Wednesday, 04 May 2011 11:06

Modeling REAL Christianity for Your Children

Written by  Alan Cross
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I stood at the back of the ball field in the pouring rain. It was a particularly cold May morning as a front had come through, bringing rain and a drop in temperatures. My son was playing t-ball and even though it was freezing and rainy that morning, the games had not been called off because there was no lightning – mostly just drizzle and cold wind. I looked around at the kids jumping in puddles and the family members in the stands, cheering for their kids and laughing at the fun in the cold, rainy weather. I thought about how much fun it was to be a kid and was really encouraged by the attitude of the parents and grandparents. No one was “babying” these kids. They had signed up for baseball and they were going to fulfill their commitments, rain or shine. Personally, I would have rather been someplace else, but, hey, you do what you have to do, right? I mean, you sacrifice for your kids to make sure they have the childhood experiences they are supposed to have. It builds character, or something like that.

 


Then, the thought struck me. How many of these parents – any parents – would have their four and five year old kids push through the rain and cold in something related to church or ministry? Some would, no doubt. But many wouldn’t. Church is optional. It isn’t important, like a t-ball game is. We make a commitment to our sports teams and we have to be there no matter what. We make a commitment to our jobs and our family and fulfilling those commitments aren’t optional. But, our spiritual lives and the people of God, for many, does seem to be something that we consider optional. It’s there when we think we need it, but for the rest of the time, the ball field, the lake, the beach, or the football game takes precedence. After all, isn’t the family the most important thing? And, doesn’t God want us to do all these activities with our children? It’s for the kids, right?



There is nothing wrong with t-ball or kids sports or enjoying ourselves. But, when we will sacrifice for these things and not the Lord, I wonder if we aren’t ruining our kids (and ourselves) spiritually? They learn by watching us. They often learn more about what is important to us by how we live and what we will sacrifice for than by what we say. If we sacrifice for our lifestyle, our recreation, our toys, and our jobs, but we don’t sacrifice our lives for the things that God says are eternal, then why should we expect our children to really come to know God? Paul said that he wanted to “know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). We love the resurrection part. But, what about the sufferings? Jesus suffered so that people could be reconciled to God through Him. When we share in His sufferings, we join with Him in His life and ministry in and to a broken world, and that requires sacrifice and, yes, suffering. We sacrifice for what we care about - what we value. Do our children see us sacrificing for and worshiping Christ, or has He just become for us the means to an end of a happy life?



Kids are smart. They pick up on this kind of stuff. When I was kid, I saw my dad suffer for Jesus. He taught us about God, but one of the most impactful lessons I ever learned from him was when I saw him minister to others. Once a month for a couple of hours, my dad would go to a retirement home and would sing, and preach, and pray for healing for the residents there. That might not seem like a big sacrifice, but it was for him. Dad was disabled with a broken down back. He had had multiple surgeries and fusions and they all failed. He spent most of his time in bed or in a chair and would hurt so badly that he could not walk at times. I saw him suffer. So, once a month when he would pull himself together and go to the retirement home to minister, it was a big deal. He would bring his family along. Mom would prepare food and my sister and I would sing for the people there. Then, he would sing and preach. Afterwards, he would be in such horrible pain that he would have to lay on the ground with tears streaming down his face. He would go back to the bed and would not be able to walk for a couple of days until he recovered. He knew what was ahead of him each time, but he did it anyway, out of love for God and a desire for people nearing the end of their life to know Jesus as well. He never got paid a penny and few even know his name. But, I remember. I also remember that he made sure that his family went to church, even when he was in great physical pain. It affects a kid when you look over at your father during a sermon and his face is red and he’s sweating because he’s hurting so bad, but he’s there anyway, worshiping the Lord. He taught me about valuing God above all else.



Years later, when I went through a rebellious stage and wandered from the church, I never doubted that God was real because I had seen Him at work in the life of my mother and father and my grandmother. I saw them suffer and sacrifice for Jesus. It was more than just words for them. I saw them give up things to obey the Lord. It was those memories that helped bring me back to Christ and turn away from the pull of the world. They taught me more lessons through the way they lived in the midst of great trial and suffering than I ever learned from the words that they spoke. The image of my dad in tears from pain after he had given himself to others is still seared on my mind.



We might provide a lot of things for our children, but if we are not giving them a living witness of what it means to truly lay down our lives and follow Christ, then we are not giving them what matters most. If all that we provide is a little bit of church and Jesus while we pursue the American Dream (or our own dreams), then we might be inoculating them against real Christianity and ruin them for the real thing. Do your children see you sacrifice for Christ? Do they see you obey the Lord and actually do what Scripture commands? If they don’t, you might provide for them a fun and interesting childhood, but you might be ruining them spiritually.

 

Alan Cross is pastor of Gateway Baptist Church on Bell Road in Montgomery. Check out his blog at www.downshoredrift.com.
 

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