This week, we wrapped up our series, Generations, by talking to the Boomer and Builder Generations. These folks have had many years to learn and grown and have their cups filled to the brim. They are ready to be poured out. This fact powerfully shapes what they most need to hear in order to get their journeys with Jesus right in their current season of life. Read on to find out what it is.
P.S. I’m traveling with my family this week, so this will be the only post for the week. We’ll get back to Hebrews starting next week. Enjoy your summer plans!
Pour Yourself Out
Water is amazing stuff. It’s a simple molecule, really. One oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms bonded together in a nice triangular form, with the angles of the molecules set so that one side has a slightly positive charge, and the other a slightly negative charge. For something so apparently simple, though, it does quite a lot of unique and important things. Water is sometimes called the universal solvent. It can dissolve more substances than anything else on earth. Most substances contract, or become smaller when they freeze. Water expands, causing its solid state density to be somewhat lower than when it’s a liquid. Practically speaking, this means that ice floats which is why life can continue in lakes and the ocean in cold environments. One more amazing property is water’s surface cohesion. That means it sticks to itself. In fact, it sticks to itself better than most other substances do.
You’ve seen this property working itself out before. Think about a droplet of water clinging to the end of a pine needle after it has rained. According to gravity, those drops should all immediately fall to the ground. But thanks to water’s incredibly strong adhesion (meaning it sticks to other things) and cohesion, the droplet just hangs there on the end of the needle. If you put water in a cup, as you fill it up to the brim, the water molecules on the top of the pile can’t form bonds with the molecules above them because there aren’t any. Instead, they form even tighter bonds with the molecules below them. The result is that, if you’re careful, you can fill a glass of water up over the top of the cup. It will form a little dome over the brim of the cup as you do. Eventually, though, the stress on those intermolecular bonds gets beyond what they can handle and the molecules on top start to come loose. What happens then? Well, a mess if you’re not careful. Amazing molecules aside, though, when you have a cup that is full to the brim, the best thing to do with it is to pour it out. Whether that comes in the context of pouring it into your own mouth as a drink or into another container to fill it up as well doesn’t much matter. Full cups are just waiting to be emptied.
This morning finds us in the final part of our series, Generations. For the past few weeks we have been focusing, one at a time, on different generations in our nation, offering each a special word that characterizes the thing they need to get right more than any other in their relationship with Jesus if they want that relationship to become all that it could be. The reason for this is that each generation is different. Yes, there are some basic commonalities, but there are enough points of uniqueness that what one generation needs to hear isn’t the same thing another generation needs to hear.
To this end, we started the series talking with Generation Z, the second youngest generation alive in America right now. They are in a season of life when the question of who they will follow is the most pressing one for them to answer. Or, as we put it then: Jesus doesn’t want you to like Him, He wants you to follow Him. The following week, we focused our attention on the Millennial Generation. Millennials are at a point in their journeys when they need to give their greatest attention to growing in their faith. Growth isn’t an option for living things. After taking a break on Father’s Day to hear from Sasha about the advance of the Gospel in Russia and that region of the world, last week we sat with the members of Generation X. If they’ve gotten things right so far, they have committed to following Jesus and growing in their faith. Their lives have begun bearing the fruits of such labors and they need to invest in those gifts and invest those gifts so they can begin seeing even greater things come in the days ahead. God has given you resources; invest them well.
All of that means we have gotten through Generations Z, Y, and X. Thankfully, they do not call the next generation back up the tree Generation W. That would just sound weird. Instead, since those folks were born in the incredible baby boom after the end of World War II, they’re called Baby Boomers, or the Boomer Generation. This morning, though, we are actually going to double dip. We’re going to talk to the Boomers, but also the Builders, who are sometimes called the Silent Generation. We’re going to combine these two generations because given the place of life they are collectively in, what they need to hear in order to get their journeys with Jesus right in their current season of life is the same. And this thing both of these generations need to hear is this: Inspire. If you are a member of the Boomer or Builder Generations, the thing that is most incumbent upon you to do in order to honor your relationship with Jesus is to intentionally inspire the generations coming behind you.
