We recently completed a sermon series called “Solitary Confinement.” The goal was to give clear paths for people who wanted to escape their spiritual and emotional prisons. We got great feedback and response each weekend. We need to know how to escape those prisons—that’s obvious—but wouldn’t it be great if we could help the next generation to avoid those prisons altogether? What if we could do some concrete and practical things as parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers, and church volunteers that would vector a child’s life away from those spiritual prisons?
Many years ago, John Trent and Gary Smalley gave us a clear path to positive experience that could be a major difference maker in the lives of young people in our circle of influence.
Perhaps you are a third generation Christian and you have already personally benefitted from a long tradition of this positive experience. Or perhaps you are a first generation Christian and you grew up in a difficult environment and you’re wanting to pass on to your children more than you received. Either way, Trent and Smalley provide you practical, hands-on guidance straight from the Bible on how to do just that.
I’d like you to get a picture in your mind of a child or young adult that you really love and would like to make a difference in their life. Of course, if you’ve got children of your own at home then obviously you want to make a difference in their lives. But everyone reading this, above the age of sixteen could do this, so get a picture of someone.
If I told you that you could do something that would help this young person to stay out of those prisons of grief, anger, shame, addictions, envy, etc. and they could be free to pursue God’s best in every area of their lives—I bet you would do it.
Are you ready to take that challenge? Let’s look at some Scripture.
“Esau said to his father, ‘Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!’ Then Esau wept aloud” (Genesis 27:38).
Why was this blessing from his father so important to Esau? What are the elements of such a blessing? What exactly does it mean to give a blessing? What actions and attitudes combine to make this biblical tool so powerful and uniquely effective that a grown man weeps at its absence?
John Trent discovered this blessing as described in in the Bible always included five elements.
THE FIVE ESSENTIALS OF A BIBLICAL BLESSING
1. Meaningful Touch
Each time the blessing was given in the Scriptures, a meaningful touch provided a caring background to the words that were spoken. Kissing, hugging, or laying on of hands were all a part of bestowing the blessing. That kind of meaningful touch communicates warmth, personal acceptance, affirmation.
Even in caring and loving homes, most parents, particularly fathers, will stop touching their children once they reach the grade school years. When they do that, an important part of the blessing stops.
Isaac’s grown son was at least 40 years old when he said, “Come close and kiss me, my son.” Or consider the blessing that Jacob gave to his grandsons:
“‘They are the sons God has given me here,’ Joseph said to his father. Then Israel said, ‘Bring them to me so I may bless them.’ Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them…Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head…he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head” (Genesis 48:9-10, 14).
I know that in some places the unspoken rule is, “It’s okay to hug your dog or your horse, but not your kids,” but our children need our appropriate touch.
2. Spoken Message
A blessing must be verbalized to fulfill its purpose—spoken in person, written down or both. For a child in search of a blessing, silence communicates mostly confusion.
Abraham spoke his blessing to his son Isaac. Isaac spoke a blessing to his son Jacob. Jacob gave a verbal blessing to each of his twelve sons and to two of his grandchildren. Lack of negative words will not necessarily translate into a blessing.
In the Bible, a blessing is not a blessing unless it is put into words and communicated. If you’re a parent, your children desperately need to receive words of blessing from you.
“The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21).
Each of us should be keenly aware of the power of our words. We should also be aware of how powerful the absence of such words can be.
3. Attaching High Value
The biblical patriarch Isaac used a word picture (a field) to describe how valuable his son was to him. Word pictures are a powerful way of communicating acceptance and value. General Robert E. Lee, upon hearing of Stonewall Jackson’s arm amputation, said, “Tell the General, ‘you have lost your left arm, I have lost my right.” That clearly communicated the very high value he placed upon his friend.
Most of us do this all the time. We use word pictures to convey an emotional feeling apart from the literal meaning of the words. Here’s a biblical example of a father doing this for his son, “You are a lion’s cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?” (Genesis 49:9).
4. Picturing a Special Future
Isaac said to his son, Jacob, “May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness—an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed” (Genesis 27:28-29).
Even today Jewish homes are noted for picturing a special future for their children. Decades ago, Sarah told me her vison for raising our children was this—by the time our children leave home they will have a clear sense of purpose and the maturity to take care of themselves.
5. Active Commitment
Words alone cannot communicate the blessing; they need to be backed with a willingness to do everything possible to help the one blessed be successful. We must become a student of those we wish to bless. For more on this worthwhile subject, read John Trent’s The Blessing; you’ll be glad you did! And you’ll learn that it’s never too late to start blessing the ones you love.