“When you become the father of children and children's children and have remained long in the land, and act corruptly, and make an idol in the form of anything, and do that which is evil in the sight of the Lord your God so as to provoke Him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will surely perish quickly from the land where you are going over the Jordan to possess it. You shall not live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed. The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord drives you.” (Deuteronomy 4:25-27)
Moses knew that, while the faith of the people was strong at that moment, over time, the faith of the nation would wane. As the years would pass, as one generation would give way to the next, the people’s faith would fade and all that God had done for them would become nothing more than a distant memory. This fading of faith is common to many nations and cultures, even to nations where faith played such a predominate part in its inception. From its beginning, faith played an important part in the United Stated. Many people came here with the expressed purpose of finding religious freedom; escaping the religious persecution they experienced in Europe. However, over two hundred years later, faith has decreased in importance in the daily lives of many in our country today.
Why is it that faith seems to fade from generation to generation? For the nation of Israel, it was because, with each successive generation, the people became more distant from their forefather’s experiences with the Lord. Yes, they still had the Ten Commandments and, yes, they still knew about God, but they personally did not experience God as their forefathers had. They had received the faith of their fathers but they did not have their own experiences with God.
“Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived? Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him.” (Deuteronomy 4:33-35)God was personally involved in the lives of those with whom Moses spoke. God appeared to them, He spoke to them, and His very presence went with them. “He brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength.” (Deut eronomy4:37 NIV) They did not just know about God, they knew Him and had experienced Him, but as each successive generation was further removed from those experiences, so was their faith. It is not enough to just know about God, we need to know Him and experience Him in our lives.
I have heard it said that, “there are no grandchildren in the Kingdom of God,” and I believe it to be true. We can pass on our values, principals, and beliefs to our children, but unless they themselves have an encounter with God, the faith we pass on will always be “our” faith and not “their” faith. When the Samaritan woman encountered Jesus at the well, saving faith was born within her heart. Afterwards, she returned to her village and shared that faith with everyone around her. They believed her word, but their lives were changed when they meet Jesus personally. “So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.’” (John 4:40-42) We must remember that information alone will never change anyone’s life. We can teach our children the Ten Commandments, we can teach them what it means to be a Christian, but until they meet Jesus themselves it will only be information. We must never allow a historical knowledge of God to replace the need for knowing and experiencing Him in our every day lives. Only through such a vibrant relationship with Jesus will our faith continue to grow. In this we will find a faith that grows rather than a faith that fades.