I have two daughters. Both began asking questions about Jesus, heaven, hell, and the like at early ages. Both made professions of faith at early ages. These were not decisions that they, or their mother (my wife), or myself took lightly. We spent hours upon hours talking through their thoughts and praying together.
One of my greatest fears, as a father, is that my children will believe that they are Christians because they are in church… a lot, or because their parents are believers, or, even worse, because they said some prayer one time and then got baptized. So, when they started asking questions about faith, which is what my wife and I wanted, fear crept into my mind and heart. Maybe because of the nature of my vocation (student pastor of 15+ years), I had more faith in the trickery of the world, when it came to my own children, than I did in a loving, powerful, revealing God. I have, after all, seen many students claim to have a real faith in the God we discuss at church. But many times that ‘real faith’ is nothing more than empty words coupled with a life of practical atheism. And I do not want that for my children!
If I am being completely honest, I would love for my kids to be completely in love with Jesus and throw all caution to the wind and live every single minute of their lives walking with Him and in Him; never surrendering for a single second or thought to any type of compromise thrust at them by the world, the devil or their own selfishness. That is pretty unrealistic though, huh?
I’ve had many conversations with parents in years past, usually parents of teenagers, about this very subject. I would try to comfort them with words of hope that I believed then and still believe now. I would say something like, “Their faith HAS to become their own… and this is just part of that process.”
About two years ago, my oldest daughter began questioning her own faith. She began asking questions like, “Is God really real?” “Mom and Dad, how can you believe in Him if you cannot see Him?” My heart would melt each time I began to hear her utter questions like this. At first, I was in complete panic mode… not to say that I am completely ok with it now, but my daughter has become open in telling us that she is not a Christian and that she does believe in God.
Am I scared? Yeah, a little. I desire for my children to know God and walk in His goodness and grace. I desire for my children to live with God… both now and forever. So, yes, I am a little scared that that will not happen.
Am I disappointed in my kid? Not one bit. I am thankful that my oldest feels like she can be honest with us. She knows what we believe and she still feels like she can share her own insecurities about faith and the Bible with us. I am not disappointed, because I do not want my children to be like me… I want them to be like Jesus. I am not disappointed because she is being honest about what is going on in her heart.
Am I hopeful? You bet I am. I am hopeful because I know that my daughter has some Godly people pouring into her life and praying for her. I am hopeful because I know that God is the great Seeker and Rescuer of lost souls (Luke 19:10). I know that God is patient (2 Peter 3:9). I am hopeful because I know that God loves my kid more and better than I do (1 John 4:19).
As my wife and I, and our daughter, have been walking through this during the past couple of years we have learned some things. God has grown us through this process. I would like to share some things that I am learning. If your child/teenager/young adult does not believe in the God of the Bible, then maybe this can be helpful to you.
1. Be Patient and Understanding
Be honest with your child and let them be honest with you. It is very important that they KNOW they can talk with you about the feelings they are experiencing and that they can do so without a finger in their face.
Let them know that there are things you have questions about as well. There will ALWAYS be things about God that we will not know (Isaiah 40). They need to know that questions are ok. Home should be a safe place for them to be able to work through this process.
Being patient and understanding communicates that you are on their side and that you truly do want the best for them. If you will notice Jesus’ behavior in the Bible, He was patient and understanding with those who were lost. The woman at the well (John 4), the woman caught in adultery (John 8), Zacchaeus (Luke 19)… just to name a few.
2. Teach and Lead Them Continually, Humbly
We still have an obligation to teach them the things of God. DILLIGENTLY! We have a responsibility, as their parents and appointed spiritual leaders to guide them in the things of the Lord. Deuteronomy 6:4-10 and Ephesians 6:1-4 speak of how we should teach, instruct, and lead our children. We are to do so constantly, seizing every opportunity and recognizing that every moment is an opportunity.
We must not only teach them faithfully and consistently, but we should also teach our children with humility. We see in Philippians 2:1-11 that Jesus the God-Man is described as being exceptionally humble. In verses 3 and 4, Paul says,
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Humility marked the ministry of Christ (Matthew 11:29; 20:25-28). Christ-like humility is to be a characteristic that marks our lives. And I would say that we should teach and lead our children with that same Christ-like humility.
3. Pray for Them
Pray! Why? Because God is the only One Who can truly change a heart (Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26; Romans 2:29). God is the only One Who can change the eternal destiny of a person (Colossians 1:13). We pray because God is powerful (Matthew 19:26) and He never changes (Isaiah 26:4). We pray because God commands us to (Matthew 6).
We pray that God will change the heart of our precious daughter. We pray that God will be patient and kind with her. We pray that God will transform her into a woman after Him. We pray that God will help us to speak truth into her life and guide her towards Him. We pray that our faith will be genuine and that our children will see that in our lives. We pray earnestly and sincerely (James 5:16). We actually pray together as a family that God will change her heart.
We pray because, ultimately, the salvation of our children is not up to us. It is God’s work alone (Acts 4:12).
A great resource to use as you pray for your children is the prayer guide that Dr. Harris posted a few months ago. The title is I Pray This For My Children.
4. Trust God With Their Heart
I have to trust God with the hearts of my children. My inclination is to try and control my children… their behavior, their wants and yes, their thoughts on God. But I cannot! And to be perfectly honest, it is a good thing that I cannot. I am not good. I am not impartial. I am not fully understanding, all-knowing and wise. But God is all those things and more.
I need to trust Him. And trusting Him with my children is especially important. He loves my children more and better than I ever could. He is a good God (Psalm 136:1)… and I must continue to trust His goodness. Most of the time I do not know what His goodness will look like, but I know that He is good.
I know that God wishes that none will die without Him (2 Peter 3:9) and that He desires that all people will be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).
I must continue to trust God with the hearts of my sweet children. He is, after all, the good Father (Matthew 7:11).
5. Worship God/Live In Christ
Finally, I must live a life that shows off the glory of God. That is my highest calling as a believer. Matthew 22:37 says that the greatest and first command is to ‘Love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The words greatest and first both speak of the importance and priority of this Great Command.
As God’s child, my #1 is to love God more than anything or anyone else. It is my most important job! To love God is to worship God and walk with God in Christ Jesus.
What a tremendous impact living out this First and Greatest Command will have on my children!
I pray for God’s grace and wisdom and mercy as we labor to bring our children up in the Lord. I want my family to walk with God… all of their days! God has put my wife and I here with these two beautiful girls to disciple them, love them, care for them, protect them and help them mature into Godly young women who, in turn, raise Godly children and on and on and on….