How do I witness to my children?
By Dr. Charles Stanley
As a pastor, I am thrilled to watch parents bring little ones up the aisle to tell me they have received Jesus and want to be baptized. They come wide-eyed and trusting. We don’t have to wade through years of garbage that has accumulated in their lives. All we do is lead them to Jesus. They are so trusting that to them, it is the most natural thing in the world. Think of the years of heartache missed because they met Him as little children!
The best people to lead children to Christ are their parents. And the best time to begin handing down your faith to children is when they are young and in your home. Now, you cannot force faith upon them. Parents cannot make children believe what they believe, but explanation can lead to understanding.
When my children were still small, I tried to figure out how to hand down my faith to them. After a lot of thought and prayer, I summarized my approach in six words. As you read them, I encourage you to think of ways you can apply these ideas in the life of your family.
First of all, we hand down our faith by principle. By that I mean instructing our children in the ways of God. As you go about your daily routine, the teachings of the Word should direct your thought patterns and govern your actions. Try to weave the Word of God into your conversation about whatever subject happens to surface. Follow the advice of Scripture to talk about the things of God when you are seated, when you stand, when you walk, when you arise, and when you lie down (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). You may protest, “I just don’t know how to start.” Here is the way: find out what your children are interested in, and then talk about those things in light of God’s truth. Show how it applies to real life situations.
Second, we hand down our faith by pattern. Children probably learn more by watching what we do than by listening to what we say. What patterns are your children picking up from you? Have they heard you call their names out to God as you pray for them? Have you asked them to join you in prayer as you sought God’s guidance for a problem? We are not going to be perfect; our loved ones will see our successes and our failures. But you must try to provide the best pattern for your children because it will have a profound effect on them. There is nothing like a mother and a father living out biblical principles.
Third, we hand down our faith by persistence. We pass it on by doing what needs to be done whether or not it is convenient. Live out the pattern over and over. Think about how your behavior lines up with the Scriptural principles you have taught them. Are there inconsistencies? If we daily exemplify principles in keeping with God’s Word, we impress upon our children what they will carry into adulthood.
Fourth, we hand down our faith by participation. Something positive happens when we get involved in what concerns or interests our children. We establish a caring relationship which makes communication and instruction easier. Be open enough to listen to their viewpoints, even when you disagree with them. Establish an atmosphere that is not threatening but is conducive to the sharing of ideas. We can only hand down our faith to children who are receptive to it.
The fifth way is the best motivation for learning––praise. We all like and appreciate praise. We make time to tell our children what they have done wrong, but focusing on what they have done right may be even more important. Praise them for even the smallest things. If you think they could improve in some area, don’t shame them into doing better. Ask if they need help and offer to help them. Rather than telling them what to do, go together to the Word of God to see what He has to say about a situation. When you see them applying what they have learned, praise them.
The last idea is prayer (though ideally prayer should be a part of all six ideas). God answers the prayers of godly parents who want to raise godly children. Parents who spend time praying for and with their children demonstrate the importance of prayer. Jesus set the example by praying in all kinds of situations, and we can do no less as examples for our children.
Do you have a faith that is worth handing down? Think about the example you set and the legacy you are leaving. Have you loved God and practiced the principles of Scripture? Have you have loved your children and listened to them? Then you will leave them a faith to sustain them through every difficulty, every heartache, and every trial of life.
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