You’re Not Thinking Fourth-Generationally

You’re Not Thinking Fourth-Generationally

In the film “Back To The Future Part III,”  Doc and Marty have traveled back in time to “The Wild West” and the year 1885.  They plan a return home to the present in 1985 (one hundred years later) by hitching a ride on a freight train.  There is only one problem.  The train track runs out, and, at the speed they will be going, Marty thinks they will crash into the ravine below.  However, as Doc explains, Marty is not thinking “fourth-dimensionally,” and that fourth dimension is time.  While, in 1885, the train track does indeed run out, when the time machine leaps ahead to 1985, they will be entering a time in which the bridge and the track have been completed.  They will then be able to safely come to a stop when they return home.

We can have a similar problem to Marty’s.  It is not that we do not think fourth-dimensionally.  No – our problem is instead that we do not think fourth-generationally.  Observe the words of the apostle Paul to the young preacher Timothy: “…and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (II Timothy 2:2).

How many generations do you see in this verse?  First, there is the word originally declared by Paul (1).  Then, that word is heard by Timothy (2).  Paul then charges Timothy to entrust that word to faithful people (Generation #3).  Finally, at the end of the verse, Paul continues, “Faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  The “others” is Generation #4!  In other words, Paul is telling Timothy, “You need to think fourth-generationally!!!”

Our mindset is, most definitely, never supposed to be absorbed in first-generational or one-generational thinking: “just me, myself, and I.”  Additionally, the teaching chain is never meant to be only second-generational:  “just Jesus (1) and then me (2).”  Christ always desires for His light (1) to shine through us (2) and bless others (3, 4, so on).  Stated another way, Jesus (1) says He will give water to believers (2) which will become “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14) and that out of the believer’s heart will “flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38) which grace others (3, 4, and so on).  Tragically, even worse “two-generational thinking” only considers “me (1) teaching others (2),” without any thought about receiving wisdom from Christ and His messengers.

Instead, the apostle encourages us all to think bigger – to think fourth-dimensionally.  Listen to Paul’s words to Timothy on this same theme one chapter earlier: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.  For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God” (II Tim. 1:5-6a).  Paul mentions grandmother Lois (1), next mother Eunice (2), then Timothy (3).  At the end of the text, Paul implies that Timothy then has a responsibility to pass along that gift to others (4).  Once again, we have four generations of thinking.

There is also a “warning side” to this message which a faithful Jewish family would have known very well.  Within “The Ten Commandments,” the Lord declares that He will visit “the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (Exod. 20:5).  In other words, your (1) foolish and faithless decisions today will likely have an effect on not just your children (2), but also your grandchildren (3) and great-grandchildren (4).  In contrast, the Lord graciously promises that He will show “steadfast love to thousands (or to the thousandth generation) of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exod. 20:6).  While evil parents will likely witness the rotten fruit of their actions within their own lifetimes, faithful parents will bless countless generations into a future they cannot even see.

So, are you thinking bigger – thinking fourth-generationally?  Remember and honor the links in the chain which came before you – those who served, sacrificed, and loved in order to teach you the Word of God.  You have a responsibility to pass it along and bless others, just as they blessed you.  Lord willing, the little ones in the church today will be parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents themselves one day.  As a result, be mindful of the numerous generations you are influencing by teaching these children and by being a good example to them.

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