I started working with teenagers at my church in New Jersey when I was only 21 yrs old. As I packed up and left for Bible School, I was already sure of two main things. The window to influence a child for good closes quite quickly. And two, it is better—much better to start early. For many years, I have spoken to parents in the wee hours of the night agonizing over their teenagers and young adult children. I knew earlier on that once I became a parent, it would be imperative to pour in as much good as I possibly can into the lives of my children (and any others) that God would place along my path. Unfortunately, not all parents see the value of their child’s spiritual formation. Many times (athletics, academics, a life of ease and excellence in everything else) has been prioritized over a child’s relationship with God. This breaks my heart. I thought I’d try to provide a few persuasive reasons why your child’s spiritual formation should be at the very top of your family’s priority.
- As a Sunday School teacher, I can personally attest that what your child receives on Sunday morning is possibly equivalent to taking a vitamin once a week. It’s helpful yes, but by no means can it replace the trouble you take to prepare a nutritious meal that your kids rely on for their health and sustenance. You are a spirit. You live in a body. When it’s all over, our bodies will return to the dust, and the spirit will return to God who breathed His breath of life into us. Your child’s spiritual stamina should be of greater value than the value we have placed on ensuring our food is (authentic, organic, locally grown well-seasoned, natural, pesticide free) as seen on TV, blogs and media campaigns. Do that, yes! But put in more effort to feed the Spirit man—nothing can match the wisdom, guidance, protection, and leading that God will provide your kids when you invest in nourishing their spirit. Don’t settle for spiritual undernourishment.
- We are always (ONE) generation removed from following God wholeheartedly. Hezekiah loved and feared God greatly. He destroyed idol worship in Israel, sought to please God, and cried out to the LORD to heal him from a grave illness. God heard him, answered him and added 15 years to his life—even blessing him with a son; Manasseh (see 2 Kings 21). This son of a God-fearing man did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than all the kings of Israel combined. He led the entire nation astray, provoking the LORD who answered Judah with disaster everywhere. Just because you fear God, does not mean your children will follow in your footsteps. You and I must work to ensure we give our children a sure faith of their own. You will never know the evil you will restrain by investing from the front end. Think of it this way: every evil we know was invented and or imagined by someones child.
- The Bible is transparent about the good God seeks to do in the lives of His people, but it also warns to beware of the schemes, seductions, and enticing of the evil one who comes to steal, kill and to destroy. If the enemy can discourage, derail, disconnect and distract (us) and our kids early, this means he will have less work to do later. Michael Jackson had amazing skill and talent, but there was an open door. Satan is actively seeking to plant seeds of doubt about your child’s identity, purpose and calling. Did God really say? I’m I beautiful? Do I really fit in? Is this really wrong? Notice that all three times when Satan attacked Jesus in His most vulnerable state, though HE was the Son of God—He answered: It is written. It is written. It is written. Can your child competently rebuttal and refute Satan’s lies? Read (Deuteronomy 11:18-21) God gave this responsibility to the Fathers and Mothers—not the child. We are to own this!
- We never quite know when difficulty will come knocking on our family’s individual doors. On what should have been an ordinary day, Joseph was sold into Egypt as a slave by his own brothers, Daniel as a boy found himself in Babylonian captivity, the little servant girl was snatched from her own family in Israel by the Assyrians and given as plunder (a slave) to Naaman’s wife. Never did it occur to any of these young people that their lives would change so drastically in one given day. I too personally know the pain of deep loss that came knocking so unexpectedly—leaving my “perfect” childhood a shattered wreck. In all instances (including my own) it was GOD—knowing HIM really, well that saved the day! For Joseph, Daniel and the little servant girl they all brought MASSIVE national change because they knew the God of their fathers!
- I am yet to find a better discourse given on this topic than that Christ himself gave in Matthew 6. There are SO many good things said in that one chapter, it is impossible to add them all into this one bullet point (so read it). If I had to choose a single highlight from that chapter, it would have to be: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) What things? Whatever you have need of! Apparently, God already knows that you need clothing, food, shelter—that He does not want you to worry about it and or spend all your time focused on amassing wealth or temporary things. He promises to supply ALL your needs if you will just dare to put Him first!
- Listen to what Malachi says while addressing an issue of spiritual and marital fidelity (2:15). Has not the one God made you? You belong to Him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring! SO be on your guard… Though it might be nice to do, God is not in the least concerned that we should raise Him the next generation of Gold medal champions. He is not even concerned that our children make it to the NBA, NFL or bring home the FIFA world cup. Rather, what would please HIM most is to have us raise Him children who fear and reverence His great name. Think about it, the Bible says Eli raised (worthless sons). God literally had to destroy them. Hophni and Phinehas were unfit to serve as priests before God. Their story is chilling—they completely lost the fear of God. Their father Eli had also lost his spiritual vitality and could not restrain his sons from doing evil. He could not even discern that this tiny little Samuel running around in the LORD’s temple—was his own replacement. All three men died on the same day. God had raised a new prophet for Himself. Samuel would serve God for the next 40years! Our children must be fit to serve the living God.
- I can think of no greater complement from the living God than to hear HIM say of King David: “I have found a man after my own heart.” What that simply means, is that I have found a person who has likes and dislikes like my own. He is passionate about my passions. He loves what I love. He hates what I hate. He is not perfect, but he strives to please me and brings me great joy! Wouldn’t we all love for God to feel this way about our children? Let me submit to you, parents. Your children cannot love a God they do not know. In order for their hearts to be in sync with the heart of the God of heaven, they must first begin with the very first verse (in the beginning, God…) and make their way to the very end of the revealed story of the heart of God. There are no shortcuts. They must take the stairs one step at a time into the heart of God!