First Mennonite Church
January 11, 2015
Reaching Out to Our Children
Texts: Psalm 78:1-8; 2Timothy 1:1-7
Today, we begin the series “Sharing Our Treasure Sundays.” It was my intention with “Sharing our treasure Sundays” series to preach from those texts that are meaningful to you in one way or another. However, I must admit that I have received very few responses, so far, but am waiting for more to come.
One topic that came out from the responses is the urgent need we have of sharing the gospel with our children. It was made clear that we need to communicate our faith to our children.
Some experts on Christian family matters say that many Christian parents assume their children will only come to faith after they have matured and have experienced the world. These experts say that many parents assume that it is almost necessary for their children to leave the church during their young adult lives. Once these young people begin to have children of their own, they come back to raise their little ones as they were raised. What usually happens is that these parents too, will not see any problem when their young once leave church also as they did when they were young.
Dear parents, we should aim at not losing our children not for a single moment along way. We should aim at making our children know and experience the love of God throughout their whole lives uninterruptedly. We should aim at raising our children without having to go through the pain and spiritual drought natural of the sinful world around us. They do not have to experience brokenness in order to cherish the grace and mercy of God. We should aim that our children never have to carry scars or have to heal the wounds and painful memories as consequence of living without God in the world.
For us parents, we all know how extremely important our children are to us. When our children are young, we hurt when they are physically hurt. When our children are sick, we wish we could bear their suffering instead of seeing them sick. We as parent do whatever it takes to see them to be well. We parents put tremendous effort in providing for our children’s needs and wants because we want only the best for them. We encourage and facilitate means and ways for their emotional, intellectual, physical, and social development. Parents see that their children attend school regularly and to do well academically. We attend parent-teachers meeting. Parents take their children to practice sports and attend games; take them for their music lessons and go to their rehearsals. We teach them good social behaviors with the hope that they become responsible and productive citizens. Yet, how much effort and time do we invest in developing their faith?
We should remember that our children have the capacity of having faith. We need to understand that their faith develops; thus we cannot expect them to have faith as we adults have. As a child’s faith develops, she begins to see God in relational terms; she or he begins to see God as a friend. As children experience the Gospel they are open to the love of God and desire to enter into a relationship with him. But we should also remember that we as parents play a very important role in the development of faith in in our children. Being an example is the best way to teach. How does our life reflect our fear of God to our children? How do we communicate God’s love and holiness? How is the story of God communicated in our daily live? How do we translate God’s forgiveness at a level our children can understand?
It is important for us parents to know that our children begin to understand the character of God by looking at our character. When we tell our children that we can trust in God, they understand it when we are trustworthy. If I promise my daughter that I would read to her “The Little Red Hen” book at night, I will need to read it to her. If I said, “You cannot have ice cream right now, but you can have it after we eat dinner.” Even if she cries and throws a tantrum, I will not give it to her. You see, if I do not fulfill what I promise or if I do not have a firm “yes” or “no,” my child will not understand what trust means. It is simple as that. Therefore, let us remember that us parents are the primary teachers of spirituality to our children.
The best spiritual mentors to children are the children’s parent. But how do we start? I believe the passage we read in Psalm as well in other passages can teach us how. It begins by us parents taking the word of God first. Psalm 78, verse on begins with: My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. Before Psalm 78 give the commands to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord” or “to teach their children [so that] they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds,” the command is for the parents to “hear God’s teaching and words.” That is also the case in Deuteronomy 6. Before God gave the commandment to his people to teach his laws to their children, God first commanded the parents: Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey …O Israel… Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts (Deuteronomy 6:3a, 4-6). Only after God had commanded the adult generation, only after God had commanded the parents to hear and to obey his words that he commanded them to teach their children at home, on the road, in the field and at all times.
Dear parents, many times we believe that faith will come to our children by attending church. That is true only in part. We should remember that our children’s primary spiritual leaders are us their parents. The church family should support the effort we put in teaching our children the love of God. The church should support our effort in modeling the character of God before them. The church is the fellowship in which they will see us practice our faith, but we are their primary teachers. Our children will come to know God by the way we practice that love at home. Our children will learn the meaning of holiness, when they see in us godliness. Our children will learn the meaning of forgiveness when we forgive and ask for forgiveness at home.
There is a truth we parents should also know: when our children grow into adulthood they will make their own decisions and choices. We can only pray and do our best to model a Christ-like life before them. We can pray for them and with them when they are young. We can keep inviting them to give their heart to the Lord and pray that the light of God’s truth be revealed to them.
When I was 10, my parents came to the knowledge of the Lord. From that time on and especially during my teenage years, my mother, especially, constantly told my brother and me of the importance of giving our heart to the Lord. She gave me a new Bible the day I was baptized. My parents took us to church three night every week, plus Sunday school in the morning. I went to prayer meeting, Bible study, and every church activity there was. I remember how excited I was the first time I was asked to select a song for all the congregation to sing. I felt included in what was happening. Today, all 9 children of my parents go to church. Four of us, including myself, are serving as church leaders and two are in worship teams in their local congregation. There is great joy when all the family members serve the Lord.
Psalm 78 reminds us of the importance to teach our children, so the next generation would know the Lord and they in turn would teach their children so that they too put their trust in God and not forget his deeds.
May God bless us with a contagious faith like that of Timothy’s grandmother, Lois and that of his mother Eunice, so that our children and grandchildren would come to faith and know the Lord. Amen!