Building Faith In Children
Last month, we discussed the importance of establishing a foundation upon which children can grow and develop as faithful followers of Jesus. As you continue to build upon this foundation of faith, layer by layer, it is important that children truly understand how important it is to have faith in what they know is true, and to confidently live it out in kingdom-advancing ways for the honor and glory of God. The devil has set himself up against families, marriages and children. He is determined to undermine, damage or destroy relationships and to take the hearts and minds of children for himself. The power of Jesus Christ is our defense: "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:3-8). Within this passage are some of the many attributes that should be placed layer by layer upon the foundation of faith.
The Foundation of Faith
One of the best ways to reinforce and strengthen this foundation so that other important attributes can be added, is to read Hebrews 11 with your family. In this important chapter, your children will discover the faith-building stories of people like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and many others. As you read about them in Hebrews, go to the Old Testament and read their stories again to your children, to help them understand more deeply about faith. Teach them that they are a part of this incredible continuing story of God. We are all a part of God’s story from Genesis to Revelation and He has placed us within it to teach us how to be people of faith just like those who have lived before us.
Help your children to see Jesus within the Scriptures, for He lives there as surely as He lives within us. Teach children that with Jesus living in us, we can live lives of great faith like Moses and David and others. Just as God was with the Israelites in the desert, and in battle, He is also with us in dark times and struggles. As believers celebrated God’s goodness, protection and salvation, we also celebrate all that He has done, is doing and will continue to do! "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible" (Heb. 11:1-3). Teach children to "see" God with eyes of faith. Read Hebrews 13:7-8 together: "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Memorize these wonderful faith passages as a family so that they will remain within your hearts during your day to day walk with Christ.
Adding Layers to the Foundation
All Christian parents want their children to be participants in the divine nature of God through Jesus Christ, and to "escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." Our loving Father has made a way through the instructions given in Second Peter, written above. As we look more closely at each layer, make plans to teach your family that Jesus followers build their lives on a foundation of faith:
• Add to your faith, goodness: There are two important things for children to know about goodness. First, goodness is something we are to be filled with so that it becomes part of our character. We must want to be good because God is good, but because we are human, we will have times when that is difficult, or when we make mistakes. However, if we focus on what is good by following Jesus, His nature will gradually become our own. Children need to recognize that every time they open their mouths to speak, there is potential for good, or for evil. Teach children that they have a choice whenever they speak or act to follow Jesus or the devil. Goodness flows from the overflow of our hearts, and if our hearts are good…goodness will be what comes out. If our hearts have stored up evil things, then the devil has gained a foothold in our hearts: "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45). Talk together about how to replace evil feelings and thoughts with good ones so that whenever God wants to use us for His glory, we’ll be ready!
The second important thing to know about goodness is that the goodness from our hearts naturally overflows onto others by what we do: "…so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone" (Titus 3:8). "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Gal. 6:9-10). Teach your children how to take every opportunity to do something good for others. Goodness stores up more goodness, and children see how the Lord is honored when they add goodness to their faith. Jesus followers have stored up goodness within so that it overflows onto others.
• And to goodness, knowledge: Children learn quickly and easily, and when they add knowledge to a layer of goodness, they will be able to see that some things are not good to have knowledge about. Teach them how to employ the Jesus test, where they ask the question, "Is this the kind of knowledge Jesus wants me to have?" Show them how to ask Him in prayer to guide them in the way they should go when trying to make important decisions that involve knowledge. Carefully teach them how to learn what to avoid, or to know what is evil so that it can be left alone or fought against if necessary. Take your children to the story of Adam and Eve (Gen. 2-3), who made a choice to gain knowledge that God disapproved of and specifically told them to leave alone. Our children will face many temptations in their lives. If they can learn quickly that some knowledge is evil and should be avoided, it will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.
It is also important for children to learn that their knowledge must be wisely used for the sake of God’s kingdom, and not abused for their own selfish purposes: "The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know" (1 Cor. 8:2). There are two main things that all believers must seek to grow in the knowledge of: God…and God’s will. The apostle Paul felt very strongly about this: "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light" (Col. 1:9-12). Parents, this should be a daily prayer to lift up for your children. Another good prayer for knowledge and depth of insight can be found in Philippians 1:9-11. Jesus followers are growing in the knowledge of God and His will.
• And to knowledge, self-control: Self-control is difficult for many children, especially young ones. Our culture is bombarding them with messages that give them permission to think and do things that are counter to the teachings of Jesus. If we are raising our children to be His followers, it is crucial that they learn how to control what they say, do and think. We need to teach them to be always awake, always alert, and how to live in the light instead of in the darkness: "You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled…But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled…" (1 Thes. 5:5-6, 8a). It is important that they know God’s grace "…teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…" (Titus 2:12-13). Self-control can keep our children from being devoured by the enemy: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). Children must always be prepared to follow Jesus in whatever circumstances they find themselves. God’s Word says we are living in the last days. Therefore, He has called His children to pray: "The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray" (1 Pet. 4:7). A lack of self-control can keep us from being able to pray in powerful and effective ways. Teach your children that their prayers can be affected when they do not control their thoughts, their actions and their words. Jesus followers are self-controlled.
•And to self-control, perseverance: Once children have learned to build upon faith with goodness, knowledge and self-control, they will have more determination to stand firm upon the Rock, Christ Jesus. From time to time, as we have already mentioned, there will be persecution and temptation to pull them off of the course and knock them out of the race. Therefore, so that they do not get cut in on (see Gal. 5:7), children must learn to persevere through trials and times when they are tempted to do, say or think wrong things. James 1:2-3 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." If our children learn that the hard times in our lives make us stronger and better able to follow Jesus, they will learn to face them with strength instead of concern and fear. So many people never learn that difficulties are what God uses to grow us into mature believers. It is within our trials that we learn to trust Him more completely. Jesus followers have perseverance.
Next month, we will continue
the process of adding layers to our foundation of faith as we consider
"godliness," "brotherly kindness" and "love." Please pray with faith
that by the power of the Holy Spirit and His teaching, your family will begin to
mature spiritually as they practice these powerful life attributes. Remember,
God has a promise attached to such growth: "For if you possess these
qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and
unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:8).
If you would like to read more articles by Kim Butts, please visit www.harvestprayer.com.