Born in the days after World War II, from 1946-1964, the Boomers were shaped by a number of pretty significant cultural moments including the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, the Berlin Wall, the start of the space race, and an incredible array of technological advancements. Given all of this cultural upheaval, they had to learn to be very resourceful. Theirs was the generation that was most encouraged to pursue the “American Dream,” defined as it was by shows such as Leave It to Beaver or My Three Sons. They were encouraged to grow up, get married, get a job, have a family, and work hard to provide for them. This all made them very goal-driven. Boomers tend to be very willing to help others, but at the same time are incredibly self-reliant (have you ever tried doing something for a Boomer?).
Builders, on the other hand, came of age during the Great Depression and many fought in World War II or the Korean Conflict. They were born between 1925 and 1946. Given those two incredibly consequential eras, Builders are tough. They are frugal and are really good at saving…everything. They tend to be very pro-American. They are pretty committed institutionalists. They want to preserve and protect systems and traditions. Having witnessed the evils of Nazism, often first hand, Builders have a clear sense of right and wrong and are highly motivated to pursue the formerat the expense of the latter. They are careful planners with an eye firmly set on the future.
And both of these groups need to inspire.
In order to get our heads and hearts around this, I want you to come with me to a passage of Scripture we actually looked at fairly recently, but with a different context in mind. I want to take us to some words the apostle Paul wrote to his protege, Timothy. If you have a copy of the Scriptures handy, you can find these starting in 2 Timothy 3:10. Paul wrote two letters to Timothy that we have preserved in the Scriptures for us. Timothy traveled with Paul on his second missionary journey. Ultimately, though, Timothy was called to pastor the church in Ephesus. It was during his tenure there that Paul wrote his letters to give him encouragement and instruction in his labors. The second letter Paul wrote to him was composed when he was in Rome under house arrest, awaiting his trial before Caesar Nero, which, he was fairly confident, was going to conclude with his death. Knowing these were likely some of the last words he would write to Timothy, Paul poured as much of himself into the letter as he could. He also did as much as he could to prepare Timothy mentally and spiritually for the challenges that were coming down the road. This is where we find him at the beginning of 2 Timothy 3. Look at this with me starting just a little bit before where we are going to ultimately land together.
“But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people.” Now, just as a quick aside, if you’ve ever wanted an argument that we’ve been living in the last days since Jesus left the earth, look no further than this. We can look at that list of characteristics, look around at the culture at any point in the last 2,000 years, and find plenty of examples of all of these. But if you notice, none of these things really fall on the list of “big bad sins.” These are all just examples of sinners being sinners. We really shouldn’t expect any better out of the world than this. But that’s just the thing: Paul’s not talking about the world here. He’s talking about these kinds of folks showing up with an increasing frequency inside the church. That’s why he says to avoid them. When an unbeliever behaves like an unbeliever, that should never surprise us. Nor should we avoid contact with them. We make sure the influence of the contact is always from us to them, of course, but how else are we going to share the Gospel with them? But when folks inside the church who claim to be followers of Jesus behave this way, those are the ones of whom we should steer clear.
Paul goes on in v. 6: “For among them are those who worm their way into households and deceive gullible women overwhelmed by sins and led astray by a variety of passions, always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth. They are men who are corrupt in mind and worthless in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress, for their foolishness will be clear to all, as was the foolishness of Jannes and Jambres.” Jannes and Jambres are the traditional names given to the Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses on behalf of Pharaoh and don’t actually make an appearance in Exodus. Paul’s point, though, is that as history unfurls before us, things are going to continue to go from bad to worse and some of that worse is going to start leeching its way into the church. It’s not a pretty picture.
