Michael Youssef - Engaging Future Generations
Throughout the Scripture, you see that God did not just design the family as a shield to protect the children from the evil influence of culture, but there's more than that. He created the Christian family as a beachhead and a mission force to retake the satanically occupied culture for the kingdom of God. The Christian family is defined by its action as an urgent agent of the Church of Jesus Christ to be witness for the truth. How do you go about this? Well, look with me please at the Psalm 128. I think everyone agrees that the word "blessed" or "blessing" is a lovely word. It's a wonderful word. Who doesn't wanna be blessed? Raise your hand. Right? Who doesn't wanna be blessed? In the spiritual realm, it means experiencing the favor of God.
The word "blessing" or "favor" is mentioned four times, verses 1, 2, 4, and 5. In the last message, Psalm 127, we saw the blessing of God, the favor of God, upon the next generation so that the children become arrows in the hand of the greatest bow holder, and he makes it very clear in this psalm, particularly, that, when we invest faithfully into the next generation, when we pour our lives into the lives of the next generation, we will be blessed. 127, he singles fathers and sons. Here, he includes the wives and the daughters and even the grandchildren. Isn't that wonderful? What is he saying? He's saying, when we wisely invest in the next generation, when we pour into the next generation, God will not only bless us, he's gonna bless the next generation, but not only that, he's gonna bless the generation next of the next generation. Can I get an "amen"?
Look with me, please, at the condition of the promise. You see, we all love to claim the promise, right? Very few people want to meet the condition of the promise, but look at the condition of the promise. Verses 1 and 2, "Blessed, or favored, are all who fear the Lord, all who walk in his ways". See, that's the condition. That's the condition. "You will eat the fruit of your labor. Blessings and prosperity will be yours". There is something that I need to explain here. Particularly, I want to explain it to the younger generation. Fearing the Lord does not mean being terrified of God, absolutely terrified of God.
And some people used to teach that, and some people may still teach that. There are some who view God as someone who's always angry, capricious, and he can't wait for you to make a mistake or fail so he can whack you on the head. To be sure, yes, our God is a God of justice. Don't ever forget that. This is the other side of the coin of our God. He is the God of justice, and he will not allow injustice to remain forever. One day, sooner or later, he will take care of that, but he also reveals himself to us as the God of grace and the God of mercy, as the God who does not withhold forgiveness, his forgiveness, from those who seek it.
God's Word speaks of fearing God, and that means that we are constantly being in profound reverence for God that we desire to genuinely, genuinely obey God out of gratitude and out of thanksgiving, that we esteem him so highly that we do not deliberately and premeditatively and angrily go out of our way to offend a holy God. That's what it means. Reverence for God has to begin by the spiritual head of the home, and this is where he starts, the spiritual head of the home. The spiritual head of the home is the one who reveres God, obeys God, walk daily with God, express holy awe of God, seeking to honor God, not just with his substance, but in all aspects of life.
Then the next generation will get spiritually blessed out of their socks even, listen to me, even, even in the times before they come to that realization themselves. But when the next generation see this generation not taking God and his Word seriously, when the next generation sees this generation treating God like a genie, we come to him, rub the genie bottle until just to get what you want and when you want it and how you want it, they will turn their back on this kind of hypocrisy.
The reason so many of the next generation have turned off of Christianity is because of the hypocrisy of so many of us who are in the pulpits. I need to explain this. Most of you know what the word "secular" means, but just in case you have forgotten, or those who don't know what the word "secular" means, I need to just give you a quick definition, and I'm gonna show it to you how it has invaded many a pulpit and many a church today. The word "secular" comes from the Latin word "saeculum," which means "this age, this world, this life". That's what it means as opposed to the spiritual, otherworld, the eternal life. "Secular" means that there is very little thought given to beyond the self, beyond the self-fulfillment, beyond this life. "Secular" means that we have given very little thought, if any, to our eternity in heaven, which is a long, long, long time.
And, beloved, when that happens, when that happens, instant gratification rules supreme. If we do not ultimately reject this secular thinking in the church, we'll lose the next generation. But all this has to begin in the thought process. It has to begin in the thought process. You say, "Why"? Because action follows thought. Action follows thought. Say that with me, "Action follows thought". And when the psalmist speak of walking in God's way, he's not saying, "Think about God on Sundays," or "Think about God when you really need something from him, you want him to do something that you want," or, "Think of God when you want him to obey your wishes".
Have you ever asked yourself the question, "Why does the Bible talk about walking with God"? Walking with God. Never says, "sitting with God". There's a reason for that because walking indicates a forward motion. Walking indicates a growing process. Growing in what? Growing in our spiritual and biblical thinking. Genesis chapter 5, "Enoch walked with God". It doesn't mean that Enoch occasionally had a stroll with God. It doesn't mean that Enoch prayed fervently when he wanted something from God. That's secular thinking. That's secular thinking. Genesis chapter 5, verses 21, all the way to 24, says, "Enoch was 65 years old," when he began to walk with God, 65. "At 65, he gave birth to Methuselah," the oldest human being has ever lived. But at the age of 65, "Enoch walked with God," it says, "and he walked with God for 300 years".
