, and we became friends. We became best friends. As we continued our friendship as we went through this school, I invited him to church. It’s all I knew to do at the time—-I was only in 3rd or 4th grade. Eventually, he heard the message. He received that bread and came to know Christ. He then brought his sisters to come to know Christ. His mom and dad came to know Christ. He still lives in South Carolina, and he pastors a church. He has a son, and he has passed that message on—the relationship that he has with Christ on to his kids. That is the way it works. That is the way it works. What we have freely received from God, we pass it on. We pass it on. We pass it on!
Polycarp had a good mentor. You may have heard of him—-he wrote a couple of books himself. His name is John. St. John, the guy who wrote the Gospel of John, I, II, and III John, and the book that everyone understands today in the 21st Century, the Revelation. That is how he received it. Polycarp was one of John’s main disciples. Then, Polycarp passed it on to a guy by the name of Irenaeus. He was a brilliant scholar, and one of the great defenders of the faith as the church began to grow in those early centuries. He passed it on.
Now, how do we do that? How do we pass it on? Again, there are many ways that we come into a relationship with God. There are many ways; and many times, there are events in our lives that happen that create a hunger in our lives for bread—real bread, real food. But God, I believe, has designed a pattern, if you would, or an ideal. Listen how it works. This is Deuteronomy 6:6-7. I am reading The Message translation. Again, you have Moses who has led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt. Deuteronomy means, “To repeat.” He is repeating the law to these Israelites as they go and prepare for the Promised Land. Here is what he says—I love this: “Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home, or walking the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night.”
Moses is saying, “These commandments that God has given us—pass them on to your children. Get them first of all inside of you, and then get them inside of them.” That is the way it works. Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, body and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Keep the Sabbath Day holy. Do not steal, or lie. Honor your mother and father. Get the “Big Ten”—get the Word—get the Commandments inside of you. Then get them inside of your children. And that is for all of us—whether you are a parent, or not. I get God’s Word inside of me, and to those I know who I am passing on; I try to get God’s Word, or share God’s Word, that it might get inside of them.
Ephesians 6:1-4, which has been our passage for the last several months, says: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ – which is the first commandment with a promise – ‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
So, God has designed it where we receive, in an ideal world, this life-changing message of who Jesus Christ is. We receive that from our mother—from our father.
We receive that in the context of the family. So parenting, basically, is about passing it on. I have got to be sure that what God has taught me—what God has built into me, what I have learned about life; I’ve got to pass on this life change to my children. And if I am a single, or a student, I’ve got to pass on this life change to others around me. That is my obligation, and that is my privilege—-my privilege as a believer. I’ve got to get it inside, so I can get it inside of them.
My wife and I love sports. I love sports. Maybe that is why I like Paul, who wrote a lot of letters in the New Testament, because he uses a lot of sports metaphors. He talks about boxing a lot, and he talks about running and track. So did the author of the Book of Hebrews in Hebrews 12. I like that. My wife and I like running. My wife loves running. She is very good, and she is very fast. A couple of weeks ago, she entered a 5-K, and she won it, which by the way is not unusual. She has won many 5-K’s, which always begs the question from guys, who don’t get it—“Well can she outrun you in a 5-K?” Of course! Anyway—maybe I could beat her in a sprint; but otherwise, she is blazing fast!
During the summer, there are these open track meets that we like to watch. We like to see these incredible events. I enjoy watching the sprinters—the male and female sprinters. They are moving so fast that their heads are just kind of shaking like they are pulling some serious “G’s.” I mean these people are just cruising!
One of the best events, in track and field, I have to admit, I think is the relay. You’ve got the 4 x 100 and the 4 x 400; and the relay is great because it takes a team in the relay. The relay has this beautiful thing—the baton. So, usually in track, you know, you are just running out there by yourself practically in your bathing suit these days; but in the relay, you’ve got the baton. You’ve got something. You’ve got some technology since you can’t carry your cell phone as you’re running—–I won’t go back there. So, you are cruising. And the thing about a relay is, you may have a phenomenal team; you could have Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson as part of your 4-man team, running the relay, as brilliant and as fast as they are. If you had them on your team, everything could go great; but if you don’t make the hand-off, it doesn’t matter! Because in a relay, almost everything relies on how one runner passes the baton off to the other runner. It is all about the hand-off. When you think about it, the Christian faith is all about the hand-off. Parenting is all about the hand-off. Will we have a good, clean hand-off? That is the way we pass on this message!
