By Cynthia Carrier
We finally get through our morning chores and some homeschooling. It’s time to enjoy a beautiful spring day! I put the baby and the girls down for a post-lunch nap and get involved in a nature experiment with the boys. They’re off collecting berries, flowers, and even rocks, and researching to find out how to make some dyes and paints. My oldest, who had been smashing rocks into powder with a hammer, decides to come in and boil some brightly colored flowers to try and make a dye. I meander out to the garage to see what my younger son is doing. He asks where his brother is and says he needs help using the hammer. He wants to try rock-smashing, too. I tell him his brother is in the house and ask if I can help. He shrugs and says, “I’ll wait for Zay.”
I go back to the house to see if I can help Isaiah finish his project so he can get back out to work with his brother. Finally, about ten minutes later, we’re done. By now Jonah has given up on waiting and is in the house playing with his new birthday dump truck. Isaiah, half-way out the door, grumbles in annoyance, “Oh, Jo, I wanted you to come outside with me!” But now, Jonah is intent in being inside. Neither boy wants to change his plans.
A bit frustrated myself, I grab my Bible and ask both boys to sit on the couch with me. Together we read Philippians 2:3 and talk about how God wants us to put others’ desires ahead of our own. Sometimes, I explain, we do things that we’d rather not do, just because it will be a blessing to someone else. I tell the boys, for example, that as an adult it isn’t particularly interesting for me to play with play dough—but when I sit down with all the little ones and get involved in making pretend cookies and cakes, I enjoy the time because I see how much fun everyone else is having. We all are blessed by the fellowship, regardless of what we are doing.
I can see that my oldest is not really receiving the instruction or the encouragement to be more generous and loving. So, I let them go with a prayer that God would allow his Word to work in my son’s heart.
As they go back to their individual activities, I meditate on the event and wonder why the children have been so selfish lately…unwilling to do things to please others (and God), but interested only in what “I” want. Then, with a burst of conviction, I can recall several instances in the past few days alone where I’ve been intent on accomplishing a particular task, only to be interrupted by a child’s need or a request for me to “come see something.” With a sigh, my response might have been, “Can’t you seen I’m in the middle of something? Can you please be patient for a minute? I have things to do, too, you know!” What are they learning from my example? That my activities are, at the moment, a greater priority than theirs. That they should be willing to conform to my plans, and that I have no desire to reciprocate. So of course it shouldn’t surprise me to see those attitudes expressed between the children as they interact with one another throughout the day.
This is but one illustration of how, as parents, we can teach and train our children according to the Word of God, but how our modeling must be consistent with our instruction if our efforts are going to bear fruit. This is not to say that we must be perfect, but it is to say that we should be continually striving to grow in Christlikeness. And we’ve found that when we feel as though we’ve failed to exhibit Godly character, it’s a wonderful opportunity to express humility in sharing our shortcomings with the children and asking them to pray for us to improve.
In my previous article, I talked about how we have searched the Scriptures to identify the traits that are of value to God and that express the character of Christ. It is these twelve “core values” that are the foundation for our children’s Biblical instruction, encouragement, and even discipline. These are the ideals that we strive to live by in our desire to “be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). The most foundational of these values is faith. Yet not only must we give our children “head-knowledge” of what faith is, we must be an example of living a life of faith. So, just what is faith, and how do we mutually encourage one another to grow spiritually fit in this area?
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Quite simply, faith is trusting in God to fulfill his Word. It means expecting and believing that God will deliver on his promises, even when they are far from being seen.
Faith in God is not the same as belief. The words of the apostle James are very strong in this regard: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19). The Bible tells us that from beginning to end, our faith must depend upon Jesus Christ; it is through faith that we put our trust in him alone (see Romans 1:16-18, Hebrews 12:1-3). It is God’s desire that we all come to know Jesus as both our Savior and our Lord, believing that he died on the cross to take our deserved punishment for our sins (Romans 10:9).
As we put our trust in Jesus and know that he has purchased a place for us in heaven (Colossians 1:3-6), we can be confident that he is with us throughout each day (Hebrews 4:13-16). This faith does not mean that our life’s journey will lead us along smooth paths. Instead, faith gives us the assurance that through each difficulty, God’s purposes are being accomplished in and through us and we are becoming more Christlike.
