This is post 3 of 7 in the series “RELATIONSHIP RESCUE - JESUS STYLE”
Relationship Rescue-Jesus Style: A Letter To My Grandsons
II Timothy 1:3-7
Today I do not preach a sermon.
Instead I write a letter in your hearing. Normally when I stand in this pulpit, I stand here as a preacher; not today. Today I stand here as a parent, yes, even more to the point as a grandparent. God has blessed Trisha and me with three wonderful grandchildren. Penn Sefton will have his 8th birthday next November. Hunter Hewitt had his 7th birthday two days ago. Sarah Beth Hewitt is now 5 1/2. Because we recently have been with these three and because Father’s Day is on my mind, I decided to write a letter to our grandchildren. There is Biblical precedent for writing such a letter. In the New Testament, Paul wrote letters to his young “son in the faith,” Timothy. Paul would break open his heart and share both his feelings and his wisdom in writing, hoping that the letters would provide guidance and encouragement for Timothy as he grew in his faith. And so it is my hope that this letter someday will do the same thing for my grandchildren. Also, it is my hope that this letter may inspire you to write your own letter to your children, your grandchildren, or to some son or daughter in the faith. Those who are coming along behind us need the blessing and benefit of what we have learned in our own journey of faith. Here then is the letter I wish to write to my grandchildren. My letter will have three pages.
On the first page of my letter, I would ask you, Penn, Hunter, and Sarah Beth, to remember that you belong to your family.
When Paul wrote his letter to Timothy, it included these words, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother, Lois, and your mother, Eunice.” Paul was reminding young Timothy that he was a 3rd generation Christian. Quite remarkable when you stop to think about it, because remember that the Christian Church at that time was still in its infancy. Yet Timothy was a 3rd generation Christian. Penn, Hunter, and Sarah Beth, what I want you to remember is that you have behind you a family of faith that extends far beyond 3 generations. Let me tell you that that is a great blessing to be born into a family where the faith has been cherished generation after generation. It actually gives you a head start in life. Some years ago, William Payton wrote a book which had this title on one of its chapters The Christ in Our Blood. Now that’s a startling idea but it is a true one. Your family, Penn, Hunter, and Sarah Beth, has had Christ in its blood for a long, long time.
Your grandmother and I—you call us Honey and Big Daddy—want you to know that not only have you been born into a family of faith, but also a family of love. The parents who gave you bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh love you even beyond your capacity to understand. They will stand by you in good times and in bad. They will invest themselves on your behalf, and all they ask in return is that you give your best to the business of living. They will remind you that, regardless of what happens, their home is always your home, too. There is nothing you could ever do that would ever lead them to stop loving you. Don’t misunderstand me. They won’t coddle you; they will challenge you. They won’t pamper you; they will prod you. They won’t try to make life easy for you; rather they will try to make you strong enough to master life whether it is hard or easy.
Back in 1927, there was born here in America a young girl who was both black and poor, two awesome obstacles in the world then—and, God help us, even in the world now. She had a third strike against her, as well. She was sickly, and she suffered one serious illness after another. After several years of ill health, though she was still quite young, she told her mother that she wanted to die. Her mother cared too much to let that happen, and so she said to the weakened girl, “Down by the creek, there is a large stone. I want you to bring that stone up to the kitchen door to use as a step.” The girl protested, “I can’t do that, I am too weak to pick up that stone.” The mother then said, “I know you can’t pick it up, but you can push it, or shove it, or drag it. You can move it somehow or another. I don’t care how long it takes, but I want you to work on it every day until you get that stone to the kitchen door.” It took her one month and eighteen days to move that stone as far as a healthy girl her age could have moved it in twenty minutes or so, but her mother wouldn’t let her quit. Every day she made her work at the task, and what happened? Well, as she worked she gained strength. The challenge built up both her body and her spirit. Eventually that young girl became an athlete. Tennis was her game. There came a day when thousands of people stood and applauded as that African-American girl, Althea Gibson, walked to the royal box of Queen Elizabeth II at Wimbledon and received a crown as the finest woman tennis player in all the world.
Penn, Hunter, and Sarah Beth, I don’t want you to fail to see that there are people around you who care deeply about you. Your parents and your grandparents care so much that they will push you to become everything you are capable of being in life. Sometimes you may get a little irritated at their prodding; sometimes you may get a little aggravated at their concern; sometimes you may even resent their attempt to build moral strength and discipline into your life. But what I want you to realize is that no matter how imperfect they may be, they will love you even if and when no one else in all the world loves you. So down at the bottom of page one of my letter, I would write in big block letters these words: DON’T EVER FORGET THE FAMILY WHO LOVES YOU.
