If you are like me, you have watched with both interest and sadness, the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the mourning of so many people from around the world. It has been moving to listen to the stories that have been shared about the encounters that people had with their Queen. But for me, the stories of the Queen's faith have been most significant. The Queen was definitely a woman who had a strong belief in God and a deep Christian faith. One of the titles of the Queen was "Defender of the Faith". The title has been one of the titles of the British monarchs since it was granted by Pope Leo X to King Henry VIII, before he broke ranks with Rome. Then, in 1543, the Parliament of England conferred the title "Defender of the Faith" on King Henry VIII and his successors as the defenders of the Anglican faith. Now I am not wanting to debate the faith, or lack thereof, of various British Kings and Queens, but it has caused me to think about the fact that as Christians we are all defenders of the faith, and as defenders of faith we have a responsibility to both protect and pass on the Christian faith to our families and our communities. As defenders of the faith, we should leave a legacy of faith that others can follow.
Throughout Scripture, there are examples of this legacy of faith - faith that was passed from one generation to the next. The apostle Paul’s young protégé Timothy benefited from a strong spiritual foundation found in his family. Paul wrote, “Your sincere faith . . . first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice” (2 Timothy 1:5). This legacy helped prepare and steer Timothy’s heart toward faith in Christ. Paul urged Timothy to carry on this faith tradition, to “fan into flame the gift of God” within him through the Holy Spirit (vv. 6–7). Because of the power of the Spirit, Timothy could fearlessly live for the gospel (v. 8). A strong spiritual legacy doesn’t guarantee others will come to faith, but the example of others can help prepare the way.
The need to pass on the legacy of faith, the truth that God has revealed, from one generation to the next, is a theme that we find throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
Deuteronomy 6:4–9 exhorts parents to teach the law to their children even as they are to treasure its riches in their own hearts.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deut 6:4–9, NIV).
The Old Testament saints were encouraged to love God with everything that was in them. Their belief in God permeated every part of their lives. It was not just an internal belief system, but it was a way of life that was lived out in every way possible. They were encouraged to talk about their faith at home, and to walk about with their faith as they interacted with their community. Faith was important from when they got up in the morning, to when they lay down at night. Faith permeated every part of their lives. They were defenders of the faith for their children, their families and their communities.
And for us, we are defenders of the faith in the places where God has us. How are we doing in leaving a legacy of faith that others will benefit from?