Jesus promises, “Everything is possible for him who believes" (Mark 9:23). This is such a strong statement that we will all occasionally feel as though we just can’t trust God like that! But we can take heart in the fact that God will move even if our faith is small (see Matthew 17:20-21, Judges 6:36-40 and chapter 7). If you falter during the day-to-day challenges of life, simply ask God to strengthen your faith, and he will do it (Mark 9:21-24, Romans 4:19-21).
Our daily faith means more than simply running and hiding in our prayer closet to wait on God. True faith will prompt us to action: “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18). In fact, the Bible says that our faith and our actions will work together, and that our faith is made complete by what we do (see James 2:22). In faith, we seek God for direction and trust that it is he who guides us. In faith, we trust in God’s Word and believe that he will give us the knowledge, wisdom, and resources that we will need to act according to his perfect purposes.
At one point, we were struggling to believe God for many of the things that we knew he had planned for our lives. We had allowed ourselves to become rather passive in pursuit of what were certainly God-given plans, simply because we didn’t see anything happening. God used our two-and-a-half year-old daughter, Rebekah, as a meaningful object lesson to teach us about the importance of putting our faith into action.
At this point, Rebekah had not yet learned to open a door, and she had a really endearing way of coming right up to a closed door and yelling, “Opee doe!” Someone always came to her aid. Yet when she was faced with the 13-step climb up the basement stairs, she would never walk to the door with the same determination. Instead, she would sit on the bottom step and scream, “Opee doe!” over and over again. We couldn’t leave the door ajar because we feared that her baby sister would crawl to it and there would be an accident, so we patiently explained that she must come up the stairs first, and then we would be quick to open the door when she arrived.
Despite our logical explanations and persistent encouragements, she would work herself into such a fit of tears that in the end, she was unable to do what was required for her goal to be realized.
God showed us that we can behave in a like manner when it comes to the application of our faith. We are told to “ask, seek, and knock” by going to God in prayer (Matthew 7:7-8), but all too often we cry to God from “the bottom of the stairs” and remain there—unwilling or unable to act, to let God move and do his part. Our faith should prompt us to action, and our prayerful reliance upon God in the process can assure us that the final outcome is his.
We know that the Lord wants to us to produce faithful and Christlike offspring (Malachi 2:15); if we strive for this definition of family success, we can trust in God to accomplish it. God wants us, as parents, to have faith, and also to encourage our children in their own journeys of faith.
Believing prayer is an important expression of faith that we can both model and encourage in our children. As we actively pray with our children, we can also teach them about what prayer is, so that they will understand and apply it in their own lives. There are five conditions associated with effective prayer: asking (Matthew 7:9-11), believing (James 1:6-8), proper motivation (James 4:2-3), being right with God (1 John 3:21-22), and praying by Jesus’ authority (John 14:14, Acts 3:16). If all these conditions are met, we can be confident that God will move on our behalf: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
When do we pray? Quite simply, Always! (Ephesians 6:18). We can lift our concerns to God when we are in trouble (James 5:13) or when someone is sick (James 5:14-15). These prayers of faith are particularly important, because through them we ask God’s will to be done in our lives and in the lives of others.
Our children can also be encouraged to act on their faith in everyday circumstances; likewise, they should see us, as parents, doing the same. It is through faith that we acquire the courage and confidence we need to live out God’s plans and purposes and achieve success (see, for example, Joshua 1:6-9). Faith also helps us to stand against evil, trusting in God’s protection and deliverance (Ephesians 6:14, 16). Further, faith makes us bold in sharing God’s Word with others (Acts 18:9-10). As we live out these truths and share the Scriptures with our children, we will build their foundation of faith so that it carries them into an adulthood of serving the Lord.
For us, encouraging our children to have a “pray without ceasing” mentality (1 Thessalonians 5:17) is something we’re continually working on. We try to model constant prayer and we have twice-daily family prayer times. The children are growing in this expression of faith, slowly but surely. And what a blessing to hear our four-year-old say, “Jesus, help me pound this nail straight!” while working on a woodworking project, or our six-year-old spontaneously pray for his two-year-old sister who is sick. The investment of time and effort in modeling and training the core values is well worth the benefit of helping our children along to a mature faith in Jesus Christ.
In order to receive the blessings associated with living out the core value of faith, commit yourself to trusting in God, as he has revealed himself through the pages of the Bible. Make the Scriptures an authority in your life, knowing that they have been inspired by God. As you trust in God and in his Word throughout each day, you will experience the best life God has for you and for your family now, as you also await your eternal reward.
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