I know that's a big deal in the Old Testament. I'm glad that I live in the New Testament. I don't wanna live that long, not anywhere near that. Think about that: 300 years he walked with God, not an occasional stroll. No, what did Enoch do in these 300 years of walking with God? Well, the half-brother of Jesus, Jude, tells us in his epistle, one-chapter epistle, he tells us that Enoch lived in total obedience. See, that's what it means. That's what it means. And remember this: He did not have a Bible. He did not have a Bible study group to help him out. He did not have Christian friends to encourage him. He did not have worship time to uplift him... no. But because of his total obedience, God revealed to him the coming judgment.
Before he told Noah, God told Enoch of the coming judgment, that the coming judgment... my beloved friend, I know the word "judgment" is not the hottest thing on Wall Street. I know that. I know it is not a popular message to this generation. Judgment is not a positive thinking message. I know the word "judgment" is not a message that makes you feel good about yourself. In fact, the time when Enoch walked with God was a time of utter and blatant rebellion against God. And that is why God said, "Enoch, tell them about the coming judgment".
Beloved, because walking with God compels us to speak the truth to our culture, it compels us, not falsehood. Walking faithfully with God means aiming to please God first and foremost. That's what it means. Look at Hebrews 11:5. It says, "Enoch was commended as one who pleased", who? "God". No wonder he bodily was transported to heaven. Literally, his body did not see death like Elijah. Please hear me right on this one. When we fear God and obey God, not only we'll be ultimately blessed, but the next generation will be blessed. Look at verse 2, "You will eat the fruit of your labor". Translation, the translation here, this is an Old Testament way of saying that, "You will have God's favor".
Something else I'll need to tell you. When you walk with God, nothing you do will be in vain. Did you hear that? Nothing you will do will be in vain. First blessing, when you constantly walk with God, is that he will work all your circumstances for your blessing and his glory. Second blessing, when you constantly walk with God, the next generation will be blessed. Even when they wander off, he's gonna bring them back, kicking and screaming. He did that to me. Even when they lose their way for a time, they will find their way back because of your walk with Christ. Even if they break your heart, God will do his work in them.
That is why he said, "The wife will be like a vine". Translation in modern language, "a symbol of refreshment and lavishing joy". Why? Because the harvest of the grapes came after a long, hot, dry summer, and refreshed them. There's something vitally important here I don't want you to miss, why God does not call the next generation a vine. He only calls the wife a vine, but not the next generation. He said, "The next generation will be like olive shoots". The wife is a vine. The next generation, olive shoots. Very important distinction. Don't miss it.
Do you know why the next generation of those who are faithfully walking with the Lord are called olive shoots? I'll tell you a few things about olive trees. Olive trees grow best in hard, rocky soil. The roots go deep, and they find their way into the craggy soil, but they are very slow-growing plant. My colleague from the Middle East is doing this. This is a three-year-old olive tree. He hasn't put it in the ground yet. Very slow-growing. In fact, olive tree never produces fruit or berries until seven years in the ground, and even then, the berries are not very good. You have to wait 10 to 15 years before the berries are really good olives.
Talk about future generation. With perseverance, pruning, instruction, God will raise olive shoots in your home and in our church. With perseverance and not giving up, and viewing them as a heritage of the Lord as we saw in the last message, God will do great things through them. God, the bow holder, will use them as sharp arrows to light up a dark world. Something else I must tell you about olive trees before I leave you. Something very important. Properly rooted, olive trees can last for 20 generations.
Did you get that? Twenty generations. Properly rooted olive trees do not need much cultivation or supervision. Literally, once they get to that stage, they take care of themselves. The Bible said, "Train the child in the way he or she should go, and when they grow, when they get old, they will not turn from it".
One last thing about olive trees, it's an evergreen. If it is set right in the soil, it will display beauty no matter what the season is. Let me conclude. I want to tell you two contrasting stories. Two contrasting stories. Stories that illustrate the difference between those who seek to invest their all into the next generation and those who don't. Story number one, "In April of 2000, Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards were killed in Cameroon, West Africa. Ruby was over 80".
Single all of her life, she poured her life into the lives of the next generation in her Cameroon church. "Laura was a widow, a medical doctor, pushing 80, herself, as well, served alongside Ruby, side by side, in Cameroon," pouring into the next generation. "The brakes of their car, as they were both in it, failed, and the car went off a cliff, and they were instantly killed". Let me ask you a question. Was that a tragedy? No, no, it wasn't. No, it wasn't. Two lives driven by passion for Christ, serving the next generation for God's glory. Not a tragedy at all. Their lives were not wasted but were invested. Invested.
Now I want to contrast this with a second story. Story was published in a well-known publication about a couple who decided to retire early from the Northeast, and they moved to Punta Gorda, Florida. He was 59. She was 51. They spent their retirement years cruising on their 50-foot trawler, playing golf, and collecting seashells. When you first read this and, you kind of have to wonder if it's a joke or is that really the American dream. Tragically, that was their dream, and they lived it. But when they came to the end of their most precious gift, make no mistake about it, it is the most precious gift next to salvation, that's life, I can only imagine, I can only imagine their account that they're giving God: "Look, Lord, see, isn't that a beautiful seashell collection? Isn't that beautiful? You see that"? Now, that's tragic. That is a tragedy.