In our modern thinking, the studying the past is worthless. We want the latest and greatest technology, trendy cloths and breaking news. A book published a few years ago may be considered dated and a newer edition on the same topic preferred. Hyperbolically, mobile carriers make this point in marketing messages when they suggest that news from slower networks is old and stale. They say, “That’s so 9 seconds ago.”
Our educational system rarely teaches us to look backwards, to the mistakes and successes of our ancestors, so there is little understanding of the past. The church is no better than the school system. It has detached itself from the great pastors and theologians of bygone eras in favor of 20-somethings who know how to connect with and entertain with sermons designed to sell books. The works of Spurgeon, Bunyan, Calvin and others are unknown to most church goers. Creeds and catechisms are out of favor limiting our common connection to our forefathers in the faith. As a result, we are culturally and theologically rootless and without a solid grounding, leaving us susceptible to being “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14)
While this is a modern problem, it’s not unique to modernity. God recognized the myopia of humanity. Yet, ensuring that His people remember His works has always been critical to Him. God instituted a cadence of the calendar, both weekly and yearly, so that Israel could not forget what He has done. Weekly they were to observe the Sabbath to rest, worship and reflect. Annually, they were to celebrate several holidays that marked major events in the life of the nation. The Passover is the most meaningful holiday in the Jewish calendar and served as a sign of God’s protection during the last of the plagues before the Exodus from Egypt.
In Joshua 4, God offers another way to mark significant events. He had Joshua select twelve ‘stones of remembrance’ after Israel crossed the Jordan river. These stones were used to prompt a question from future generations about their meaning. This led to a spontaneous retelling of the history behind those stones.
Understanding history is important, so what do we do to prevent the next generation from carrying the same level of ignorance that most of us live with? Hebrews 12:3 tells us to consider those who endured before us and several other places in Scripture direct us to imitate other’s faith, so one place to look to is the biographies of great Christians who laid the ground work for us – those that engaged in the battles to establish sound doctrine, translated the Bible into vernacular, obeyed God in spite of the danger, lived in poverty rather than compromise their faith or died instead of denying Christ. Remembering these people will help us lay a stone pathway to the past. Understanding their sacrifice will honor them and provide children with heroes after which to model their lives as they face challenging circumstances. It will also teach them to see that nearly all of the issues that they face have been wrestled with by others. Though the time or the country may have been different, they can learn that they’re not alone in their struggles.
Where should you begin? Consider starting with the book series Christian Heroes, Men and Women of Faith or History Lives.