Isaiah 43: Spiritual Parents for the Young
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When faced with turbulent times and struggles in life, most of us, in our heart of hearts, yearn for a father to set things right for us. One who will comfort, guide, protect, and teach us, who will never abandon us and never cease to pursue relationship with his children. A father who will go to any length and pay any price to ensure that we are safe from harm.
Thankfully, we have such a good and loving Heavenly Father. He does not draw back from disciplining the ones he loves when they rebel against Him (Isaiah 42:22-25), yet he doesn’t abandon them in their sin. He pays the cost required to redeem those who belong to him (Isaiah 43:1). Despite their sin, he is faithful and continues with them through the perils of life, protecting them from harm (Isaiah 43:2-3). Even when his children continue to turn away from him towards false gods with their deceitful answers to life’s struggles, our Heavenly Father continues to show mercy; blotting out transgressions and sin for his own sake (Isaiah 43:22-25) and holding his children safe in his hand (Isaiah 43:13).
What a kind and loving Heavenly Father we have.
As people grow through childhood and adolescence, it’s not uncommon that we go through a season of struggle as we seek to establish ourselves as independent adults. Young people often struggle against those authority figures (such as, parents, their local church— even God!) who have previously been the ones in their life defining their identity. Through this time, like Israel, young people are susceptible to the lies of false gods with their deceitful answers to life’s struggles.
As young people walk the tumultuous path of adolescence there will be a pantheon of false gods proclaiming their hollow and deceptive philosophies and vying for their devotion. What they need as they walk this path is older Christian men and women urging them to remain on the narrow road that leads to life (Matthew 7:13). They need older, wiser disciples who they trust, acting as ‘spiritual parents’ in their lives. People who are committed to journeying with them through the struggles, who call them away from sin and lovingly rebuke where necessary. Adults who are intentional in discipling them by proclaiming the truth and continually pointing them to a loving Heavenly Father who forgives, redeems, loves and protects.
In 2020, 41% of the world’s population was under the age of 25* . Before 2020, this percentage never been higher than this. Yet throughout history, too often God’s people have neglected our responsibility towards this massive portion of young people in our community. We have not always valued them as equally valid members of the body of Christ, we’ve failed to invest in discipling them, and have left them to navigate the perils of life alone—judging for themselves which false god they will fall prey to. As Psalm 78 begins to unpack, this has never ended well for God’s people.
Our perfect Heavenly Father, however, never forgets even one of his children. He gathers all of his children from the east and west, saying “to the north ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back’” (Isaiah 43:5-6). All of God’s children, no matter their age, are included and equally valued as members of his family; equally redeemed and summoned by God (Isaiah 43:1); equally loved (Isaiah 43:4); equally made for his glory (Isaiah 43:7); and equally called to be his witnesses among the pantheon of false gods (Isaiah 43:10).
Brothers and sisters, as those committed to our Heavenly Father and chosen to be members of his family:
Let us not ignore our younger siblings in Christ.
Let us not neglect our responsibility to invest in the discipleship of young people.
Let us not fail to walk with young disciples along the narrow path.
Rather, let’s ensure we invest in young people, leading them away from deceptions of false gods in our world, and pointing them to our kind and loving Heavenly Father who has redeemed us and protects us as we navigate the struggles of life.
The Lift Up Your Hearts devotional series for the month of March 2021 are provided by Canon Craig Roberts, CEO, and his colleagues from Anglican Youthworks in Australia. Today’s devotion was written by The Rev Matt Bartlett, Youth Ministry and Special Religious Education Advisor, Youthworks Ministry Support. You can find more of Youthworks excellent resources here.
* Our World In Data, https://ourworldindata.org/age-structure#:~:text=The%20global%20median%20age%20has,bracket%20between%2025%20and%2065. Cited 19/02/2021
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Canon Craig Roberts and his colleagues at Anglican Youthworks (Sydney) are the contributors for the Gafcon March devotions. The focus of the devotions is the great theme throughout Scripture of God at work through intergenerational discipleship. Pray for the Holy Spirit to inspire each contributor and for the content to inspire many readers around the world.
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