The just shall live by faith. —Habakkuk 2:4, and quoted in the New Testament in Romans 1:17; Colossians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38. That truth formed the basis of the Apostle Paul’s theology, and his Epistle to the Romans (on that subject) fueled the theology of Martin Luther and the Reformation, and two centuries later of John Wesley.
I tell friends who are about to become grandparents for the first time, “You are about to be more in love than you have ever been in your life!” I tell them, “Right now, you don’t even know that child. But pretty soon, you will not want to live without them.”
It’s a marvelous thing the hold that the child of my child can have on my heart. In many respects, my eight grands have given me more joy than my three did. Perhaps it’s because we had our children when we were young–in our twenties–and our grands when we were in late middle-aged and were far different, even better, people.
We want to cherish these little ones and to do all we can to make a lasting difference in their lives, for now and for eternity. So, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about grandparenting by faith.
Now, everyone lives by faith. Even the most hostile atheist who resents the implication, does also. Anyone who drives on the interstate, eats in restaurants, flies in planes, and visits doctors and pharmacies is demonstrating great faith, mostly rewarded but sometimes ill-founded. Twice in the last six months, I have undergone surgery. In both cases, teams I did not know put me to sleep and worked on me. My life was literally in the hands of people I did not know. Talk about faith!
Christians live by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the very essence of who we are. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). “For by grace are you saved through faith…” (Ephesians 2:8). “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even your faith” (I John 5:4). As you surely know, we could do this all day, citing verses that underline the role faith plays in the believer’s life: Luke 17:6 and 18:8; James 2:18 and Mark 2:5; Mark 4:40; Romans 10:17; I Peter 1:5,7,20, and of course, the great faith chapter itself, Hebrews 11.
First. Our lives: Let us be godly, solid people of faith.
Want to bless your grandchildren? Then, start by living a life of integrity and faithfulness. Never let them think you are one thing in public and another in private. Your family should be (and usually are) the authority on your walk with Jesus. While you never want to parade your spirituality before them to impress them, they should catch you in unguarded moments being a child of the King–loving like Jesus did, praying, giving, worshiping.
Dr. James Dobson remembers automobile trips when his father would ask Mrs. Dobson to check out his memorization of certain passages. While driving the car, Mr. Dobson would recite Scriptures he was learning. The kid in the back seat said nothing, but never forgot it.
Dr. Cindy Townsend walked past her father’s bedroom and overheard him praying. “Oh Father, make my daughter a Deborah!” he pleaded. (He was referencing the heroic Deborah of Judges 4-5) As her friend of decades, I will say God has answered that prayer.
Second. Our Bibles: Our delight, our food, our legacy.
I have my grandmother’s Bible. Bessie Lowery McKeever (1895-1982) may have been the greatest Christian I ever knew. She was widowed at age 40, left with eleven children and one in the oven. Sometime after my brother Ron and I preached her funeral, Dad (her first-born) gave me her Bible. She had used it the last nine years of her life, had read it often and marked it up thoroughly. She underlined, wrote in the margins, and she filled in all those white pages with information on her parents and grandparents, where they were born, dates of their births, etc. On one page, she listed the full names of all twelve of her children (I had never known the actual names of some!) and their birthdates. The Bible contains clippings and poems that were dear to her. And under Psalm 103:17 she had written in the margin: “One of Papa’s favorite verses.”
Her “Papa,” my great-grandfather, was a Baptist preacher of whom I had heard very little. George Marion Lowery was born sometime around 1850. Little Bessie would accompany him on his pastoral visitation, she told us. He died long before any of her grandchildren were born. That wonderful Psalm 103 is my favorite, twenty-two verses I memorized three decades ago and recite almost every day of my life. It thrills me to know my grandfather, a preacher of Jesus, loved the same passage.
I was about to preach the funeral of Deacon J. E. Gooch, an optometrist in Columbus, MS, and a member of Patton’s Third Army that had helped to liberate the concentration camps of Germany. Just before the service, his son David approached. “Pastor, I thought you’d like to see Dad’s Bible.” In the front flyleaf, Dr. Gooch had written, “I came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior on Sunday March 1, 1948 at Shady Grove Baptist Church, Brookhaven, Mississippi. And was baptized the following Sunday afternoon at Shady Pond. I love the Lord Jesus with all my heart and recommend Him to all my loved ones.” I read that in the service and it was of more comfort than anything I said. Ever since, I’ve been urging people to write their testimony in their Bibles! (Note: I’ve long since forgotten the exact notation in his Bible, but it was something like the above.)
