January marks the start of the year and our five-day corporate prayer and fasting at Victory. We make lists of the things we’re praying and believing in God for, while we empty ourselves of food, the Internet, and other things that usually preoccupy our time.

As February comes to a close, recall last month’s list. A few of us may have seen prayer points already crossed out—praise God for that!—while others are still praying and believing God to see them come true. Then there are those of us who have forgotten what we wrote.

Whichever of the three you may be, ask yourself this: how long is the shelf life of the items on your list? To put it another way, ask: if God were to answer your whole list tomorrow, for how long would those items be of value?

It isn’t wrong to ask God for personal things, because He does love giving good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). However, if we spend a big chunk of our faith on believing  God for things that would only last a couple of years or so, like a mobile phone, for example, that can be a bit disappointing.

There is a different kind of faith in the Bible that spans decades, lifetimes even. A faith that can—would you believe—impact generations to come. I’m talking about multigenerational faith.

Down to the Bones

To picture what multigenerational faith looks like, think about the bones of Joseph. Most people remember him as the dreamer who saved Egypt and his household from years of famine. The story of his bones, however, is just as interesting and faith-building!

After living a full life, at its very end, Joseph’s last words to his brothers were:

“I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”

Gen. 50:25

The next time Joseph’s bones are mentioned in scripture comes in Exodus 13, almost like an afterthought:

But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.”

Exodus 13:18-19

Joseph’s bones then appear a third time, many generations after his death:

Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the LORD did for Israel. As for the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Shechem, in the piece of land that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money. It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph.

Joshua 24:31-32

The bones of Joseph appear in two of the Israelites’ most momentous occasions in history: while crossing the Red Sea after breaking free from slavery in Egypt, and, forty years later, when they finally arrive at the land that God had promised them.

Several generations had passed since Joseph’s death, and several leaders had risen and fallen; still, these very bones indicated how Joseph made it to Paul’s list of the greatest heroes of faith:

By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

Hebrews 11:22

What was so special about Joseph’s bones to earn a mention in what scholars dub as the “hall of faith”? And why were Joseph’s bones all that was mentioned, instead of his God-given dreams, interpretation of dreams, his saving all of Egypt and his household, or his ascent to power?

The life of Joseph was one of resilience, stewardship, and godly conviction. All of these were great traits in themselves; but what God really wanted to highlight about Joseph for centuries to come was the kind of faith he had, a multigenerational faith.

What is multigenerational faith, and why is this the kind of faith God looks for?

Multigenerational faith are parts of the whole.

Joseph had the faith to believe in God’s plans for others. As great as his breakthroughs were, he knew that his breakthroughs weren’t just about him, but they also extended to his family and people.

This didn’t mean that he shied away from believing for his own personal breakthroughs. I’m sure that while he was in prison for two years, there must have been moments where he would pray for his freedom (which isn’t a bad prayer item if you really think about it). But his faith went beyond this.

When he assumed power and had a mini-reunion with his brothers, there may have been moments when he realized how his breakthroughs weren’t just about himself. They were about leveraging on his power to serve his family and people for their days, instead of gloating and being swallowed up by self-entitlement.

Joseph believed in God’s plans not just for him, but for others as well.  It was a faith that made him secure and joyful in being a part of God’s plans for His people. It wasn’t a calling to assume position, but a calling to be in a position to serve others through what God has done in His life.

While having the faith to believe in personal breakthroughs isn’t a bad thing, let’s not make that our end goal. Rather, may our end goal be a faith that turns our breakthroughs into platforms to serve the campuses and communities that God placed us in.

Multigenerational faith are seeds to the highlights.

Joseph had faith that saw and prophesied God’s plans beyond his lifetime. Imagine the kind of position Joseph had at the time of his death. He was practically the second-in-command of Pharaoh, and was living a very comfortable life with his family. But by faith, he believed for something more, as reflected in his last words:

“I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”

Genesis 50:24-25

By faith, he knew that—as great as their life was—Egypt still wasn’t the land that God promised his ancestors. That in the midst of prosperity, power, and wealth, it still wasn’t the highlight of God’s promises to His people; but rather, it was just the beginning. As awesome as his breakthroughs were, these were just the seeds, the starting points, of God’s greater plans for them.

Sowers and Ushers

Hebrews 11, which names the great heroes of the faith, closes with these two verses:

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (v. 39-40)

Joseph, like many heroes of the faith, was not alive to firsthand see God’s plans unfold, but he found contentment and joy in simply being part of His plans for His people. His last words give us a picture of what multigenerational faith is–one that looks at the bigger story that God weaves through multiple generations, and believes for God’s plans that will be fulfilled beyond our lifetime. This was the kind of faith that pleased God; one that earned him a place in Hebrews 11.

As great as our campus ministry has grown throughout the years, I pray that we do not see what we are experiencing in this generation as the highlight of God’s plans for us, but a seed of His plans for generations to come. I pray that we have a multigenerational faith like Joseph’s—one that finds joy and contentment in being a stepping stone to usher in God’s purposes for the next generation, whether or not we are remembered in history.

Roll up your sleeves, we’ve got sowing to do.