Ephesians 6:4b (NASB) "Bring your children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."
In junior high I participated in track and field. Sprints and relay were my favorite. I earned a position on our 4 X 100 relay as the anchor, the final sprinter to finish out the race. Our coach insisted we practice passing the baton over and over. If we dropped it we were disqualified. If we fumbled it, our time reflected it. As a relay team, running the race was only half of our goal. Passing the baton completed it.
Much like a relay, passing the baton can be likened to passing on our faith, handing it off or sharing it with others. When I think of my team I think of my husband and boys. As a parent, my first priority is to pass my faith onto my children. As I run this race my goal certainly is to make it to the finish line, but not without passing the baton to my boys.
We must consider the legacy we are leaving our children. Hopefully it is one of faith rather than futility. Establishing a solid foundation of biblical understanding and spiritual maturity in our kids cannot be underestimated. Transferring our faith to the next generation requires being intentional and accepting our responsibility as Christian parents. Passing the baton of faith to our children should be top priority.
Raising up a godly heritage to follow is vital. In order to do this we acknowledge the necessity of evaluating our own spiritual health. We must be healthy enough ourselves in order for our faith to live in the next generation, even after we are gone. Our spiritual lives must be deep enough, wide enough, and nourished enough to leave an inheritance of spiritual vitality to our children. We admit we cannot pass on to our children what we do not possess ourselves.
A recent study in the book of Ephesians has spurred me on in the training of our boys. In the beginning of chapter 6 Paul delivers wisdom to children and parents. Verse four specifically reveals how we leave a godly legacy to the next generation. In eleven simple words Paul says, "Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (NASB)
I have read this verse many times without comprehending the complete context of Paul's intent. It wasn't until I unpacked the meaning of two words that I fully understood its significance. The Greek word for "bring" (ektrepho) means to nourish up to maturity, to nurture. The Greek translation for "discipline" (paideia) means the whole training and education of children, a cultivation of their minds and morals.
These words instruct us that the environment in which we bring up our children needs to be one that is teaching and training in righteousness. We are to nourish them into biblical maturity and cultivate their mind and morals in truth; to nurture them in the discipline of the Lord. It sounds like our lives need to be saturated by the things of God and His Word in order for this kind of intentional instruction to take place in our homes.
This incredible responsibility and privilege should change the way we live as parents. Teaching our children Biblical truths establishes and strengthens the foundation on which we build upon. This foundation equips our children to look at life through a Biblical worldview. Our hope is to show them that the Bible is more than just a book. It is intended to be lived out.
Just last night my six-year old son asked "How do I hide God's Word in my heart? Do I cut open my heart with a knife and put it in there?", as he jabs a fist to his chest. "Do I swallow it?", as he opened wide his mouth to see how much of his little pocket Bible he could fit in. This gave us a good opportunity to discuss the importance of memorizing scripture and explaining the spiritual meaning beyond his literal mindset.
Here are some other ways to instill our faith in our children's lives:
- Reading devotions together and asking open ended questions like, "What can we learn from this Bible story?" Or, "How can we apply this to our lives this week?" Reading God's Word together reinforces and directs our children's attention to the Bible, the authority by which we make decisions and conduct our lives.
- Praying with our children teaches them how to communicate with God. Communication is important in any relationship. Praying for our children reveals our reliance upon God to help us raise them in Truth and righteousness.
- Looking for teachable moments each day also helps us transmit our faith as we shed godly wisdom on situations.
Recently, our eight-year-old came to me sharing his struggle of having negative and bad thoughts. He couldn't get them out of his mind. We prayed together, listened to praise music, read Scripture. It helped him, but a few days later he came to me again.
The Lord nudged me not to take this lightly. In addition to the above, I printed out Ephesians 6:10-18. The next four weeks he diligently memorized this passage. Teaching him that God's armor will help him defeat the attacks of the enemy will help him learn how to be proactive the next time it happens. He came to me last week and told me with confidence, "It's working mom. Memorizing Scripture helps me defeat the enemy."
Being a Christian parent is the most exhausting and laborious blessing there is. I'm still learning through trial and error. Sometimes I miss teachable moments. There have been days I haven't made the time to pray for our children and have even allowed my impatience to rush through devotions with them. The Lord humbles me often to remind me of the eternal investment I am making in them and the effort required on my part. It pushes me to strengthen my own foundation in order to strengthen theirs so they can finish the race themselves.
Passing the baton of faith to the next generation requires being intentional and accepting our responsibility as Christian parents. We cannot neglect to leave the next generation without His Truth. They in turn pass the baton to those after them. May we all strive to finish the race without dropping the baton. Pass it on.
Ask the Holy Spirit everyday to give you wisdom as you raise your children in the Lord. Rely on Him to embrace each day as an opportunity to teach them His Word. Look for teachable moments.
Commit to read God's Word and pray together regularly with your children. If you don't have an age appropriate devotion book, check your nearest Christian bookstore or shop online for one.
Evaluate your spiritual health. Be committed to make necessary adjustments for the sake of your children.
What prevents you from engaging in intentional conversation and instruction with your children regarding the Lord and His Word?
Do you fully understand the responsibility given to Christian parents? How does your life reflect it?
Heart Changing Word:
Deuteronomy 6:5-9 (NIV) "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates."
Judges 2:10 & 12 "After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers."
2 Timothy 3:14-15 "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
3 John 4 "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."
Copyright 2010 by Hester Christensen. All rights reserved.