Third. Our Prayers: Time-released capsules for our loved ones.
Nothing kick-starts our prayers like holding a newborn in our hands. That happened when we became parents and went into overdrive when our children made us grandparents.
I suggest you pray time-release prayers. We pray for the future events in this child’s life: for teachers, best friends, sweethearts, careers, marriage, and such. We pray for them to know Christ and to live for Him.
Paul said to the Colossians: We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all power…. (Colossians 1:9-11) That pattern is probably as good as we could ask for. We pray for this child to grow up to be thoroughly saved and live a life of righteousness. Among other things that means knowing God’s will, walking in a worthy manner, pleasing the Father, bearing righteous fruit, and continually growing in Him.
Long after you and I are in Heaven, we trust that the prayers we prayed years earlier will “kick in” and be answered in the lives of these so dear to us.
Four. Our Stories: Telling what God has done for us
Jesus told the man previously known as the Gadarene demoniac: Go home to your friends, and tell them what the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you (Mark 5:19). That’s a pretty good pattern. Let’s tell family and friends what the Lord has done for us. And let’s make Jesus the star of the show, not ourselves. There is no room for bragging. We’re trying to make a lasting deposit in their lives.
I love the last few verses of Psalm 92. (God’s righteous people) will still bear fruit in old age. They will be full of sap and very green, to declare that the Lord is upright, He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. My outline on that–I’m a preacher, you know!–is that God’s faithful old people will be fruitful, youthful (full of sap), beautiful (very green), and truthful (declaring what we have learned of God over our long lives).
Someone says, “My family does not want to hear my stories.” I respond, “They will, in time. So, record them.” Get a journal and start writing. Or, open your laptop (where I am working this very moment) and start a Word program or a website. Even if they don’t read it now, they will in time. Or, more likely, future generations will read it long after you are off the scene. What you and I write now will be historical stuff to our great-grands and beyond.
This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord (Psalm 102:18). There it is! The very thing you and I are doing now.
In the decade of the 1990s, I kept a personal journal. Each night I would write for thirty minutes in those wordless books you can buy at bookstores, eventually filling 56 of them. Most of my grandchildren were born during that decade, and there are stories galore about them as well as the rest of our lives and my ministry. In time, these will become an heirloom. Really.
Five. Our Gifts: Material blessings to these we love.
You give gifts to your grands? Sure you do. We all do. My wonderful Grandma Bessie made beautiful quilts for each of her grandchildren (and that was a lot of people!). My wife Bertha makes afghans for friends and loved ones. What do I do? Nothing so spectacular or interesting, but for their birthdays I make personalized cartoon cards (and include a nice check, which they seem to appreciate!).
I’ve given cars to some of my grands. Not all? I told you I have eight grandchildren, so no, I’ve not given cars to all for what should be obvious reasons. But each has been blessed by my generosity, I think they will tell you.
My Mobile, Alabama grands (Grant, Abigail, Erin) have made trips to New York City with their maternal grandmother Betty Gatwood of Slidell, LA. They’ve been to NYC more times than I have!
The key thing in giving gifts to our grandchildren is to choose wisely and not overdo it. Then, one more big thing: Once we give to them, we should expect nothing in return. We are not buying their love or their loyalty. In most cases, they will probably not even send a thank-you. But it’s all right with me. I know them, and know their hearts, and I know I am well-loved by each of my eight.
God bless my Leah. God bless my Jessica. God bless my Grant. God bless my Abigail. God bless my Erin. God bless my Darilyn. God bless my JoAnne. God bless my Jack. I love them fiercely and pray for them every day of my life.
My Bertha has six grandchildren: Allison, Megan, Shannon, Ethan, Juliet, and Zoe. They are also dear to my heart and I pray for them each day.
It’s such a privilege to be a grandfather. I pray to be worthy.