Friday, 17 July 2009

Jacob's Inheritance

On Sunday 12th July (Carmen’s birthday!) my eldest grandson Jacob Henry Cairney Starling was baptised by full immersion aged 6! As my daughter Nicole said in her own blog post about this recently, “Some of our friends might be thinking that this is a few years too early and others will be thinking that it's about six years too late!” Needless to say, I was deeply moved watching young Jacob being baptised because it was testimony to the grace of God and his work in Jacob's life and our family. Jacob had become convinced from his reading of Acts with his Dad that as a believer in Christ he should be baptised. His parents after much discussion and consultation decided that there was no biblical reason not to let him be baptised, and many good reasons why he should, if that was what he desired.

The faith that led Jacob to want to be baptised is a wonderful reminder to me as his Grandad of the grace and kindness of God towards our wider family. For like the young Timothy who Paul noted had a faith "that dwelt first in [his] grandmother Lois and [his] mother Eunice" (2 Tim 1:5), Jacob's faith was evidence of the grace of God that had previously brought many to faith in his wider family. God had been at work in Jacob's father’s family (the Starlings) with family members across many generations demonstrating faithfulness to God. Similarly, in his mother’s family (the Cairneys) God's grace is obvious. There are less recent generations of Christians, but similarly there is much evidence of God’s grace and kindness, for in his mercy God saved Carmen and me as 31 year-olds at a critical stage in our children’s life (when they were just 5 and 3). As well, though we were both raised in non-Christian homes, God gave each of us godly grandparents. Jacob has a rich heritage of God’s faithfulness, grace and mercy.

But ultimately, Jacob like all of us, must have a personal faith in Christ and a preparedness to commit his life to following him. As Joshua challenged the Israelites, we too must hear the call of God and “choose this day whom [we] will serve” (Joshua 24:15). In one critical way the role of Jacob’s parents is similar to that of Paul with the young Timothy (who Paul sees as his 'child'); it is to remind Jacob of what they have been teaching him about Jesus and what he is learning himself as he reads the Bible. Paul challenged Timothy to never be ashamed of his faith in Christ (2 Tim 1:8-10) but to hold to this faith no matter what the cost and to follow the pattern or standards set for him by Scripture:

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you (2 Timothy 2:13-14).

Paul's words to Timothy are very much the language of the parent for his child. Jacob's parents will similarly continue to challenge Jacob to hold to his faith and the teachings he has heard from them and that he now explores himself as he reads God's word. And of course his grandparents and Jacob's wider family collectively accept their responsibility to remind him of God's promises in Christ. Through the grace and kindeness of God Jacob's faith will hopefully grow and deepen and his family will continue to encourage and support him.

The task of nurturing a precious young child of God is of highest of importance for parents and family. This task might seem daunting to some parents. But there is a great word of encouragement to families in Paul's second letter to Timothy, particularly those who have seen their children resisting the truth that they have taught them. Just as Paul trusted in God for the well being of Timothy, so too parents have to trust in God for the spiritual well being of their children. While it is our task to remind our children of the truth that we have taught them, we do this in the power of God. While we remind our children to “Follow the pattern of the sound words” (1 Tim 1:13) that they hear from us, and by reading the Bible, our children cannot guard it in their own strength. The “good deposit” can only be guarded “…by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us”. Is there any wonder that Paul “constantly remembers [Timothy] in his prayers night and day” (v3). He thanks God for Timothy's faith (v3) because ultimately Paul knows that it is God who made Timothy into the man that he is. So too, this is the hope of Jacob's parents and his grandparents, that God will complete the work in our child and grandchild that he initiated and sustains through his Spirit. I praise God for my grandson Jacob and his godly parents and pray that God's grace will continue to be evident in their lives as they trust in Jesus.

Below (left to right): Tim Blencowe (Pastor of Macquarie Baptist), Jacob's Dad David and Jacob

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