What’s the quickest way to get children wanting to follow God? Let me propose that it has much more to do with “being through doing” than “knowing through saying.” If I want my children to want to know and love Jesus, then they need to see that I want to know and love Jesus. My heart has to be on my sleeve – they have to see that my internal passion for Christ results in a servant’s life for the Kingdom, “being through doing.” I can’t espouse what I “know through what I say” and leave it at that. How I live my heart of faith on a daily basis means much more in the long run than any confessions of faith to our children.
Observation and imitation is the lifeblood of childhood learning. This is why children will giggle up a storm and jump in readily at early ages when you play Peek-a-boo with them as babies, Follow the Leader as toddlers and Simon Says as preschoolers. Children watch and learn from the time they are born. What kind of faith we live out in front of them is building their everyday theology.
Parents ultimately reflect to their children what is in their hearts. So, what is in our hearts and how are we living it out? What are our children observing and imitating in us?
- Examine your calendar. Scripture is clear that our life should involve times of fellowship with others, being taught by godly teachers, using our spiritual gifts for the body, and living a life of faith out in the world to show those who do not know Christ yet who He is. Do you do this? If the audio of your life was turned off, and you were a video alone – how would they see you spending your time?
- Examine your speech. Slander and gossip is a contemporary epidemic which shames the church and is a poor reflection of the grace God has benevolently given to His children. How often do your children hear you criticize others? A life that loves Jesus is a life that loves others, even when they aren’t in the same room. Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
- Examine your attitude. A book published in 2009 discussed the “relentless rise of narcissism, a very positive and inflated view of self” (Twenge, Campbell). Research has shown that domestic violence, verbal abuse, and bullying have all risen in national statistics; this view of self begets an attitude which allows me to treat you in sinful and abusive ways without fear of consequence. Humility is the opposite of narcissism and best tested at home behind closed doors. It is easy to “fake it” to the outside world, but not in the long run in front of your family. Humility is a key trait that allows grace and patience. How quick are you to repent, confess and then listen to how you have wronged others and hurt them? How quick are you to seek the advancement of others over yourself or to give others the benefit of the doubt? Do your children see you “in humility considering others better than yourself”? (Phil. 2:3)
- Examine your wallet. In Luke 3 when John the Baptist calls the crowds to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” and they ask “what should we do”, he gives 3 answers, all having to do with money. Don’t take more than you should, be content with what you have, and give to those in need. The word picture in 1 Timothy 5:18 commands us to support our pastors and local churches. And 2 Cor. 9:7 says God loves a CHEERFUL giver. All of these scriptures are only just words unless we are living them out faithfully with a smile on our face.
The Next Generation is watching and waiting to see a faith that is real. It starts when they are babies and continues as they grow. We are producing in our children a platform for them to consider the truths of scripture and how they will respond. We can’t start too early or too late in living a life worthy of our children’s observation and imitation.
Dear Reader, will you take a look in the mirror at your heart? What do you see? Ask God to show you; turn to Him for His gracious forgiveness and abiding love, walk with His Spirit and watch as He produces a heart in you that humbly desires to live a life of faith with your children as your audience. Our God is glad to give to those who ask. Will you ask with me?
May all our children observe our lives and see that we live a life of worship to our Great King that is worthy of their imitation! Blessings and grace abounding to you, friends.
As always yours, Elizabeth