If you, as a parent, were a gardener and your children were the saplings, how is your garden growing? I have many thoughts springing from recent happenings and I just thought I need to record it tonight. If this sharing hits too close to home, please understand it is not my intention to kick a fellow soldier when he or she is down. Nor do I intend to raise my family up as some sort of ideal. Our work with our children is far from done and we have to be constantly on our toes, to be sober and vigilant. I am heart broken as much as any other when I hear of Christian parents who are grieved by children who reject the faith. I humbly write to share what I have gleaned, especially to those young families with young children who are just starting this faith journey. I wish they would be careful to avoid pitfalls that have entangled so many others who have suffered before.
Just looking at my two older sons tonight, I commented that they are starting to look like twins. My eldest is now 15 and has grown taller than me. My second son (the third born) is 11 going 12 and going through a growth spurt. He has elongated and quite suddenly looks like he is soon to be as tall as his older brother. Of late, with the three older children all catching up with their papa and me in terms of height and stature, I have been feeling half engulfed by them being so tall. It takes some getting used to. They were once all shorter than me.
the median height of my family has increased! Praise God.
More importantly, as I look as my once saplings now growing into young plants, I reflect on the health of the plants, my crop. How do I know my children are healthy? I want them to be happy in the Lord, glad and thankful to be serving Him. I want them to love the Lord and each other, as well as the church. I want them to possess a spirit of courage, determination, confidence, humility, compassion for the lost. I am so thankful to say, that by the grace of God, these are seen in various amounts in all the children, especially the older children.
I'll share how we have been tending to this garden, growing them for the Lord's use.
1) membership and faithful service at a good bible believing church that preaches the Word of God. I cannot underscore this importance enough. Wrong preaching will result in a wrong way of life and thinking that God never intended for His children to have. He intends for His people to have an abundant life. The Devil is a thief and a counterfeit who robs and shortchanges people, even the very elect, of their joy and a godly testimony. I am so blessed to have reaped good preaching for all these years at Maranatha Baptist Church, and our lives have been blessed for it.
2) In accordance to the correct, biblical view of things, we need to understand that we the gardeners inherited bad seeds. Wicked seeds, evil seeds: seeds that have the potential of growing into an adulterer, a thief, a drunkard, a murderer.....Oh no, you may say, my baby is an angel. Yes, he may throw a fit sometimes, he may not want to obey me sometimes, but he is not evil!
Jeremiah 17: 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
I recently had a sobering conversation with my veteran missionary friend who also has six children about this very problem of how children who are raised in a godly home can turn out wayward. I'm sure many of us have pondered that question, after observing how even pastor's kids can grow up rejecting the faith and grow up reprobate.
My friend rightly stated that "all the teaching & training in the world cannot make our children respond to God. It must be their choice. If only they could see."
We need to understand that ALL our children are born sinners and in desperate need of true salvation through repentance and a turning to the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
I'm so glad to read my 13 year old girl's sentence construction practice the other day. She was asked to complete the sentence: The principal objective of homeschooling is... and she answered- SALVATION. Do your children understand the true goal of education?
2 Timothy 3: 15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
We learn in 2 Tim 1 that Timothy's mother Eunice and grandmother Lois made it a point to impart the Scriptures to Timothy from a young age with the goal of making him wise unto salvation. We cannot save our children by living a godly life although that certainly helps prepare a good "spiritual climate" for the child to be introduced to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, that does not ensure that the child will truly be saved.
True salvation is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, working in tandem with a good biblical understanding of sin and self before a righteous and Holy God. Romans 10 says:
We want our children to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. They will never come to have faith in this God unless their faith is grown through the knowledge of hearing God's word. Check your bible. There is NO OTHER WAY, my friends. What a privilege as a parent to be the first ones to write the Word of God on the slate of our children's hearts. Oh, be sure that the World will fight you tooth and nail to write (or, more accurately, graffiti) on their hearts. Are you a jealous parent? Jealous for the pure, undefiled things of God? Or do are you one who thinks it is ok to flirt around a little here, a little there, a little Harry Potter (even though we have been instructed as Christians to have nothing to do with witchcraft and sorcery), a little Katy Perry (worldly music with all its themes of adultery, sex, and fornication), a little bit of online gaming just to relax and kill time.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
If today's Christians were to use this verse as their guideline for choices of entertainment and activities, (and we should), so much ungodly trash will be out the window. And good riddance.
It is a battle for the souls of our children. All the battle hymns of old (Onward Christian Soldiers, Soldiers of the Cross) have been replaced soft, sappy, lulling love ballads that can easily be interchanged with worldly themes of lust. It is an unbiblical depiction of the true nature of our sin nature and how we need to fight it by the grace of God!
3) by love and joy, draw out your plants. How is your relationship with your children, each child? Do you laugh and play with them? Do they come and talk to you and tell you their heart? Joy is the glue that keeps a child stuck to his or her parent. (Read this article by Michael Pearl about joyful parenting. Read the rest of the website with Godly discernment.)
Who wants a grumpy, snappy mom or dad who says that God is love?
Does our daily countenance befit the gospel (the "good news") we preach to our children?
4) how much time do we spend in the dirt, working on the plants? I am saddened to see that sometimes, father and mother are so busy serving the Lord that their precious children are neglected and bitter. How can this be? The imagination that somehow, a servant of the Lord Jesus can circumvent His plan for the family (Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.) and somehow by some miraculous stroke, this sinful child will also grow to love the Lord? Check the statistics in the Bible for how many men of God whose children also followed after the Lord. It is pretty bleak. If you have a child who would love the Lord as much if not more than you, you are in an amazing minority. I'm sure that most of these parents who have successfully passed on their faith will say, it didn't happen by chance. It took work, effort, dedication and sacrifice to win that child's heart.
I love this verse in proverbs 23:
Your son needs to SEE you and your ways. Not "hear of you". See you. This means actual proximity. I have heard of pastors, ministry workers who are so busy in the Lord's work, helping and serving others in need, and their children don't see them. And the child's heart gets stolen by friends and other activities. It is really, really a tragedy. The Devil loves it when that happens.
And stay home moms can be as guilty of neglecting their children as out of the home working moms! Highly possible! Just decide to keep the cleaning and tidying of the house as a bigger priority than sitting with the children. Or spending time online. Or whatever. I am often guilty and need reminders! God help me!
We all need reminders, I need these reminders to myself. In our family, we still have tender little ones who need to come to the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, so the work is far from done!
But I do rejoice to see my older children growing in the Lord. For those with younger children, let me encourage you: the fruits of our labour in our garden is very, very sweet!
The eldest loves to share the gospel with strangers he meets on the bus or anywhere. May God bless his efforts! It is wonderful that now my husband and I have multiplied ourselves, we have the older children who love God and His Word and are able to use it and share it with their younger siblings and counsel and encourage friends and whoever God places their way. We can share the burden, labouring together in prayer and deeds. May God see it fit to use each of our six arrows, sharpened for His use. They have joined our ranks and are in the training to be fellow soldiers of Christ! Truly, it is a great joy.
- 3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.