Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Faith of a Child, Chapter 1- Building a Strong Spiritual Foundation for Your Child

Have you ever been a part of a construction project? Maybe you’ve built a new home or your place of business built a new building. Maybe your church experienced growth to the point of expanding with a new building. The process, while it can be taxing, is a wonderful experience as you see the new building slowly take shape and the original vision is realized.

God has given us the awesome blessing and responsibility of helping Him build the lives of our children (17). God has a specific design for each person that He has created (Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 139:13-17). He provides the blueprint for our children in His instruction book, which is His Word, the Bible.

God expects us to lay a solid foundation just as any good building will require a sturdy groundwork. Hurrying this process we know would be futile and create disaster down the road when the winds and storms hit. Therefore, a solid foundation is critical both to a building and our child’s success.

Have you ever watched a movie and found out later about the props they used to make the background buildings look real? They are a façade of the real thing. Often our children can give the appearance of being Christians because they have learned all the right information, yet they still have not entered into a true relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior (18). We all know in the building process, what is on the inside is vastly more important than the cosmetic appearance on the outside for a building’s durability and strength. In Jesus’ day, He rightly saw that some were “hypocrites” because they gave the appearance of something special, but inside they were not (Matthew 23:27).

In laying a good foundation for your child’s spiritual success, make sure you help your child see the difference between knowing about Jesus and actually following Jesus (18). You not only want your child to know the definition of sin, but it should be your desire for them to be truly repentant of their sin and have that personal-convicting sorrow that will turn them away from themselves to a living faith in the crucified and resurrected Savior. But what will help us provide this solid foundation and the building blocks we need to ensure every opportunity for their saving faith? Here are several “building block” things to think about:

1.      Children Need a Godly Home- Is the presence of God evident in your lives? Children are not fooled by talk, they observe, and they know if you are yielded to the Lord in your home or not. Do you have family devotional time set aside that is dedicated to the Lord with stories from the Bible and important discussion on their level? Create an atmosphere in your home that says God is number one, top priority. Work hard to establish the right heart attitudes and have directed purpose for the things that you choose to do. Through their parent’s example, children will learn trust, patience, forgiveness, unselfishness, dependence, commitment, and love (20). Of course the opposite can also be learned if we as parents are void of the Holy Spirit’s control of our lives.
2.      Meaningful Relationships- It takes time to develop strong friendships, quality time. Build your relationship with your child by spending the necessary time to truly get to know them and relate to them in meaningful ways. This builds trust and compatibility.
3.      Good Habits- When we help children develop good habits, we shape their personality, character, and behavior (22). Children who are submissive to parental authority find it much easier to submit to God’s authority (22). Children need our discipline and boundaries so that they can become good decision makers in their lives. Raising disciplined children means that we as the parents must also live disciplined lives and know our weak spots (Hebrews 12:5-11).
4.      Being Positive about Life and God- Teach your children to be positive, constructive, and victorious (not in a competitive way though). Christians who whine, complain, judge, fight, and criticize are not very attractive to the world and are not appealing to their children either (24).
5.      Godly Role Models and Heroes- Your children look up to you whether you realize it or not. Statistics continually prove that you as parents are the greatest influence in your child’s life. Scary to think about sometimes, isn’t it? We must also be careful to make sure they distinguish between a hero and an idol. A hero is real and endears them to live out Godly principles. An idol on the other hand will take them from faith in the living God and is a fake substitute for the real thing. We as humans are naturally drawn to idols and therefore we must be careful about the influencers of our children. Pay special attention to their media influences in this day and age. Also, remind your children that heroes are not perfect, only Christ is that, and that is why He is ultimately the One we look to for our role model.
6.      Open Communication- As we spend time with our children, make sure that there is meaningful conversations about spiritual things. Encourage your children to talk about God and ask questions. And remember; give them your undivided attention during these times, which will communicate its importance. A good goal to shoot for is 15 minutes a day with your child in uninterrupted conversation to discuss anything they want.

Now, let’s talk about the church for a few moments. The church can be a good partner in building a strong foundation for faith in your child’s life, but it makes a horrible substitute. You as parents are the ones that God has given authority to in the raising of your children and that is to be taken very seriously (Deuteronomy 6:4-8). The church’s role is to assist you in helping your child come to faith in Christ Jesus. If a church is dead and does not care about your children, a careful assessment of that needs to take place and a possible move may need to be in order. Jesus said, "Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Luke 18:16).” You as a parent may even want to get involved in the ministry to children in your church if God is so calling you in that direction.

Art Murphy, The Faith of a Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to Salvation for your Child, Chicago: Moody Press, 2000.

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