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Online Articles

Passing the Baton

In his book Straight Talk, Dr. James Dobson wrote:

"According to the Christian values which govern my life, my most important reason for living is to get the baton — the gospel — safely in the hands of my children. Of course, I want to place it in as many other hands as possible, and I'm deeply devoted to the ministry to families that God has given me. Nevertheless, my number one responsibility is to evangelize my own children. In the words of my dad, everything else appears 'pale and washed out' when compared with that fervent desire. Unless my son and daughter grasp the faith and take it with them around the track, it matters little how fast they run. Being first across the finish line is meaningless unless they carry the baton with them."

"This mission of introducing one's children to the Christian faith can be likened to a three-man relay race. First, your father runs his lap around the track, carrying the baton, which represents the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the appropriate moment, he hands the baton to you, and you begin your journey around the track. Then finally, the time will come when you must get the baton safely in the hands of your child. But as any track coach will testify, relay races are won or lost in the transfer of the baton. There is a critical moment when all can be lost by a fumble or miscalculation. The baton is rarely dropped on the back side of the track when the runner has it firmly in his grasp. If failure is to occur, it will likely happen in the exchange between generations!

What are we as parents doing to be sure we place the baton of the gospel firmly in the hands of our children? We — especially fathers — are commanded to "bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). We need to all be like Abraham, whom God said would "command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice" (Genesis 18:19). Are we bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord? Are we doing what we should to teach them to keep His way?

As Moses stressed to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, it takes much of our time to pass the baton to our children; yet we allow ourselves to be pulled in so many different directions that it is easy to not dedicate the time required. One thing the church here is currently doing to help with this issue is having both the teen and the adult classes (and beginning next year some of the younger classes as well) study the same material at the same time, making it easier for us as parents to study with our children. We need all the help we can get and cannot afford to let this help fall by the wayside by failing to take advantage of it, or else the baton will fall by the wayside, too.

Are you running your race in such a way as to be able to one day say with Paul, "I have finished the race" (2 Timothy 4:7), to actually win the race (1 Corinthians 9:24)? How much joy can we truly achieve from the race without successfully passing the baton to our children, knowing that we failed to place it firmly within their hands? Just as physical runners put forth the time and effort needed to make a successful pass and win the race, only to receive a temporal crown, may we put for the time and effort needed to successfully pass the baton to our children, and receive an eternal crown.