As parents who know the goodness of God, what part can we play to help our children grow in faith, and turn from the many deceptions and temptations they will surely encounter? Similar to a relay race, we want to pass on the baton of faith. The Bible gives practical help to imperfect parents, living in an imperfect world, to pass on a perfect baton to imperfect children. Children will ultimately choose for themselves, but here are three KEY areas to focus on which address the head, the heart, and the parent.
God sets before us the priority to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind (Matt.22:37). He expects us to use our brains. Today’s society questions the beliefs that Christians have held dearly for centuries and gives a smorgasbord of other options. Our children will need to learn to question these different beliefs and sort out truth from error. They need to know the Bible and how that knowledge applies to today. If they don’t know it, they will likely leave the faith. In this day and age, apologetics – the ability to give reasons and evidence for what we believe and why, is absolutely essential (1 Pet.3:15). As Christians we need to rediscover the Bible and the wealth of evidence, coupled with sound reason, that gives us confidence to trust the gospel. We neglect this knowledge to our own peril. The prophet Hosea reminds us of this cry from the heart of God:
“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6 NIV).
Faith is not just in a set of ideas and principles, but firmly grounded in a relationship with the living God. Children need their own experiences of knowing God, seeing him change their hearts and directing their lives. Relationships take time and communication.
As parents we prioritized helping our kids establish the daily practice of a personal ‘quiet time’ (‘devotions’). Mornings were best before the day cluttered up their minds. The principle developed, being delivered in love: “No Bible, no breakfast.” We facilitated God’s Spirit speaking to their hearts through His Word.
Some people object to ‘forcing’ their kids – forgetting how society forces its values on our kids through schools, films, media – but we viewed it like opening up an awesome relationship with their Creator, experiencing his protection and guidance as He takes them along the best pathway for their lives (Ps.32:8). Just like we made them eat vegetables and healthy food instead of the junk food they preferred, so spiritually we gave them good sustenance. As they got to know the good God of love themselves, they learned ‘the fear (healthy respect) of the Lord’, giving them wisdom beyond their years (Prov.9:10), and turning them from the snares of death (Prov.14:27).
Your children constantly observe you and can see if you ‘live the life and walk the talk’. They observe your heart by what you say and do. When you fail, (and we all do) they need to see you turn to God, confess, fix up your wrongs, and press on to increasing spiritual strength and attractiveness (holiness). They need to see you doing good, enjoying following the Lord, and overcoming. They will need to forgive you as you forgive them. So, inspire, encourage and BE a person after God’s own heart, and pass the blessing down.
Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
and for their children it will be a refuge (Proverbs 14:26 NIV).
Knowledge, Experience, and You. May these three elements combine as a K.E.Y to help you raise spiritually resilient children, not driven about by the hot, dry winds of godlessness and emptiness so common in our society, but strong and beautiful as they stand in truth and love, holding out the Word of life (Phil.2:15-16) to the many perishing souls who need to find the abundant life only God can give (John 10:10).
Dorcas Denness and her husband Ian now live in Sydney, having raised six children while doing medical-missionary service amongst Muslims in Pakistan for over thirty-years.