God is infinite; He’s outside of time. Consequently, He sees everything past, present and future. He’s not limited to a single time frame as we are.
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God. (Ps. 90:1-2)
Consequently, He has always had a vision for the generations – not just for individuals or for one generation:
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen. 3:15)
I now establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you … (Gen. 9:9, cf. 12:7, 17:1-9; Ex. 3:15)
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations, (Deut. 7:9; cf. Ps. 100:5, 112:1-2; Luke 1:50)
Generational succession was God’s purpose from the beginning. When God created the world in Genesis 1, every living thing was to reproduce after its kind. He established this from the very beginning – it was not a last-minute thought (Gen. 1:8; Deut. 6:1-9; 11:18-21).
God desires to be the God of our children – and of our children’s children! This is His desire and His promise. We must believe this for our descendants and build them in the faith. We do not need to beg God for the spiritual blessing of our children; it’s already His purpose to bless them. But we do need to believe Him and work with Him in building their lives.
What a great blessing and promise we have in God for our descendants! God is so generous – not only to us, but to our descendants as well.
Jesus’ Vision for the Generations
Jesus had this same eternal vision in His ministry. He did not see His own ministry in a vacuum.
If there was ever a leader who could have justifiably seen his own ministry in a vacuum, it was Jesus! However, He understood where His own ministry fit within the context of the previous leaders God had sent, and He knew, recognized and honored those who had gone before Him.
For example, Jesus affirmed and respected the ministries of John the Baptist and the other prophets who had gone before Him (Matt. 11:11, 21:31-32; cf. Mark 11:30; Luke 7:33).
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” (Luke 24:44)
Jesus recognized the past, honored the past and built on the past.
And then, in everything He did, He prepared for the future.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12, cf. Matt. 28:18-20, John 15:16)
Thus, the healthy leader does not view his own ministry in a vacuum. He recognizes where he fits in the vast work of God, he honors his predecessors, he builds on the past and he prepares the next generation.
Paul did the same! He honored the previous generations(2 Tim. 1:3) and built the next generation (2 Tim. 3:10-17). And he told them to continue to build the generations:
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Tim. 2:2)
The Biblical Reality of Leadership Succession
Let’s read together these two passages of Scripture:
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:34-38)
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 3:10-11)
Here are some observations from John 4 and 1 Corinthians 3:
- The work is God’s. The kind of work changes from generation to generation but it’s all God’s work. In union with Him we work. And we will all rejoice together in its fruitfulness.
- God is always thinking about the generations.
- Jesus and Paul saw one purpose of God down through history but expressed through many generations.
- You’re working now, but in the future, someone else will build on what you’ve done.
- Your calling is not just to do the ministry work but to build the next generation.
- If we build the next generation as our primary goal, then the current need is met in a far greater way now and we have built the foundation for even greater work in the future.
- Leader development is not just one of many different programs. It must be central to how we think about everything; always thinking of the next generations, always building life.
- One of the key indicators of healthy succession is that the generations will “be glad together.”
- The generational succession of leadership is happening now. It will not be in “four months.” What will we give the next generation?
- Paul says the foundation “is Jesus Christ” and the building is “God’s temple.” Therefore, “each one should build with care”! The generational succession of leadership is not just a passing on of principles and knowledge. It’s not just a passing on of structures and systems. It’s not just a passing on of forms and traditions. It must be a passing on of life!
- How do we give the next generations what really counts?
In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul wrote that someone else was already building on the foundation he laid! That’s the reality: someone else will build on what you have done. In fact, they already are! The only question is: how well will they build? How well have you prepared them to build?
Let’s pray to God that those who build on what we have done will build well and that we will have prepared them well!