First Things @ First
It is no secret that raising children is difficult today. While it has never been easy, the economic pressure that often stems from the unreasonable standard to have what everyone has or do what everyone does has made the twenty-five-year investment period of parenting increasingly expensive and more difficult. However, I believe it is possible to raise children in an environment of godliness in a culture where access to so much ungodliness exists. Not easy, but worthwhile! To do so parents must implement some basic biblical practices that will release the oversight of God's work in your life and the lives of those you love dearly.
It has been correctly said that God's purpose for parenting is not more financial support from the government but rather spiritual support and guidance that better enables the child to grow up as they grow older. (And there is a difference) When these principles are not embraced consistently on the part of the parent, the odds grow exponentially that the child will somehow fall through the cracks in matters that truly matter for a stable home life and more positive, productive social structure. God's primary purpose in parenting is for each of your children to become like Christ. The Old Testament prophet, Malachi, wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit four-hundred years before the birth of Christ, "Did not He (God) make them (husband & wife) one,...and why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore, take heed in your spirit, let none of you deal wrongly or with treacherous intent with the wife of your youth (Malachi 2:15 NKJV). God's word is clear. His desire for children is that each grow up to be just like Christ. If you are a parent, you know that does not just happen. It requires hours, days, weeks, months and years of consistent living and language that helps shape your children to be conformed to the example of Jesus. The good news is that as they grow up in His image, your children will then raise their children (your grandchildren) in the same manner.
If you are struggling with parenting, (and who hasn't), God has a word for you that reveals a way through the stress and sometimes distress of raising children in a manner that pleases Him. Following His Word consistently will also aid in the parents being praised when their adult children begin to see their own parents as the wisest, most gracious people on earth. It is amazing how much can change in one child's perspective in twenty or so years as they grow older and begin to grow up! Happened to me. I am sure it has happened to others, as well.
Whether you are at the point of breaking or maybe breaking something, these basic principles will help set a pattern for parenting that includes and releases God's much needed assistance in the practice of parenting.
1. Pray for your children.
Sounds easy but this practice can be difficult to remain consistent in. Our prayers for our children are not structured in a way that tells God what we want Him to do for our children. This basic principle practice is directed at God adjusting our life in such a way that as parents, we become the proper instrument for shaping the children that He has brought into our lives. (you must not overlook that basic truth) This does not mean that as a praying parent you will never experience disappointment in your children or distress over your children. However, this consistent approach to God will better prepare you to help your children deal more constructively with the disappointment and distress they are surely to face in their lives. In difficult periods of parenting, someone still must be the parent. That will not make you a popular parent, but it will always be best when engaged under the oversight of God through prayer.
2. Converse with your children often about God and His activity in life.
God did not give any of us children for preachers, pastors, teachers, counselors, or coaches to raise. God gave you and me children and the responsibility of parenting that comes with it. That will always involve sacrifice of want and at times even surrender of what you and I think we need. At times parenting can be overwhelming. Engaging your children with God's enduring perspective in mind changes the conversation entirely and likely eternally. Example being, instead of asking your children what they would like to be when they grow up, ask them, 'what do think God wants you to do when you grow up?' Shaping the conversation this way consistently shifts the focus toward God's purpose instead of yours or even your child's. This helps shape them in placing God and His will at the center of their life.
3. Involve yourself with your children in ministry opportunities as they grow older.
This may involve summer bible school, mission trips or camps where you are seen serving them and/or serving alongside them as they grow older. This is the polar opposite of the mind-set of sending the kids to camp (every camp you can find through the summer months) to 'get away' or 'put some space' between you and them. With that said, as parents, we all understand the need for periodic breaks where others come alongside to help us with much needed timely support. There must be times when we 'come apart' from the routine or we will surely come apart at the seams. Jesus did that periodically in His earthly ministry when He would get away to the mountains and spend time with His Father in prayer. That practice sustained Him in His earthly assignments of ministry. However, as Jesus' disciples saw Him at work, your children need to see you at work, in His work if you hope to see them become more like Christ with the passing of time. Your children may never be directly involved in vocational ministry or missions or church work but as Christian businessmen, women executives, or agricultural specialist, each will carry with them much needed godly influence into their strategic circles of influence. And as their parent, you will have had a part in their spiritual development because you served with them and didn't just send them away for the summer.
These are not the only basic principles available to parents from God's word. These are just a good place to start and let God direct you accordingly.
It has been said that 'children develop more by what is caught than what is taught.' Which do your children see more consistently, a parent who prays for their children or a parent who preys on their children by trying to steer them in a way they were never designed by God to go. Only one of those gets them to the goal of becoming like Christ. Only one gets you as a parent to the place of being honored by your children and rewarded by God for your enduring work. This kind of parent is not perfect by any means, but this parent type is one that pours their heart and soul into life's greatest investment, their children.
The future of your family depends largely on how much or little you are depending on God personally, every day. Not only does this matter for your family, it matters for the future of this nation, as well.
So, in your on-going relationships with your children, incorporate your relationship with Jesus often in your dialogue and in your decisions that concern them. Let them see Jesus at work in your heart through the work of your hands and the weight in your words. That will better prepare those who come behind you to experience the blessing of being with God and being conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus.
If you do not have a personal on-going relationship with Jesus, then all this must begin with allowing Him to establish that first in your heart by faith in the finished work of Christ's redemption for your sin and your soul. Little of the above mentioned will matter much until that transforming work of God's grace happens in you.
When you think about it, prayer that unleashes the power of God in parent's heart is really the only hope we have of seeing our children and grandchildren enjoy the freedoms and fulfillment that we have and too often take for granted.
God's blessings on godly parents who make it their aim to depend on God's Word in developing godly children! If you know Jesus, remember you are not in this alone and you are never alone! Christ is always with you in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Church of the Lord Jesus must be, as well when we need someone with flesh on to lean on.
God's best to all in the enduring work of parenting and grandparenting!