Now, I discovered something this week, but let me ask you a question first: In a relay, you have the baton, and you drop the baton, what happens? You are embarrassed! Now, what happens when you drop the baton? It is over! You are disqualified! That is not true—is that right? We have a track coach on the front row, right? You can drop the baton! I found that to be good news.
You can drop the baton. Now, you probably are not going to win the race; but you can actually drop the baton and not get disqualified.
Rewind back to the 2000 Olympics in Athens. Remember, we had the Women’s 4 x 100 team. Phenomenal team—-probably should have won the gold. But what happened—-what got them disqualified was they didn’t hand off the baton in the zone. You have a zone of so many meters, and these little markings, and if you don’t make the hand-off in the zone, then you will get disqualified! So, in passing the baton, it is all about the hand-off, and the hand-off is all about the zone. It is all about the zone!
Now, you are wondering, “How does this relate?” Well, at our church, on our five campuses, we have incredible workers—some of who are on paid staff—–some who are volunteers—-who work with our infants, our preschoolers, our children, and our junior high and high school students. We have people who are dedicated—-who pour their lives into kids, ages 1 to 18. That is what they are all about. We probably have a thousand people, paid and volunteers, who are involved in that. If we could interview them and ask them, “What is it that you need? What is the greatest need you have in reaching children? What is the greatest need you have in the junior high or high school ministry? What do you need? Do you need more programs? Do you need more retreats that are really great?” They would say, “No.” “Well, do you need more leadership and more service?” “Well, we could always use more leadership, but primarily, no.” “Well, do you need more money? Money makes the world go around. Do you need more money?” “Well, we could always use more money, but no—we don’t need more money.” “How about computers? Do you need more computers? More laptops, more ways to connect to one another? Do you need more buildings?” They would say, “No, no. no.” If you ask them, “What is it you need?” Do you know what they would say? They would say, “We need our parents in our church and those who come—we need moms and dads to bring their kids to church every Sunday. Because, you see we only get kids so many times, one Sunday a month.” I hate to be negative and critical, but that is pathetic! Even an honest agnostic is going to come every other week! Why is that?
The reason is, so many of us don’t make worship and church a priority in our family or in our individual lives! Sunday rolls around, and some of us are worshipping other places.
We will go worship at The University of Texas. We will go worship at Texas A&M. We will go worship at Baylor. We will go worship at the lake. We will go worship in the mountains. We will go all these places to worship—“Well, I can’t come to 11:11, you know—-I’ve got season tickets to the Texan’s games!” Crazy! I am not anti any of these things! I love our teams—I love college sports, pro sports, but there is a time and place for everything! “Well, I can’t come on Sunday because my son plays select baseball, or select soccer, and they’ve got a game right at 11:00 o’clock; so they can’t come and be a part of that.”
Our society is becoming crazy as we are filled with a multiplicity of activities and things; and we have other people, who are running on the track, right alongside of parents, right alongside of you as singles and students; and they are crying and begging for other people—“No, take this bread, take this, take this, take this…” Unbelievable!
It is impossible—-it is impossible to have a grasp on God, and what He is doing in your life and your families’ life, without being fully connected, and fully committed to His team, the local church! You can’t get a grasp; therefore, if you don’t have a grasp, you can’t pass it on in the hand-off—-in the zone. You can’t do it.
I’ve been a part of this church for close to 30 years; and I’ve seen people come and go. I’ve seen families come, and I’ve seen them go. Several weeks ago, as we were talking about parenting, I said, “Hey—-why don’t we do this?” I talked to some folks on my staff—-“Why don’t we do this? Why don’t we survey—why don’t we look at some families who have been a part of our church for many, many years; and let’s look at families who had kids, and they raised their kids in the church. Now, let’s look for families that are—to use the sport’s analogy—batting a thousand percent. In other words—-they raised their kids—-they passed it on to them in the home. They raised them in the church, and now their kids are in their 20’s, and they are also still in the race. They are still following Christ. Let’s talk to them, and let’s see what they say, and what they did with their family, to pass it on—to make the hand-off.”
