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Running the Relay Race

By Dr. Kieran Beville, Pastor of Lee Valley Bible Church, Ballincollig, Ireland
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Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour will readily acknowledge their dependence on the Lord to raise their children. It is a privilege and a responsibility which I know all Christian parents will take seriously out of love for the Lord and for the child entrusted to their care. The parental role has a practical and spiritual dimension. Christian parents want to do all they can to encourage and support their children. They desire to lead them to faith and maturity in Christ and they need God’s enabling power to fulfil their obligations though His grace.

We all want our children to grow up to be healthy and happy and we hope to have a joyous relationship with them. If we truly love them we will pray that they might come to know and love the Lord. But what is the best approach to instilling true spirituality in our children?

There is a verse in the Bible which addresses this issue: “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children” (Deuteronomy 4:9). Here is a sacred commission entrusted by God to his people. These are words spoken to the community of God’s people; those who had a special relationship with Him. That is the essence of true religion; to be in right relationship with God. This verse is about parents passing on something precious to their children. It is about passing on a body of knowledge. It is about passing on wisdom gained through first-hand experience. It is like passing the baton in a relay race. It is a rather obvious point (but nevertheless needs to be stated clearly) that in order to pass on the baton we must first have it in our possession.

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently

Here is clear advice for parents to be careful about nurturing their own souls as a prerequisite to nurturing their children. In-flight safety manuals instruct passengers to put on their own oxygen masks before they try to assist their children in putting on theirs. This seems to run counter to parental instinct but it is a necessity. Parents need to take care of their own spiritual lives first because children are great observers and imitators. Thus parents need to be a living example by taking an interest in their own spiritual welfare first! The clear instruction to “take care” is pro-active not passive. Fulfilling this obligation will involve prayer and reading the Scriptures. So parents are called to model the message. Taking care is also about being cautious because there are many pitfalls and distractions in the spiritual life. Sometimes a word is better understood by looking at its opposite meaning. The opposite of “careful” is “careless”. This means not to take responsibility, to neglect or be inattentive. So the Christian parent is charged to take care and be diligent about his soul. This is something that needs our constant attention because it will not just happen automatically.

…lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen

We are prone to forget because our memories are defective. The people to whom these words were first spoken often forgot the great things God had done for them. God liberated them from the oppression of Egypt and He provided for them and guided them. Another rather obvious point that needs emphasis is that we cannot forget what we never knew. So this verse speaks of first hand personal encounter with God. This can only come from a living, dynamic relationship with the Lord. What had God’s people seen and experienced? They had known the provision, protection and presence of the Almighty and it was not second-hand, reported information. They were not just detached observers. Rather they were grateful beneficiaries, conscious of God’s grace, mercy and love. They had authentic experience as witnesses to the reality of the power of God. They had experienced deliverance!

…lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life

The heart speaks of the whole personality. It is the throne of our affections, the soul, mind and will. So this truth is to engage us emotionally and intellectually. The idea being conveyed in the original Hebrew is that we ought not to let these things “slip” from our hearts. This suggests that departure from heartfelt appreciation for the Lord (His provision, protection, presence and power) is gradual and hardly noticeable at first. It cautions against letting go by degrees by telling us not to let these things escape our consciousness. In other words don’t allow any lapse in our love for God. Don’t lose these precious things. Don’t let them slide from our grasp. This is a life-long commitment.

Make them known to your children and your children's children

Notice the order of things. First we are to attend to nurturing our own souls and then to pass on this treasured, experiential knowledge of God. The instruction to teach comes after the obligation to learn. We make the truth known by observing it ourselves, being an example and by formal and informal instruction. Thus the charge is to tell our children what they should know and show them how it is applied. This is not just lecturing. Rather it is about giving help and encouragement. This is not indoctrination or brainwashing. Rather it is about sharing wisdom and experience of God because we have a right estimation of its value.

What a privilege it is for us to introduce our children to Jesus. They are our mission-field. The final result is in the Lord’s hands but we must play our part. Children are a gift from God. We only have a loan of them. They are the only possession we can take to heaven with us. We acknowledge our frailty and dependence on the Lord to raise our children. But talking about the Lord, ought to be natural part of our lives and conversation. We are to be so occupied with these things that it’s hard not to mention them. When we are passionate about something it is an unavoidable element of our conversation. I love rugby. People who know me will always discuss the game with me, ask for my opinion, share theirs, analyse the latest game, cite statistics and make predictions. So it is when we are passionate about Jesus. He will be part of our conversation, especially in our homes and with our loved ones. We will not be able to contain ourselves. Our passion will spontaneously overflow because it is always bubbling up to the surface.

The psalmist says “children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. (Psalm 127:3). If God blesses us with grandchildren we should take an active interest in their spiritual education and well being. If we observe the charge of Deuteronomy 4:9 then we can hope in the promise of Isaiah, “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children” (Isaiah 54:13). This is more than being taught about the Lord. Rather it is about being taught by the Lord! If we introduce our children to the Lord then the master Himself will be their teacher. How great it is when a child comes to know the peace of God reigning in his/her heart because he/she is at peace with God through Jesus and walking with Him. It is a great moment when our children start walking. We watch with joy as they take those tentative first steps. So too in the spiritual life it is a joy to see our children commence walking with the Lord. This is expressed by the apostle John who said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).

There are many challenges facing Christian parents in today’s world together with the usual power struggles and attention seeking behaviours of young children and adolescents. It is a parental duty to lead children from dependence to independence. But Christian parents are also called to dedicate themselves to the biblical instruction, discipline and love of their children. They are called to lead their children to faith, wholeness and maturity in Christ. They are called to dedicate their children to the ultimate control and will of God. The church has a vital role to play in nurturing the faith of parents and helping them fulfil their obligations by assisting in the spiritual education of children so that we can pass on the baton of truth to the next generation of believers in this spiritual relay race.



Kieran Beville is pastor of Lee Valley Bible Church (Baptist), Ballincollig, Co. Cork, Ireland.
 

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If we help children we have saved the next generation because even when they are old they will not depart from that way.
11/16/2018 7:00:00 PM - ssengoobareagan, Member of Delve into Jesus since 11/16/2018



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