So now that we’re aware of the damage Satan is inflicting on our children, what do we do about it? It’s not enough to just acknowledge the battle; we must step up and prepare to fight. God never gives us a challenge without providing the tools to accomplish the task. So how does He tell us to go about training our children in spiritual matters?
I can think of no greater resource than He who created our children and wired their very souls to desire Him, so let’s look in depth at this passage (Deuteronomy 6:5-9) and heed His wisdom. First, He tells us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (vs. 5). It begins with us…if we are spiritually apathetic, our children will be also. Do your children see you modeling a relationship with God? Do they know that you spend time every day reading His word and praying? Do you actually do these things? If not, here is where it begins. We cannot expect to pass on to our children something that we do not already own.
Next, He tells us to have His commands upon our hearts and to impress them on our children. As we already discussed, this implies some serious action, not a casual approach. Again, how do we do this? He goes on to break it down for us into bite-sized pieces. “Talk about them when you sit at home…” (vs. 7). What does this look like? Do you pray at mealtimes with your kids, whether at home or out in public? Do your kids see you having a daily time with God? Have you taught them to spend time in reading and prayer each day? Even the youngest of children can spend a few minutes with a Bible storybook or children’s Bible. Your children are never too young to be taught this habit. This can easily be accomplished during nap or rest time for younger children.
Most importantly, talk to your children about God and tell them stories of His faithfulness to your family. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were commanded to put up “standing stones” to remind them and their children of what God had done for them. Every time they saw these stones they were to tell their children the stories of God’s faithfulness (Joshua 4:19-24). What a great idea! Come up with some version of your own family standing stones. In our family, it’s a faith box. I keep a small treasure box that is filled with trinkets that remind us of God’s provision. These are simple objects that, to us, represent a story. For example, a red construction-paper heart with a hole punched in it represents our youngest daughter, Lexi. She was born with a hole in her heart, which God miraculously healed before she was four months old. Another example is a pink ribbon, representing how He cared for my mother during her courageous battle with breast cancer. While this box was started for me, during a very difficult time for me spiritually, it has become one of my best tools to share with my kids the reality of God’s love for us. My oldest daughter has even asked me at times to share it with her friends when they have sleepovers. They love to hear the stories of what God has done.
Use events in their own lives to bring home to them the fact that God cares about even the smallest details of their lives. We learned this one with our oldest, when she was merely three years old. I’ll save the story for another blog, but suffice it to say that she now knows that God even cares about ragged little lost donkeys, and is big enough to help them find their way home. Don’t be afraid to pray about things that seem to be insignificant to you. Don’t let Satan convince you that God is too busy with the “big” things to care about the “little” things. God cares very much about the formative faith of a child.
Most importantly, make a commitment to have a daily family worship time. I once heard a speaker lament that we never, ever, forget or neglect to feed our children meals, but we more often than not let family devotions slide, if we do them at all. How can we not make time to teach them God’s word? It doesn’t have to be fancy, just consistent. A few Bible verses, or a story from a good children’s Bible (for the younger ones), maybe a song or two, and a family joining together in prayer. What could be simpler than that, and yet have such a profound effect on their futures? There are many resources available to accomplish such a task, but the main thing that is required is a heartfelt commitment.
Secondly, God tells us to talk about these things “when you walk along the road”. How do you spend your time in the car? Heaven knows we American parents spend plenty of time playing taxi driver. How could you redeem this time? Put away the video games and try listening to a Christian kids’ radio program (like Adventures in Odyssey or Jonathan Park, two of our family favorites!) and talk about the lesson behind the story. Work on memory verses together. Talk about what you see (“Isn’t that a wonderful rainbow God made for you to enjoy?”). Teach your children to see the needs of others. When an ambulance goes by, or you witness an accident, pray together for the people who are hurt. This will teach your children compassion and to view others through Jesus’ eyes.
The next time God tells us to be teaching our children is “when you lie down”. What is bedtime like at your house? Do you put your children to bed with a prayer and a blessing? How about telling them something good that they did that day? We so often get caught up in noticing all the things our children did wrong that day that we forget to notice their victories. Sometimes, those last sleepy moments of the day are when our children’s defenses are down and their hearts are open. We often miss this opportunity because of our own weariness and desire to have a few minutes peace before we, too, retire for the night. Do you have children who are prone to nighttime fears? Use that to teach them to turn to God for their comfort. Show them how to talk to God and ask for His protection when they are afraid. There are many Psalms that can be used to help them understand that they are not alone when you leave the room. A favorite of ours was Psalm 73:23: “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” When one of our children went through a fearful phase, we helped her memorize this verse, taught her which hand was her right hand (also a useful skill!) and taught her to close her eyes and picture Jesus sitting by her side, holding her right hand securely in His. We won’t always be with our children to protect them from every circumstance that causes them to fear, but we can teach them to lean on the One who will be.
Lastly, we are told to teach our children “when you get up”. I think God wants us to start our day with directing their thoughts to Him. Are we thankful for each day that He’s so graciously given us, or are we just grumbling for a little more sleep? Help them to see that each new day is a gift from God, and that He has plans for each of us. Start with a prayer at breakfast, asking Him to guide us through the coming day and make us thankful for all He has provided.
So, back to that terrifying statistic I shared in Part I…that 70-88% of publicly-schooled children raised in evangelical Christian homes have lost their faith by the end of their freshman year in college. (Note: this number drops to 6% in homeschooled children.) Is this a given? Do we have any hope? Absolutely…God has made it very clear to us what we need to do to raise children that love and honor Him for the rest of their lives. In Proverbs 22:6, God assures us, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Will you join me in this monumental battle? Together, we could raise the generation that will change the world.
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