It is no secret that we live in a hostile world with evil lurking all around us. For anyone who has lived the Christian life for any amount of time, you know it isn’t always easy. Just keeping ourselves straight is a daily challenge, but the responsibility is compounded whenever we bring children into the mix. They are a huge blessing and gift from God, but let’s be honest, they are a lot of work! As believers, we have a greater duty than to just instill general morality into their young, impressionable minds; we have the mandate to infuse their hearts with God’s word.
Although children, both young and old, will do what they want to do, if we are faithful to guide them in the truth that has transformed us, pray over their precious lives, and do all that we can to make sure they have all the tools they need to live for the Lord, he will do the rest. If they wander astray, he will be the one who gets a hold of their hearts and reminds them of his mercy. Proverbs 22:6 offers us both wisdom and hope in a solitary verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” As a father of four, I claim that verse very strongly and hold onto the hope that if we, as parents, live authentically in front of them, the Lord will use our witness to get to their hearts.
Naturally, I have seen this go both ways. Some young people have made the smooth transition into adulthood unscathed, while others have made many blunders along the way. If you find yourself or your children in the latter situation, please do not beat yourself up, for they belong to God and he will apply the training you have instilled in their lives at just the right time—have faith in him. Sometimes they need to learn in the school of hard knocks just to gain a more profound appreciation of his grace.
Hebrews 12:5-8 speaks to this truth in terms to which we can relate as earthly parents: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Do not be worried if you or your children have to face spiritual discipline for it is proof that you belong to the Father.
I do not go around grounding other teenagers that do not belong to me, nor do I punish other people’s toddlers when they throw a temper tantrum. Why? Simply because they do not belong to me! It is not my place to punish them. However, if you belong to the Lord, be sure that whenever you disobey him, there will be consequences and repercussions, and while they don’t seem pleasant at the present time, the long-term fruit that it produces will have eternal effects and breathe peace into your life (v. 11).
So the takeaway from all this would be: teach your kids the truth through your words and actions so that when they become of age they are not threatening to take you on the Jerry Springer Show (or whoever has the most popular dysfunctional family talk show these days). Give them Jesus and you have given them all they need! The world is cold and dark and is no friend of believers, but we should take heart that not only has he overcome the world, but the Lord has also placed his Spirit within us who is far greater than any earthly threat or spiritual enemy (1 John 4:4). Take your children to church, but make sure they understand clearly why they are going. Let them know that it is a gathering of those who have been saved by the blood of Jesus. Finally, make sure your Sunday life matches your Monday through Saturday life. They are hungry for authentic examples to emulate.
Parenting is the hardest job in the world, but at the same time, it is the most rewarding job in the world! Think about it: you are training up disciples within the four walls of your own home; what could be more exciting than that? As you train them up and realize the crucial responsibility that this entails, remember that there is a strength within you that makes all of this possible. Remember that you can do all things through him who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13). Pray over them, teach them, and watch God shape them into the men or women he designed them to be!