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      This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

      Family and Faith in Midlife
      Isaiah 38:15–19
      Aug. 7, 2016

       M IDLIFE CAN BE A TIME of great faith maturity or faith stagnation.These are the years between 30 and 60, mainly years of marriage and children and work. It’s impossible today to cover every aspect of this middle third of life. But our reading from Isaiah can provide guidance.

      This reading is the prayer of King Hezekiah. He is in the prime of his life, yet is severely sick. In fact, he seems to be dying. For folks in this midlife age, there are also pitfalls. They include:

      ● boredom with life and wanting to do something completely different
      ● questioning the meaning of life
      ● acting on alcohol, drug, food, or other compulsions
      ● being the “sandwich generation,” caring for parents and children.
      ● financial stresses
      ● marital ups and downs
      ● job burnout
      ● empty nest
      ● boomerang children.

       † † † 

      MIDLIFE CAN MEAN many things: Greater stability at home or upheaval from divorce; shifting careers or hitting peak earning years. This in-between time — sandwiched between youth and old age — can raise unique challenges. How you respond to them is dependent on your faith maturity.

      By middle age, especially later middle age, faith often “comes together” for adults. There’s a maturity that comes from years of prayer and praise and worship and study and applying the word of God to your life. Significant changes in faith happen during the years 30 to 50.

       † † † 

      FAITH MATURITY IS NOT ABOUT how much you give to a religious institution; how often you read the Bible; or how frequently you attend a worship service. These are byproducts of living a maturing faith. Real spiritual growth is intricately and intimately connected to God. God, in his Spirit, provides the capacity to help us deal with the personal daily relationships in our lives. A maturing faith empowers you to creatively and compassionately confront the drama of your lives. In other words, maturing faith does not make you sinless, but it should lead you to sin less. Faith develops in community — the church provides that community. If we allow it, our church community can have significant influence on our faith development.

       19  The living, the living — they praise you, 
       as I am doing today; 
       parents, tell your children 
       about your faithfulness. 

      Tell your children about God’s faithfulness. Hezekiah’s son and successor, Manasseh, was not born till two or three years after this prayer and affirmation. Even when he was still childless, possibly on his deathbed, Hezekiah saw the importance of parents nurturing their children in the faith.

       † † † 

      STUDIES HAVE BEEN CONDUCTED on adults who face a choice between pouring their energy into guiding and encouraging future generations or spending their energy on themselves. Adults who choose the path of faith sharing can leave a lasting contribution to the world through their time and energy as they look beyond their own life and interests to the life through others. Adults who choose living in play and amusement live lives full of triviality.

      How can we effectively share God’s faithfulness with our children? Grandchildren? Grown children? The church’s children?

      ● Pray for them and pray with them. Ask your children, “What can I pray for?” And pray for that with them, right there. Pray with them before bed. Pray over meals. Pray as they leave for school. Set aside a intentional time daily — doesn’t have to be long — to pray for your children and grands and the church’s children. Take a family a day from the church directory and pray for them.

      ● Be faithful, be a good role model. Silly to think you can instruct your children on the ways of Christ and not live that in your own lives. How do you nurture the faith of others in your care if you don’t live that faith; if it’s optional, an afterthought? Teach love others without demonstrating that love? The importance of worship, financial giving, Bible reading, forgiveness, welcome must be witnessed by your children for those things to be important when they are grown.

      ● Get involved with your children. One-on-one time is so important with children. Ask them: “How are you doing?” “What was the high moment/low moment of your day?” What are their hopes dreams, ambitions? Read Disney stories to them but also read a Bible story to them. Or better, tell them your favorite Bible stories and why you like them so much. Let them share what they learned in Sunday school and worship.

      ● Discipline. The word discipline literally means instruction given to a disciple. We often talk about being disciples of Jesus Christ. Instruct them in the ways of Christ. Love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation even as you practice these same disciplines. Remember, you are “discipling” them one way or another.

      ● Share your weaknesses, your failures. The Bible is filled with failure. Don’t lie about your past. Don’t present yourself as models of perfection. In age appropriate ways, let them know times you blew it but God, in his goodness, extended forgiveness and you moved through those failures with God’s help.

      ● Tell your children, “I love you.” Tell them that you love them and appreciate them. Don’t always use this as a lead-in to tell them about your frustrations with them or their wrongdoings. (“I love you, but .”) And tell them God loves them. God values them. God has great plans for them. Not just that Jesus would be disappointed in the way they are acting.

       † † † 

      MIDLIFE YEARS ARE FILLED with landmines for family and faith. But in these years there is nothing more important than sharing God’s goodness with our children and the church’s children — no matter their age. There’s not an age limit on God’s saving grace.

      Keith Cardwell    

      resources:
      The Reverend Dr. Robert Charles Scott www.cbcstl.org
      David Huss, Pleasant Ridge Church of Christ

      Comments on sermons are welcomed and appreciated. 
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      • Presbytery of S. Alabama
      • Synod of Living Waters



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      Swift  
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                   —————
      23208 Swift Church Road
      Foley, AL 36535
      Phone: (251) 943-8367
      email: swiftpc@gulftel.com