Thankfully, Paul has prepared Timothy for all of this taking place and that’s what I want to see together here. Look with me now starting in v. 10: “But you…” Now, before we go any further, do you see what Paul is doing here? He’s saying, “All of that awful stuff is going on, and it is followers of Jesus who are involved in it, but you…” Timothy is different. He marks a point of contrast with all of that garbage. How does Paul know this? Because that’s been his intentional goal with Timothy all along. “But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance…”
Now, think through that list for just a second. These are all things Paul was intentional about passing along to Timothy. He did do some teaching with him, yes, but the rest of it was things that were not more than enacted examples. That is, he lived his life intentionally where Timothy could observe it and was intentional about setting a godly example for him to follow. Paul’s cup had been filled up to the brim by his own intentional efforts to seek the Lord, and he was just as purposeful about pouring his cup out into the lives of the people around him, Timothy in particular.
Think just a bit further with me, but this time about your own life. Is your conduct something that you could commend to a younger believer as an example of how she should be living? If not, why not? If you’ve been following Jesus for very long and it’s not, we’ve got a problem on our hands. I know that many of you have a faith that is worth copying. But no one is going to be able to copy it unless you show it to them. And how do you show it to them? You do life and invite them to be a part of it so they can see your faith in action; so they can see how it impacts your life and influences the decisions you make on a daily basis.
And that endurance piece is pretty important too. If you’re a part of the Boomer or Builder generations, there’s a good chance you’ve had to endure some pretty tough stuff over the course of your lifetime. Paul had indeed endured some trials in his life. Some of them he endured where Timothy could see; he could see how Paul responded to them. He could see the ways God worked through them in real time. That’s what Paul mentions next: “…along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured—and yet the Lord rescued me from them all.” In other words, “You saw what I went through and how God delivered me through them.” Seeing someone go through something really hard with their faith fully intact is encouraging. It is inspiring. You need to inspire.
Paul goes on to double down on the challenges that will come Timothy’s way as a follower of Jesus. Look at this in v. 12: “In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Evil people and imposters will become worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Now, why would He say something like this to Timothy? That’s not very encouraging to hear for us. I imagine it hit Timothy even more directly. That statement in v. 12 is about the clearest, most direct guarantee of hard times for followers of Jesus you’ll find in the Scriptures. Jesus Himself was hardly more direct than this. Why tell a younger believer something so discouraging? Because it’s honest. Part of pouring yourself out into the lives of the people around you is being honest with them about the challenges they will face. When I do premarital counseling, one of the things I always do is talk with the couple about the challenges all married couples face. I’m pretty direct about it too. The point isn’t to scare them…well, it’s not entirely that. It is to make sure they are going into the journey that lies before them with their eyes wide open. I don’t want for them to experience any surprises that lead them to make poor decisions in reaction. Paul was doing the same thing with Timothy here.
We live in a culture that highly prizes having it all together. We are told not to show any weakness. Weakness gets judged and mocked. We need to be strong. And yet, in hiding all of our insufficiencies—both perceived and actual—we are hiding the times and places where God’s grace has manifested itself the most clearly. We are hiding the times and places where God’s grace will yet manifest itself the most clearly. If we wait until we’ve seen that grace come, we are robbing the people around us from seeing God’s grace in action, something that can be a powerful motivator to faith. More specifically if you are a Boomer or Builder, you are robbing the rest of us of the chance to see God’s grace made manifest in your life. We need that. We need that inspiration.
Sometimes, though, we need more than inspiration. We need more direct encouragements to stick with what we have learned. We need to be called to live up to the knowledge we have gained. That’s where Paul closes before landing on his famous statement about the sufficiency and worth of the Scriptures. Listen to this from v. 14: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed.” That is, “You know this stuff. Put it into practice.” Paul has mentored and discipled and otherwise poured into Timothy, and here at the end of his life, he’s still doing it. Paul was doing it with Timothy and you need to be doing it too.