We found a lot of things—a lot of common denominators. One of the first things was this: These families would say, “We weren’t afraid to discipline our kids.” This is another whole sermon in and of itself. I won’t go there again. That’s the first thing we found. They weren’t afraid to discipline little Johnny, and little Betsy Sue. Secondly, they said this: “We wanted our family and our house to be a place of fun, and joy. So, we did a lot of things together as a family. We took trips together. We had a lot of fun as a family.”
It is funny—-I’ve been asked this question a million times; and I am sure my dad has been asked this question two million times. Basically, they will say, “Tell me, how did you raise your boys as a P.K.? How did you raise your boys?” Another way to ask that question is, “How come your kids aren’t really messed up?” They are expecting some big, high spiritual answer. You know what my dad will say to them if you ask him this today? He will probably say this: “You know what, one of the main things I wanted to have in my house was fun.” He would say, “I wanted our house to be a place of laughter, a place of joy, and a place of fun.” Now, was there discipline? Of course! But he wanted it to be an atmosphere of joy, and laughter, and playfulness in our family.
So in survey, the families who passed it on and made the hand-off well; they would say, “We weren’t afraid to discipline.” Secondly, they said they wanted to have fun; so they did things together as a family. There was a third thing. They would say, “We were fully committed to church.”
All kinds of folks come here, and we all come to church with all kinds of weird motives. We all do. I do, you do—-we all do. We have some single guys who come here—this is one of my favorites. They will call up to the office, or I have talked to them. “Yeah, I want to find myself a Christian girl.” Of course, they don’t know God from Godzilla, but “I want a Christian girl.”
We have parents who come here, and they are in the same boat. They are not really into it—“I want my kids to have some good ethics. I want my kids to be good Christians,” but they will drop them off and go do their own thing somewhere.
These parents who did it well—-who made the hand-off to their kids; those kids are now in their 20’s and 30’s, and they are still running the race! They’ve passed it on! They have made that good hand-off! They would say, “We as parents were fully committed, and fully immersed in the life of the church; and our kids were also immersed in the life of the church along with us! We did it together. We made church and worship on the weekend priority! Priority. And because of that, our kids got it. They got it.”
You see, my good friend, Polycarp received the Gospel from his parents. He was raised in a Christian home! Irenaeus, who Polycarp discipled—-he was raised in a Christian home! In a Christian home is where we make God’s house—-we make worship and being involved a priority—-a priority.
Church is not simply coming to worship. That is a part of church, and many of you come here consistently, and that is great—to 11:11 service; but you need to take the next step.
Some of you are singles, and you need to take the next step. Students need to take the next step. Parents need to take the next step and move from being a part of the congregation, to being a part of the community. Move from being a spectator to the race to actually being in the race. The way we do that in this church family primarily is through our medium sized groups. We call them Bible study classes—Sunday school classes—whatever. That is where we do it! And that is where we begin to make meaningful relationships. That is when you begin to discover the talents that God has given you. That is when you begin to learn how you can pass it on to others around you. That is where it happens.
I would encourage you greatly, if you have not checked out one of our classes, to do that next weekend. You don’t have to know anything—you don’t have to have any knowledge of the Bible. No one is going to give you a shout-out and say, “Hey—what’s your favorite scripture verse? What is your favorite color?” They are not going to do that and embarrass you. If they do, call me! I love doing this in Christian groups—they go around and say, “Hey, stand up, visitor! Stand up and tell us something about yourself!” I’ll say, “My name is Ben, and I’m a Gemini!” Anyway, they are not going to do that!
It is so important folks that we don’t miss it! We think, somehow in this culture that we live in, with other people running around the track, with other voices yelling at us from the crowd, “Come over here—do this, run this way, walk this way….” We think we can make it by being casually associated with the church, and God and Christ. You can’t do it. Casual Christianity won’t cut it! It won’t make it! It won’t produce a disciple like a Polycarp, or Irenaeus! It won’t cut it! You’ve got to be committed as singles, committed as students, committed as parents that we have a firm grasp; not a perfect grasp, but a firm grasp on the Grace of God so that we in turn can make the hand-off. And we have to make the hand-off in the zone. And the zone is the context. The zone is the body of Christ, the church.
He has given us that Word. He has given us that privilege to pass it on. We are not just running the race for ourselves—no. We are running the race as a team, to pass it on. To make the hand-off, and to make it in the zone. Are you in the zone? Are you in the big Z? The church?