Welcome to Friday’s podcast from STC Sheffield. It has been a pleasure to share some reflections from the book of 1 John with you this week, and I’m looking forward to listening to Tom next week, as he continues our journey through the letters of the New Testament.
In the meantime, our Bible passage for today is 1 John 2:7-14. I’m not going to focus on a particular verse, but instead I’d like us to look at the groups of people that John addresses or identifies in verses 12-14: children, fathers and young men.
We know that every member of the human race experiences theses different ages and stages in their lifetime: being a child, being a young adult, and then becoming a father (which is more accurately translated as being an elder in the church, or an older and wiser person, rather than having biological children).
However, as Christians we should actually be experiencing or operating at each of these stages all the time, in our walk and journey as a disciple of Christ.
Let’s start with being children. Obviously, we know that we are all ‘children of God’ and that we are adopted into sonship, but what are some of the characteristics of being a child?
Well, children are in need of instruction, they need teaching and training in all sorts of different things – be that potty training, how to write their name, or as they get older how to cook a meal or use the washing machine!
In your journey with God, or at this stage in your life, where do you need to learn more or be taught new things? And who are the teachers who can instruct and train you in this?
An example from my own life right now would be that in 12 weeks time our eldest son Jacob will leave home; and a year after that Max will also move out. This is new to me. I have little to no experience of what it is like to parent adult children, to have your children leave home, or how to support the third child who is now at home with no siblings around. At this stage in my parenting journey, I am a child myself, and I need to spend time talking to and learning from others who have done this, people who can teach me new strategies and approaches, and probably wipe away a few tears.
I was humbled to read a piece that Pete Greig, the founder of the 24/7 prayer movement, wrote this week about heading off on a marriage retreat with his wife of 26 years. It’s not that they think there are any particular issues or problems in their relationship right now, but they asked a man who had been married for 50 years to teach them what it meant to thrive in a marriage beyond 26 years and when all the children had flown the nest. Pete and Sammy Greig recognised that despite raising their kids to adulthood, planting 3 churches and founding a worldwide prayer movement…….they were still children when it came to this stage of their life, and they were open to receive teaching and instruction from those older and wiser than them.
Where in our lives, in our walk with God, would we benefit from learning new things, or getting some further teaching, training and instruction?
The second group of people that John addresses is the fathers or, as we noted earlier, the older and wiser members of the community, the elders of the church.
The reflections here are quite simple. Where, or to whom, are you being called to be this older and wiser person?
It may come as a shock to the teenagers, students and young adults listening that this applies to you.
As parents, one of the things that Alan and I have always sought to provide for our children is people younger, and considerably cooler, than us to invest in their lives. I know that both of our boys have good relationships with a lot of great Christian men in their 20s and 30s, and that Faith also chats to some amazing young women who are strong in their faith, and have taught her that she shouldn’t date anyone unless he loves the Lord!
If you are a teenager, a student or a young adult in our church, I would encourage you to get involved with our kids work and youth work in whatever ways you can. Doing this is part of what it means to be a multi-generational community of believers.
And if you are not in this demographic, then I would still ask the question – who are you investing in?
As I said earlier in the week, Alan and I are leading the Raising Children course at the moment. We have 2 teenagers and a pre-teen, and we love spending time chatting to and supporting parents and carers who have toddlers at home or who are about to step into the teenage years. It’s not that we think we know all the answers, or have done everything right, but we know that this is a place, or a stage, where we are the older and wiser people. It is the same with young married couples – in 22 days time Alan and I will celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary, and we love supporting and encouraging others as they are just at the beginning of their marriages.
We are all called to be disciples who make disciples, and we all have a role to play in encouraging others to grow to maturity in Christ. Where are you being called to share your Christian experience with those who are younger in the faith?
And finally, where are we being called to display the passion, energy and strength of a young adult?
Being a young adult is a time for adventures, new opportunities, the world is your oyster, and you are looking forward to stepping into the things you have always wanted to do, and changing the world.
And, believe it or not, no matter whether you are 9 years old or 99 years old; this is how God views you. God always has a plan for you to do great things for Him; he has opportunities, hopes and dreams for us at all stages of our lives.
Next week a lovely lady from our church is getting married for the first time in her 70s, and we are rejoicing with her. It’s going to be a great adventure, and open up new opportunities for her to do great things for God and with God.
We may have been a Christian for 5 years or 50 years, but God still wants to ignite within us the same passion and energy that we had when we had only been following Jesus for 5 minutes or 5 months.
Why not ask God to show you today where he wants you to step out in faith, to show the strength of a young adult, and change the world for Him.
Heavenly Father, thank you that you called the early church to operate as a multi-generational community of believers. Show us where you are calling us to be a child, an elder and a young adult in our faith and in our walk with you. Amen.
BIBLE READING: 1 John 2:7-14 (NIV)
Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.