Few things are more relevant to today’s Christian parents than the impact our social environment has on children. In an era of overwhelming secularist influence how can Christian parents preempt worldly temptations and pressures? How can they prepare their children to deflect social expectations that contrast Biblical principles? With what “life-lessons” should parents equip their children? If Jesus walked the Earth today, what life-lessons would He teach today’s youngsters?
Prayer is the primary conduit that connects us to Our Heavenly Father. Can you, as a Christian, imagine life with no prayer? Without it, how would you communicate with God?
I cannot remember a time when I didn’t pray. No matter how tough things became or how low I felt I always had the comfort of prayer from which to draw consolation, inner strength, and to reconnect with God. What a blessing it was to have parents who took the time to teach me to pray at a very young age, and to activate that privilege in my life by encouraging me to pray daily throughout my childhood. Jesus instructs us in Matthew 26:41 to, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation…” Prayer is a life-lesson no youngster should be without: the proactive nemesis to Satan’s authority and influence over our lives, and a potent weapon against his lies.
Young children are eager to learn to pray and their enthusiasm marks a wonderful time in their lives to introduce them to conversations with their Lord. These occasions may begin as semi-private, but will evolve into private rituals as they mature. In Philippians 4:6, we learn to bring all of our requests before God, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” The life-value of instructing a youngster to take his or her cares and concerns to God is an incalculable blessing with abundant life-long dividends. As Christian parents, it is incumbent on us to teach, and encourage, our children to pray. By demonstrating the value of prayer and openly engaging in prayer whenever a need, concern, or opportunity to give praise occurs, we establish a hallmark of faith by which our children engage a life-long blessing.
Without a quality of respect for others, healthy self-esteem is unlikely. If one disrespects others, he likely disrespects himself. The current national epidemic of social disrespect manifests itself as the downward emotional spiral of disregard for others that embraces much of our culture today. If one has little respect for God’s Words and laws, how can he respect himself as a Christian? Respect for others, respect for parents and other authority figures, respect for Christ’s sacrifice and His teachings and respect for those we serve, including our church leaders, establishes bonds and order in our lives and offers us spiritual and emotional balance so integral to achieving peace, productivity and self-esteem. Indeed, respect generally begets respect. In a list of commands to believers to submit themselves to others, Peter instructs us to “show proper respect to everyone.”
(1 Peter 2:17). Later in 3:15, Peter instructs us to always be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have: “But do this with gentleness and respect.” As we teach our children about their responsibility to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is important for them to learn that the manner in which we share will determine how willing unbelievers are to listen to us. Fostering a respectful attitude toward others from an early age will help determine their effectiveness for God as they grow into His will.
Today’s prevailing social-undercurrent of inter-personal greed often squeezes out true abiding respect for others, especially among today’s youth. Contemporary American culture has a way of encouraging one to focus on “self,” while placing the well-being of others in a mental file labeled, “I Don’t Care.” Observe what symbols of respect toward others exists in those around you. Do young men still open and/or hold doors for females? Do your teenagers address each other in respectful tones? Do they address you respectfully? Do they dress and conduct themselves in a manner Jesus would applaud; or is it too much of a social inconvenience for them? On the other hand, one need not resort to legalism to appease God, but simply recognize that peer pressure, subtle commercial suggestion and a hardened secular society will attempt to wrest your children from their spiritual womb and tempt them to relinquish their Christian values. Nothing says “I’m Christian-lite” like a total disregard for the feelings and concerns of others and the marginalization of God’s precepts. Conversely, to acknowledge you admire someone other than self and that you are willing to take some of your moments and give them to another is a foundation for Godly respect and, ultimately, a more fulfilling life.
One of the toughest things to do is to always be honest. After all, how was Aunt Clara’s chicken mousse? Were you really feeling “okay” after your co-worker referred to you as “incompetent,” or would terms like “hurt” and “bewilderment” better describe your response? Did you really lose ten pounds, or six? Yes, those are small “contrasts to reality” of the common variety of which most of us are guilty of indulging, but by example parents establish moral-norms in their youngsters. Indeed, to be honest with oneself and those around you is a life-lesson no child should be without.
