Chapter 1: From Generation to Generation
One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. - Psalm 145:4
It was several years ago, while I flew across the Atlantic toward Africa where I was scheduled to speak to a group of church leaders, that I began to read a book concerning planning for the future. One of the foremost decisions borne of that reading was that it motivated my wife, Anna, and me to do the one thing it said we should do immediately if we hadn't already done so—prepare a will. With the help of one of the attorneys in our church, we began to work through the details of our children's inheritance.
An Inheritance for Your Children
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children. - Proverbs 13:22
The matter of inheritance—both spiritual and material—is addressed throughout the Old and New Testaments. Depending upon a man's godly wisdom (or his foolishness), his descendants might inherit anything from prosperity to folly. Our spiritual inheritance, "willed" to us as adopted sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ, is described in Matthew 25:34 as "the Kingdom [of God] prepared for [us] from the foundation of the world." While the book you are now holding in your hands and the one I read on the plane are very different, they are similar in more ways than one might think, because they parallel the matter of establishing a will and transmitting an inheritance.
The will Anna and I prepared to make, with the help of our attorney, was a conscious judgment that would state how the inheritance of what we have will someday be distributed to those we love. Since the combined value of all a person's assets is referred to as his or her net worth, I remember thinking it especially gracious of the attorney that, as he totaled what Anna and I owned, he didn't refer to it as our "net worthlessness." As a couple, at that time in our late forties, we were not in debt; but the amalgamate sum of our earthly possessions reflected the fact that we had pursued the path of pastoral ministry—one seldom known for an accumulation of wealth.
As we looked over the paperwork together, the attorney—highly respected in his profession and also a man of deep commitment to Jesus Christ—made such a gentle, touching observation. Rather than make a condescending remark about our small estate, he simply said, "Well, Pastor Hayford, just studying these figures, it's clear to see where you have set your priorities."
It might have been a nice way of exclaiming, "Wow, this is pathetic. A guy your age ought to have a lot more money than this." But I don't believe that's what he meant. He knew enough of Anna's and my life to know how gracious the Lord has been to us. He knew of the multitudinous ways we've been blessed—in our marriage, in our family, in our ministry, and in the privilege of seeing so many lives touched, changed, and enriched over the years. And while being in ministry for our whole life together has certainly not made us financially wealthy, Anna and I have no complaints. At that moment, and even to this hour, if we could start all over again, we would do it exactly the same way.
After the will had finally been drawn up, Anna and I were able to arrange a setting in which we could review the will with our kids. Of course, we had few assets and no idea of what a future date would afford them as their inheritance, but we nonetheless went over the details, explaining the formula by which anything we had would one day be passed on to them.
That day in our living room offers a genuine and practical spiritual parallel to this book's subject of blessing your children, for learning and planning how to transmit a blessing to them involves as real a decision as arranging their inheritance of material things via a will.
I thought of that just as I began writing. Just as that attorney was a spokesperson for what human law requires, I wondered if Father God would let me be a spokesman for His laws—His "ways that work for human benefit" (see Romans 8:28). That's what God's laws are about—all of them. And I'm hoping to help parents and others think about and plan how they can pass life's greatest inheritance to the children in their lives.
More precious than any material sum, the values of love, understanding, enriched relationship and spiritual blessing can and should be transmitted. In much the same way as that family meeting in our living room, our heavenly Father God is ready to show us His will, designed not only to bless us with the inheritance of His goodness in our lives, but also to pass on as blessings to our kids.
And incidentally, it's worth nothing that there's a distinctive beauty in the difference between God's will and the will that Anna and I reviewed with our children. A human will can wind up being mishandled by a shyster attorney. When someone dies and thus is obviously not there to govern the administration of or give explanation concerning the will, confusion and misdistribution can occur.
But when we seek to live in God's will and relay it to our children, we enter another arena—one of great certainty that what we are seeking to pass on can succeed in being realized for and in the next generation. Why? First, because Jesus died to make God's will possible for each of us—you, me, our children. We don't need to die to transmit the inheritance; He has already done it.
And Jesus not only died on the Cross to release the possibilities of God's will to us (and through us, as we influence our kids), but He also rose again and now has become the Attorney executing God's will for our lives. Jesus is our "Advocate with the Father" (1 John 2:1). He is the ultimate probate attorney, and having risen from the dead, He is at the Father's right hand, ministering for us and to us in order to assure our success when we seek to experience the Father's will, relay it to our children, and let it shape their lives.
From Blessing Your Children, copyright © 2002, 2012 by Jack W. Hayford. Published by Regal Books, Ventura, CA. All rights reserved.
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