Monthly Archives: February 2014
The pathway God choose for me to see my need of a Savior was not the one I wanted for my children. There was rebellion, darkness, pain, and plain folly that dominated my life. Yet it was the path that God saw fit for me to come to the end of myself and to experience the truth of 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” You may have gone down a similar path but can you pray that if it takes that or even a rougher road for your child to awaken to the treasures of the gospel, would you do it? Christina Fox’s essay that follows gives us that challenge….George
The most frightening prayer I could pray for my children is the one they need the most.
Now, I always pray about their behavior, their health, their progress in school, and their friendships. I also pray about their future and their jobs. I pray that my boys would marry “nice Christian girls.” But to be honest, when I pray for my children, it is easiest to ask that their lives be smooth and stress-free. It is easy to pray for their comfort and ease, for their lives to be absent of pain and grief.
When It Gets Uncomfortable
Yet when I reflect on my own life and look back on my faith journey, I see all the challenges and trials I have faced along the way, and the good God accomplished through them. I see the heartaches I’ve endured and the suffering that brought me to my knees. I also see the sins I’ve struggled with and the idols God graciously stripped from my hands. I see how God used all those valleys and painful circumstances to draw me closer to himself, to refine me, and to teach me to rely on him.
They have been the most important events in my life, but it’s not easy to ask this sort of thing for my children. It is hard to ask that God reveal their sin to them, that they see their need for a Savior, that they would be broken over their corruption and truly learn to cling to the gospel.
That kind of prayer is uncomfortable.
The Path to More of Him
It means that they will have to dig through rocky terrain like I’ve experienced before. They will have to walk through their own story of sin and repentance — of learning what it means to have empty hands. What’s frightening for me as a mom is to realize that their lives will not be smooth, comfortable, or safe — not if they will learn most deeply what it means to rely on God. In fact, my children may yet have to endure great trials, walk through dark valleys, and experience great sorrow. That could be God’s pathway to giving them more of himself.
I don’t want my children to treat God like a vending machine or like a fire insurance policy. I want them to have a passionate love for him that is alive and outgoing, bowing to his supremacy and anchored gladly in his gospel. I want them to love God’s word and hold to it firmly in times of uncertainty. I want them to show Jesus to the world. This is what I want.
Nothing More Important
And it will mean that my children have to see that they have sinned against a holy God and that it is only through the grace and sacrifice of his Son that they can be forgiven. Jesus said that those who have been forgiven little will love little (Luke 7:47). My children need to know what that means. They have to see the utter depths of their sinfulness and that without Jesus, they are without hope. And they have to trust in Jesus as their only source of hope and righteousness. Only as they acknowledge their need for him and his forgiveness will they grow to love God in the way I most want for them.
The path could be hard, and praying for this can be frightening, but there really is nothing more important. . . . Father, give my children more of you.
Several years ago I read Professor Jones’ book The Family Ministry Guide and this was one of those times you go “aha!, I never thought of that before.” If this article strikes you the same way, prepare to say the same. .. George
by Timothy Paul Jones, Professor of leadership and associate vice president for online learning at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
To embrace God’s redemption is to be adopted as God’s heir, gaining a new identity that transcends every earthly status (Rom. 8:15-17; Gal. 3:28-29; 4:3-7; Eph. 1:5; 2:13-22). What this means for followers of Jesus is that our children are far more than our children; they are also potential or actual brothers and sisters in Christ.
Husbands and wives, parents and children, men and women, orphans and widows, the plumber’s apprentice and the president of the multinational corporation, the addict struggling in recovery and the teetotalling grandmother—all of us who are in Christ are brothers and sisters, “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17; see also Gal. 4:7; Heb. 2:11; James 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:7).
Seen from this perspective, my relationship with my children takes on a very different meaning. These daughters whom I adore will remain my children for this life only. I am the father of Hannah and Skylar until death, but—inasmuch as they embrace the Gospel—I will remain their brother for all eternity. Put another way, if your children stand beside you in the glories of heaven, they will not stand beside you as your children (Luke 20:34-48) but as your blood-redeemed brothers and sisters, fellow heirs of God’s kingdom. Remember the words of Jesus? “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:50). Paul echoed this perspective when he directed Timothy to encourage “younger men as brothers” and “younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Tim. 5:1-2).
Does this mean that, once a child becomes a brother or sister in Christ, the relationship of parents to children somehow passes away? Of course not! The Gospel doesn’t cancel roles that are rooted in God’s creation. Jesus and Paul freely appealed to the order of God’s creation as a guide for Christian community (Matt. 19:4-6; Mark 10:5-9; Acts 17:24-26; 1 Cor. 11:8-9; 1 Tim. 2:13-15). Paul called children in the redeemed community to respect their parents (Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20; 1 Tim. 5:4). Meaningful labor was present before the fall and persisted in God’s plan even after the fall (Gen. 2:1-15; 2 Thess. 3:6-12). Far from negating the order of God’s creation, the Gospel adds a deeper and richer dimension to the patterns in the first act of God’s story.
Glimpsing a dimension deeper than creation and fall
What does this truth mean for the day-to-day lives of parents? As a parent, I am responsible to provide for daughters and to prepare them for life; as an elder brother, I am called to lay down my life for them (1 John 3:16). As a parent, I help Hannah and Skylar to see their own sin; as their brother, I am willing to confess my sin (James 5:16). As a parent, I speak truth into their lives; as a brother, I speak the truth patiently, ever seeking the peace of Christ (James 4:11; 5:7-9; Matt. 5:22-25; 1 Cor. 1:10). As a parent, I discipline my daughters to consider the consequences of poor choices; as a brother, I disciple them, instruct them, and encourage them to pursue what is pure and good (Rom. 15:14; 1 Tim. 5:1-2). As a parent, I help these two girls to recognize the right path; as a brother, I pray for them and seek to restore them when they veer onto the wrong path (Matt. 18:21-22; Gal. 6:1; James 5:19-20; 1 John 5:16).
Because I fully expected that Hannah would one day embrace the Gospel, I began developing the habits of a brother long before our first conversation about what it means to follow Jesus. Because I anticipate that Skylar is moving toward becoming a follower of Jesus, I do the same with her here and now. I did all of this imperfectly; I still do. I fall far short of living as a parent, spouse, and fellow heir within my family—and so will you. The central point is not that you or the members of your church will perform these deeds perfectly. It is, instead, that family members embrace the Gospel more fully and begin to view one another in a renewed way, as brothers and sisters participating together in the “grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7).
Children are wonderful gifts from God—but they are far more than that. Viewed from an eternal perspective, every child in a household is also a potential or actual brother or sister in Christ. Until parents perceive their children in this way, they fail to see who their children really are.