Will our children walk with Jesus? There are no guarantees. But we are not without hope that they will or the confidence we need to influence them for Jesus. In this post, I want to bolster your confidence in the Lord to use you in the life of your children.
Why we Lack Confidence
There are many reasons we might lack confidence. Here are three you might identify with.
1- Parenting experts stir doubt. Time magazine featured an article titled, “16 Experts for Every Parenting Problem.” Practical insights from “experts” can be helpful. But the overall effect on the average parent is confidence-eroding.
2- We disqualify ourselves because of guilt over past sin. “How can I hold my child to a standard that I couldn’t keep?” Or, guilt over failure to be a good example, yelling at the children or failing to support or engage them can also erode confidence.
3- We struggle to know exactly what to do to disciple our children. Ever heard of paralysis by analysis? We choose to wait to act because we fear making a bad decision or fear doing something wrong and making a mess. So, we do nothing! Or, we might quickly choose a certain course of action, but it does not go well. We don’t work it through. We give up and try something else. This repeating cycle confuses our children and weakens their faith as well as our own concluding that the benefits of being a Christian are out of reach—for us.
Reasons for Confidence
We can accept our inability to do what is needed most. We might be trying to do what God never intended us to do, which is to change our children. We still have an active role but changing the human heart, either to become a Christian or to change how one thinks, speaks, and lives as a Christian, is the Holy Spirit’s domain. He alone actually changes us.
I doubt anyone would argue with that. But let me suggest, our sometimes angry, frustrated, and overbearing ways betray us.
It is easy to get frustrated, especially when a child doesn’t listen to our instruction or correction for the umpteenth time. When we respond in sinful anger, it is a red flag that we might be trying to force change that only God can do. When we do this, we should simply confess it to God and to our children, ask forgiveness where appropriate, and remember the truth: God is at work and he will complete that work in his time and for his glory.
We are ambassadors. Spiritually speaking, we are ambassadors. We are not autocrats, gurus or saviors. We are simply messengers of The King. Our purpose is to share the message of our King and help each other live it. More on the message in a moment. Think about the demeanor of an ambassador. Ambassadors are careful to represent the king in what they say, how they say it, and how they act.
Our message is grace. We do not speak our own message. Honestly, isn’t that often the problem? We commit the cardinal sin for ambassadors: we give our own message that reflects our own dream for how life is supposed to be. We might even have good biblical justification for what we want. Our children need God’s message of grace most of all because it provides the solution to their biggest problem: sin. And this message teaches us how to live the life that we all want: a joyful life where our joy endures through the trials and suffering we face.
God’s message is inherently powerful. Many parents, fathers especially, disqualify themselves because they think that they can’t teach their children as good as their pastor, youth minister, or other gifted teacher. Certainly, we should seek to grow in communication skills, wisdom, and understanding, but God’s will isn’t ultimately captive to what we bemoan as our inadequate communication skills.
Moses felt incompetent to speak to Pharaoh, but this did not disqualify him. Paul, the apostle, who had the theological knowledge and oratorical ability to match wits with the most intelligent of his day, chose instead to speak plainly. He was willing to be thought a fool because he did not want to diminish the power of the gospel message. God uses ordinary sinners to do extraordinary work.
Extreme Confidence From Two Passages
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:10-11).
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Do you see that it is not our words that are powerful but God’s words? His words are the ones that the Holy Spirit uses to transform. We simply must be faithful to encourage with those words and help people apply them. We do not do this perfectly, but we must strive to do this faithfully.
We can be thoughtful, careful, and faithful when we realize that we have received a message of hope that bolsters our confidence because the message is inherently powerful and used by the Holy Spirit to bring transformation.
Hope for Children Who Have Turned Away
My wife and I were at an event where we were talking with two couples who had been through the trial of watching their children stray from Christ. After long periods of time, both of the children had since returned to walk with Jesus. In both cases, they remarked that it was the scripture that their parents had read to them as children that the Holy Spirit brought to their minds to bring them back. God’s word does not return void… even if it takes many years.
If you have lost children, please remember that God’s word that you have sown in your children’s lives is not dead, but alive. You are not without hope. Continue to pray for them and love them.