On the second page of my letter, I would ask you, Penn, Hunter, and Sarah Beth, to remember that you belong to God.
Again, I refer to what Paul wrote in his letter to his “son in the faith,” Timothy. Paul wrote, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother, Lois, and your mother, Eunice, and now I am sure lives in you.” Hear that, please. Paul is pointing directly to the faith that lives in Timothy. You see the great challenge for Timothy and for all those persons born into Christian families is not only to appreciate the heritage of their family of faith but then to develop the faith on their own. Parents and grandparents can teach and set an example, but children and grandchildren must come to faith on their own. Therefore, Penn, Hunter, and Sarah Beth, I want to remind you of who you are. You are made by God. You are an original creation. You are not some cheap copy or imitation. You are fashioned by Almighty God Himself, and there is no one like you. I want you to read the words of Psalm 8, “Lord, You have made us a little lower than God and crowned us with glory and honor.” Then I want you to consider how that promise is fulfilled in the reality of your life. The truth is found in Jeremiah, where God says of us, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you.” Penn, Hunter, and Sarah Beth, you are conceived of God. You are made by God. You are hand crafted by the Almighty, and He has made you a little lower than Himself. I want you to discover that truth in your life, and I want you to live under the power of it.
Your grandmother and I have learned that truth in our own lives. We both grew up in warm, wonderful, faithful Christian homes. There we came to love God, and Christ, and the Bible, and the church—and with all of those powerful impressions given to us by our parents and grandparents, we came to know Jesus Christ, and we found the power of our own faith in Him. I believe it is the responsibility of parents and grandparents to do that for their children and grandchildren. Penn, Hunter, and Sarah Beth, I want to do that for you. So down at the bottom of page 2,1 would write in big block letters these words: DON’T EVER FORGET THE GOD WHO MADE YOU.
On the third page of my letter, I would ask you, Penn, Hunter, and Sarah Beth, to remember that you belong to the world.
I like what Paul said to Timothy, “For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather a spirit of power, and of love, and of self-discipline.” Penn, Hunter, and Sarah Beth, I want you to use the gift and the spirit that God has given you to make a difference in this world in the name of Jesus Christ. Of course, if you’re going to do that, it means that you not only must profess your faith, but practice it as well. You must give yourself to regular worship, consistent Bible study, and sacrificial service in the name of your Lord.
You see, God has put you here for a purpose. He has a plan for fulfilling that purpose, and He calls you to pour yourself into doing His work in the world. That is why, it is my prayer that you and your parents will always be involved in the life and work of the church. It is my prayer that you always will have the best possible teachers, the best possible facilities, and the best possible atmosphere in the Sunday School program. It is my prayer that any church of which you are a part will be a church which teaches the Bible without apology and which provides you with an opportunity to grow in your relationship to Christ. It is my prayer that the church of which you are a part will have sufficient enough pride in its ministry to keep the buildings in first-class shape and the programs at maximum effectiveness. It is my prayer that the church of which you are a part will have sufficient enough concern for the mission of the church to the world to share generously, not grudgingly, from God’s rich bounty. It is my prayer that the church would be utterly faithful in teaching and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and would be constantly engaged in trying to right the wrongs in our world in the name of Jesus Christ. Yes, I would want you, Penn, Hunter, and Sarah Beth, to understand that for all of its painful human limitations and shortcomings, the church is nothing less than the chosen people of God, and that it is my deepest prayer that the three of you shall decide to stand always with God’s people—the church of Jesus Christ—as that church seeks to change the world in the name of Christ. Yes, I want the three of you to make a difference in this world in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. So down at the bottom of page 3,I would write in big block letters these words: DON’T EVER FORGET THE WORLD THAT NEEDS YOU.
I hope that the three of you do not mind the length of my letter to you, but you are learning what lots of other people already know: that when talking about my faith and my family, I tend to get carried away. I do hope that one day your parents will read this letter to you when you can understand it better. I’ve written it because I love the three of you so much. God has let me live long enough to see you come into this world, and that has given me a glimpse of the future—a future of great promise. I am watching you grow with joy, and your grandmother and I will do all we can to contribute to your joy in life. It is my fondest hope that I shall now live long enough to see the three of you make your own profession of faith in Jesus Christ. In the meantime, I would ask two things of you. I would ask you always to be forgiving—forgiving of any mistakes your parents or your grandparents may have made, forgiving of anyone who might wrong you along life’s way, and forgiving of the world we offer to you. I would ask you always to be faithful -faithful to the God who made you and saved you in Jesus Christ, faithful to the significant people God places in your life, and faithful in meeting the needs which exist in God’s world. That’s all I know to say to you, except this:
Please know that this letter comes with all the love one heart can hold.