The containers of our lives can hold a remarkable amount. Everything we go through and experience goes into the cup. Some of it is sweet. Some of it is more bitter. Whatever it is, in it goes. And over the course of our lives, our cups gradually get full. If you have spent a lifetime in pursuit of Christ, your cup is going to be full of some pretty rich brews. And up to a certain point it’s all going to stay inside of you. But like the hydrogen bonds that hold water molecules together long after it seems they should have broken do eventually give way to a sloppy mess on the counter, all those experiences and encounters are going to come pouring out of you. That’s simply the way life goes. And, the further along life’s journey you have made it, the more likely you are to be nearer that point than not. If you committed to following Jesus long ago, spent time growing in your faith and understanding, and invested yourself wisely in becoming a powerful herald of God’s kingdom, there is much inside of you that needs to come out. God didn’t allow it to get put there only so you could hold it in for yourself. He put it there for the sake of the people around you. You need to pour it out.
The thing about a full glass of water, though, is that how it comes out is not a foregone conclusion. I mean, yes, if you just keep pouring into it once it is full, it is eventually going to spill out all over the counter. But you also have the option of being more strategic in where it goes. It may be there is another container in need of some liquid and you intentionally use what is in the full cup to add to the one in need of more. Now instead of making a mess, you’ve done something useful.
The same thing is true when it comes to our lives. Boomers and Builders, you are in a place of life when your cups are getting to be pretty full even to the point of overflowing. Should our Lord tarry and give you more days to pursue His purposes on this earth, your life will start to overflow with the things you have experienced. If you do nothing, they will simply start pouring out wherever you happen to be. There won’t be any particular rhyme or reason to it. You’ll just make a mess. It will be a good, godly mess, sure, but it will still be an unorganized mess. Some of the people who happen to be around you when these overflows come will benefit from them. But not very much. It’ll be more like when a cup overflows and the cup next to it happens to get a little wet from the splash. Everything that comes out of the cup at that point is really just a waste. It’s not doing anybody any good.
But what if that’s not what happened? What if instead of merely overflowing occasionally and incidentally blessing the people around you—especially those from the generations coming along behind you who have so much to benefit from the things God has allowed to be poured into your cup over the years, both the good and the hard—you made it your goal to pour yourself out intentionally and to the obvious benefit of a pool of people that while perhaps smaller will gain a great deal more that they are enabled and empowered to then pour out intentionally into the lives of the people around them? What if you followed Paul’s example here? If you are a Boomer or a Builder, there is, frankly, nothing more important that you can do with your life in your current season than to make sure this very thing is what happens. When your cup is full, you need to pour it out. When your cup is full, pour it out.
How do you do that? By finding a small group of people from a generation or two behind you to pour your life into. They can all be from the same generation, or they can be from multiple different generations. This outpouring begins when you are intentional about pursuing a relationship with them. And before you go trying to make the argument that they don’t want what you have to give, let me just go ahead and tell you the truth about that line: it’s a lie. It is a vile lie from the Devil himself who wants to make sure that if your cup should happen to overflow, it doesn’t overflow to the benefit of anyone else. Young people very often want nothing more than to have someone older and wiser who has gained their respect pour into them on purpose. They may not ever express that sentiment out loud, but they’ll spend the rest of their life telling the story of how this incredible saint poured into them and about the incredible difference it made in their life. I’ve talked before with you about godly men like Roy Goerz and Don Ross whose pouring of their lives intentionally into mine had more to do with jump-starting my own spiritual journey than just about anyone else in the world. I wouldn’t be here doing this but for their pouring into me. When your cup is full, pour it out.
This doesn’t have to be on the level of rocket science. Much of it is going to feel incidental. You are simply inviting them to do life with you. That can mean inviting them to join you in your normal rhythms and activities. It can mean getting coffee or a meal together on a regular basis during which time you ask questions about what is going on in their life, helping them to process what’s going on through the lens of your own experiences with Jesus over your life. It means praying for them intentionally and actively and letting them know you’re doing that. If you want to go a step further, it can mean spending time engaging with the Scriptures together. In all of these kinds of things you are simply pouring from your cup into theirs on purpose. When your cup is full, pour it out. Their life will be changed and your life will be blessed. And God’s kingdom will be strengthened and advanced. You will be taking an intentional step toward making sure the faith is secured in the next generation. You will be living in faithfulness to the example of Paul and the command of Christ. When your cup is full, pour it out. You will be glad you did, and so will the rest of us. When your cup is full, pour it out.