“We Need Each Other: We Prayerfully Value All Generations”
By Richard Goad- Pastor of River of Life Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
John was pleasantly surprised. His wife had just handed him the phone. Their daughter’s call wasn’t unusual. She called once a week. Her conversations were almost always with her mom, and they usually ended with, “Tell dad I love him.” But this time she wanted to speak with him.
“Hi, Dad,” she said. “Jenny (his granddaughter) has an assignment. She has to write a story about her hero. She wants to write her paper about you. She’ll need to interview you. Is that okay?”
“Of course,” he said, with the proper mix of joy and humility. “Put her on.”
When Jenny said “Hi, Grandpa,” he told her he was surprised but honored at the request.
“Why did you pick me?” he asked.
“Because I couldn’t spell Schwarzenegger,” she replied.
Don’t you love the innocent honesty of second-graders?
Or the search for independence of young teens?
Or the “I-don’t-need-you-to-tell-me-what-to-do” confidence of the about-to-graduate high school senior (if he can get his grades up in history)?
Or, of course, the “It’s-Our-Time; You’ve-Had-Your-Day” attitude which comes up against the “Well-That’s-Not-How-We-Did-It” spirit?
We recognize these because we have all seen them…and lived them. The challenge is finding the value of the person who is in the midst of one of these life-stages. Too often, we give attention to the flaws and immaturity (or “super-seasoned” senectitude) of the other person without an appreciation of not only who he is but for God’s plan for his future.
I remember the days when “Let no man despise your youth” (1 Timothy 4:12) was a very important Scripture passage for me as the youngest pastor in my conference. Now, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching,” (1 Timothy 5:17) has special significance in my spirit.
Both attitudes are biblical – and necessary. The reality is we need each other. Young people need caring and wise mentors whose deep-rooted concern for the continuance of ministry produces a heartfelt willingness to invest in them. And “seasoned veterans” need not only to be appreciated for ministry done but for the gifts still possessed that should remain a blessing to the body of Christ.
Barnabas is one of my spiritual heroes. His introduction in Acts 4, when he lays an offering at the feet of the apostles, demonstrates the meaning of his name, Son of Encouragement. Barnabas would continue to invest in the ministry by cultivating his spirit of encouragement in the lives of young men who were in the early stages of walking out the call they had on their own lives.
Most notable of these was Saul, who would become the Apostle Paul. Many in the early church were cautious in accepting Paul in their ranks because of his earlier activities against them. But it was Barnabas who took him under his wings and guided him toward the ministry that profoundly impacted the spread of the gospel. Ironically, when Paul later had a problem with John Mark and refused to allow the young man to participate in another mission trip, Barnabas wisely understood his spiritual gifts were now more needed as an investment into the development of the younger man. He made the decision to do for Mark what he had done for Paul before.
I am personally in a season of transition. New Year’s Eve, I shared with my congregation that the Lord had shown me a truth that I was obliged to heed. I’ve always understood life to be a race, or more specifically a marathon, which is to be run faithfully with endurance. But the Lord revealed to me the greater truth –it’s a relay race that we are running. We carry the baton for a season but others were running the race before us and passed the baton to us. We are obligated to be prepared to hand the baton to another. This is the nature of Kingdom building. We all have our assignments to complete and they are not completed by refusing to grace the next persons with what has been entrusted to us.
As in any relay race, there is a lane of opportunity to pass the baton properly. If done too early, the team is disqualified. If the pass comes too late, that error also produces disqualification. If the baton is dropped and not handed forward, everything comes to an abrupt halt.
Therefore, let us run our race with a commitment to others, including the next runner to come (with our encouragement), knowing that the last leg can only be run by Jesus Christ, who is the One who can bring the victory home.