God’s Word tells us in Proverbs 12:22, “The Lord detests lying lips; but he delights in men who are truthful.” Children need to develop a desire to please God. This verse tells us He delights in us when we are honest. Honesty is a quality of character that serves one throughout life and helps establish one’s outward perception of reliability, emotional security and spiritual stateliness. Honesty is a characteristic that allows others to respect you and honor you as a brother or sister in Christ.
Willingness to work and a belief that hard work is a basis for success is important to the mental structure of youngsters. Chores with rewards (like a modest allowance within the family budget) teach a child the relationship between work and money: simple economics that instill a sense of value on goods and services. Additionally, sunshine and outdoor play is good for Junior and a belief in earned rewards is essential to achieving success, no matter what the vocation. Would Jesus teach His children to work, or would lying around playing games and watching television day in and day out be good enough? However, is it really necessary to ban all video games and other time wasters? Probably not. Moderation is the key to balance and there’s plenty of time for fun, after the chores are done.
With the advent of techno-gadgetry, such as video games and personal computers, today’s children spend a lot of time in a mind-numbed state of being. Is it any wonder that the U.S. lags behind other developed nations in educating our children? Hand-held “attention hogs” compete for individual time resources as well as parent’s opportunities to re-direct their children’s mindsets. Such obsessive distractions also bleed off and deflect influences that might otherwise encourage children to become acquainted with work. “Junior” is too busy playing video games to mow the lawn so Mommy hires a lawn service company to do it for her…or for him. Examine God’s Word on this subject. 2 Thessalonians 3:10b says, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” Proverbs 6:6 tells us, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” Willingness to work and do our best at whatever job given to us is a vital part of wise living; and a valuable lesson to teach our children.
Mathew 6:33 reads: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you.” Dependence on God for one’s daily needs is paramount to achieving one of life’s most elusive conquests: pure, undiluted, undefiled peace. The “world” often seeks spiritual respite by manipulating their carnal lusts, though the pseudo-peace they achieve is of the watered-down, temporal variety requiring continuous renewal. Through their lust for money, flesh, drugs, and status, they finance their perceived joys at the expense of their spirit. I believe true peace is difficult to attain, perhaps a casualty of original sin, and/or the absence of the Holy Spirit. Deep, meaningful peace is accomplished only through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Wickedry that results in a false sense of joy and peace is not worth the emotional and spiritual casualties it breeds…and that is a life-lesson worth learning.
One of the primary components of attaining peace, building Christian character and garnering the Godly esteem of our righteous contemporaries is: forgiveness. It is our responsibility, as parents, to teach our children of the three areas of forgiveness: (1) God’s amazing forgiveness of our sins as described in Psalm 103:11-12; (2). Our cleansing and restoration of fellowship with God when we confess our sins, as described in 1 John 1:9; and (3). Our forgiveness of those who we feel have wronged us in some way, as illustrated in Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” To truly lay your wounded heart upon the altar of vulnerability is to be Christ-like: to be a Christian. What if your sister ran off with your husband? What if a maniac killed your only child? Can you still forgive? What would Jesus teach His children to do in such cases? Is His blood able to wash away these sins? Or is it not quite good enough? Certainly, it is good enough and such grievous sins are easily covered by His blood. Besides, forgiveness is as much a gift for the bearer of the grief as it is for the benefit of the transgressor. True lasting peace is not possible without the mastery of its companion: forgiveness, or without its sister, faith.
Fear is diminished by faith, and faith is achieved by overcoming fear. It’s a mutual reciprocity. By knowing your Heavenly Father is attentive to your needs and that He will faithfully answer your prayers (even attending to needs you are unable to identify, or discern), one’s faith is assured and re-assured until it’s a part of your life. Only God knows how many times He spared us misery by protecting us or our loved ones when catastrophe lurked nearby. When we, as parents, openly model our faith that God cares about our every need, we leave a lasting legacy of hope for our children.
God’s Word tells us “Consequently faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) This verse illustrates how we can increase faith, both for ourselves and for our children. As children hear God’s Word from their parents, church leaders, and from reading the Bible themself, their faith will grow and a foundation established where the other life skills of prayer, respect, honesty, willingness to work, dependence on God, and forgiveness will come more naturally. What a blessing it is for children to have Godly Christian parents and Christian mentors that share the value of these life-lessons: mentors who nurture their hearts for Christ and equip them with the armor they need to deflect a persistent adversary who exists to lead them down the path of spiritual destruction.