Leading Our Children to Depend on Jesus

With obvious frustration in her voice and near tears in her eyes, ten-year-old Mary came to me with her math. She had missed every one of her long-division problems. It was not because she didn’t know how to do them but rather because of careless multiplying or subtracting mistakes. At first, I felt myself being impatient with her interruption to what I was doing. However, the Spirit prompted my heart that this was one of those valuable, spiritually stretching moments for Mary.

I began sharing with Mary verses such as, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). I encouraged her that the Lord Jesus was the One to turn to in her need and weakness. We talked about the goal of her math and how her failures showed her where she should be more careful and work harder. We discussed how her problems were actually more valuable to her than what came easily, with no effort involved. Finally, we prayed together. I suggested that the next time she started math, she come to me, and we would pray together.

The following day, a joyful Mary, with a beaming face, burst into the dining room announcing to me that she had gotten every division problem correct! What value could I place on the spiritual lesson that Mary was learning in relying upon and trusting Jesus Christ? However, I also know how easily I could have robbed Mary of this blessing.

The first way I might have kept her from a positive, spiritual experience would have been by responding to her out of my impatience, telling her to just try harder and be more careful. After all, she did know how to work the problems. My selfish focus is sin in my life. It also doesn’t allow my children the joy of a mom who is there on a moment-by-moment basis in their young lives, encouraging them to develop a dependence on Jesus as a response to the trials and difficulties that enter their lives.

The second way I may keep my children from opportunities for growing in their reliance on Jesus Christ is by removing the struggle itself. When the math is hard, I begin thinking about looking for another curriculum—something that teaches in a different way, that is easier, that has fewer problems to work. If I take away my child’s source of need, then there is no longer a reason for him to cry out to Jesus Christ for His strength in the situation. My child is able to make it through on his own.

What is more important for my childimmediate success in getting right answers on a math problem or learning to develop the habit of crying out to Jesus Christ for help in every circumstance? Rather than viewing the daily problems with my children as trials to be avoided, I can use them positively. Throughout my hours with my children, there will be multiple chances to point them to Jesus, to use Scripture to address a situation—to help them develop spiritual disciplines of relying on Jesus and obeying Him. The more I see difficulties in this light, the more I have to gain for my children in helping them to grow within themselves these habits. The goal would be that the inclination to look to Jesus would become so engrained in their lives that it is almost instinctive rather than something that is not done at all or is forced because it is the “right” thing to do.

I want to encourage us as mothers to invest in our children’s lives by helping them grow in their faith. Rather than removing children’s struggles, see the value in what they can learn through them in spite of the fact that they are children. Spiritually help them walk through their difficulties—even ones as small as missing all the division problems in the math lesson. Let them experience the joy of victory in Jesus Christ. Even if that victory doesn’t involve success in a particular academic struggle, it will be evident in the spiritual realm of the child’s relationship with Jesus Christ and dependence on Him. May we be mothers with an eternal focus.

The Greatest Earthly Gift

Most families think of gifts around Christmastime. It definitely is a subject of discussion in our home, with the children spending time and prayer trying to bless others in the family with meaningful gifts. Giving the right gift greatly depends on the receiving person’s heart and values.

Often, man has a different idea of a good gift than God does because we have a different frame of reference. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). With an earthly focus, man will want wealth and material possessions as good gifts, but if we have a heavenly focus we will want the good gifts God offers.

The greatest gift that God, the Giver of good gifts, offers us is salvation. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). It is amazing that everyone would not want to receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). If a person realized that eternity in hell is the only other option to eternal life with Christ, then more might choose life with Christ. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

Sadly, man often wants his way, thereby rejecting the gift that was needed most. One area that highlights this difference of thought and value in relation to good gifts has to do with the Lord’s gifting of children to parents. The Lord says via the Psalmist: “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psalms 127:3). We see in this verse that God is the One to give children. He actually calls them a heritage of the Lord and a reward. Today, however, man does not see children in this way.

Families will reject more children for a host of reasons. Why would man not want more children when God calls them a heritage and a reward? The answer is obvious since children represent hard work, time, money, and most likely, some degree of heartache. There are no guarantees with children. They could have health problems or be rebellious. Nonetheless, the Lord says children are His heritage and reward.

There is a vast difference between children and other aspects of the created world as seen in Genesis 1:26: “And God said, Let us make man in our image.” Nothing else has been made in God’s image. The simple fact that a child is made in God’s image makes him a treasure. Do we really value children as His heritage and reward?

Another reason we reject children is that they bring change into our lives. If we allow it, they cause us to grow in Christ and in dependency on Him. Teri and I often hear moms say they could never homeschool because they aren’t patient enough. What parent has the character needed to raise a child? That is one reason why God gives us children. God will use them to constantly shape us into the image of Christ. “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience” (Romans 5:3). Children can break our hearts. Brokenness is a good thing that the Lord uses in our lives. Once broken, we are prepared for the work of the Potter’s hands. Certainly, who in their right mind would welcome a source of tribulation? Yet, the Lord says children are His heritage and reward.

Many will reject God giving the family more children because of all the work and money they will require. That would be like someone offering to give a friend a Mercedes and having him turn it down because of the costly insurance, gas, and maintenance. Perhaps another reason for saying no would be that he doesn’t have room in his garage. I don’t think so. It is all a matter of our point of view—heavenly or earthly.

We have shared in the past about Teri’s depression, and how we cut off the possibility of more children after God gave us three. Then five years later, we came to realize how wrong that decision was and repented of it. By God’s grace, after we reversed a bad decision, He then gave us five more children. (It is amazing that the number five is also the number that represents grace in Scripture.)

Our children have been such a blessing to Teri and me. They are our best friends, and their hands are on the plow with us. There have been times of struggle, discouragement, and heartache. Growth is a result in our lives, though. Plus the Lord Jesus becomes all the more precious and real to us.

When some people hear we have eight children, they reply that we have enough children for our own sports team. What a waste that would be! It would be like taking a multimillion-dollar army tank squirrel hunting. Far better that we are a tactical swat team at the command of the Lord Jesus! Now that is what it is all about! We love serving the Lord Jesus together.

What if God said He would give believers as many millions of dollars as we asked for? I’m confident we would see countless Christian millionaires. Hmmm. Instead, He openly extends a clear and far, far greater offer for man to accept: children. They are His heritage and reward. Will we welcome them?

When it is all said and done, our saved children and the souls of others we have led to Christ are all we are taking with us when we leave this world. Will you be traveling alone or in good company?