By: Michael Kelley
“Help my children take Jesus seriously.”
I’ve been praying this prayer a lot recently. I think it’s a good prayer for us to pray especially because our kids have grown up in the church. They’ve heard Bible stories since before they were born. The first music they listened to were verses put to music. They’ve sat through church service after church service and heard sermon after sermon.
I don’t regret and am not rethinking any of those decisions on our part; church is the best place for our kids to be. But it does influence the way I’m praying for them now. The heart of the prayer is for our kids to not be desensitized by what they’ve seen and heard. In other words, for Jesus to not fade into the constant background of their lives, but for Him to become ever more real to them.
As I’ve been praying this, I have also come to think there are other things that we, as parents, might to help our kids take Jesus seriously. Here are three such things we as parents can do:
There is no pinnacle when it comes to following Jesus. We don’t climb a ladder in discipleship; in fact, it often seems that the longer you walk with Jesus, the further you realize you have to go. That’s because the longer you walk with Jesus, the more time you spend in His presence, the more you become aware of your own sin. Furthermore, there are no levels of “mastery” when it comes to discipleship. If we consider ourselves having mastered some skill or character trait, then we should be very concerned about our spiritual condition because we have become filled with the kind of pride that will lead to our downfall.
As we are trying to help our children follow Jesus, one of the ways He becomes real to them is through seeing that He is real to us. We show this reality to our kids by sharing with them how Jesus is personally changing us.
As we follow Jesus, no matter what our age, He will begin to change our thoughts, desires, and behaviors through the power of the Holy Spirit. And many times those changes will be challenging. We will be challenged to give things up; to sacrifice; to adapt our lifestyles and behavior patterns; to forgive and pray for those who have wronged us. Here, too, is another opportunity for us as parents to help our kids see the reality of Christ.
We should not be silent in this regard either. We should acknowledge that following Jesus means doing hard things – things that run counter to the values and behaviors that we and our children observe in the world around us. The more we can share these challenges with Jesus, and the more they see us take them up by His grace, the more real He becomes in their minds.
It’s easy for us to look for the magic bullet as parents. The one thing that will fix our issues with technology. The one thing that will perfect our discipline. And the one thing that will make our children spiritually minded. We might think of doing something like having a family devotion as a magic bullet like that. But if the only time we talk about the Bible, Jesus, and the things of God is for 15 minutes a day, then we are subconsciously teaching our kids that there is a divide between the sacred and the secular. And we don’t want that.
We want the reality of Jesus to be so pervasive in their lives, and in ours for that matter, that it’s a natural thing for most every conversation to circle back to the most important thing in our lives. That’s why another way we can help make Jesus real to our kids is through normalizing conversations about Him.
This is a good prayer, I think. It’s one I will continue to pray because I know that we can’t fabricate this kind of reality through anything we do. It’s only through the work of the Holy Spirit that Jesus becomes truly real to our children. Even so, in His grace perhaps God will use some actions like these to mold the hearts and minds of our children into true followers of Christ.