“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 ESV
How Kids Think
In an effort to be “cool” and to fit in, many children become satisfied with lackluster spiritual growth. They don’t put a high priority on God, His Word, or the Church. As a result, many settle for lukewarm hearts and aimless living instead of pursing closeness with God.
When it comes to spiritual growth, children rarely rise above the level of adult expectations. They reach only as high as we hold the bar. Unfortunately, adults often place the bar far too low, causing kids to believe that their faith is not all that important.
How God Thinks
Though the world belittles selflessness, righteousness, discipline, and humility, God prizes these virtues. Loving the Lord and His commands is the only route to a meaningful life. By fixing their eyes on Jesus and His ways, children can learn to walk toward Him and away from anything that hinders their progress.
Encourage kids to be like Jesus in thought, word, and deed. This starts with repentance and a heart that truly wants to follow the Lord. The Apostle Paul is an excellent model. After Christ had made him clean and whole, Paul not only established high standards throughout his years of service, he also challenged believers to follow his example (Philippians 3:8-14).
One of Allison’s toughest battles as a parent was to “…do everything without grumbling or arguing.” Throughout the day at home, she and her 5-year-old son struggled with negative attitudes. One day, Allison read Philippians 2:14-16 to little Cory and talked about how much she wanted to ‘shine like a star in the sky’ by choosing not to grumble, argue, or complain. So she embarked on a “fast” from complaining and grumbling in everyday conversations for a month.
Allison also chose to scrutinize each thought—to identify inward complaints or temptations. She took negative attitudes to Jesus. Before long, Allison noticed that her heart was shifting. As she was open with Cory about her journey to stop complaining, he started to imitate her. She noticed that Cory chose to say positive, thankful things. And her son began to recognize when he was complaining. At a low point he stopped and asked, “Mom, is that ca-plaining?” Allison would smile and nod, “Yeah, that is, buddy.” Then she invited Cory to apologize to Jesus for complaining. Afterward, they practiced an alternate way to express Cory’s need without whining.
Sometimes it felt like slow going, but the small wins were genuine, not forced. As Allison set a high standard for herself, Cory joined her spiritual journey; he picked up the standard and began to grow!
Running in a competitive race is not something the average person can just do without training, eating right, and preparing. When Darlene began training for a half-marathon, several things became clear—if she ate whatever she wanted, got little sleep, and neglected to stretch before running, she would not be successful.
About three months before the race, Darlene began a more rigorous training schedule. She made a calendar, began to eat and hydrate better, and set weekly goals. As Darlene began training, she was often tempted to cut corners, to get by, and to not finish well. Her ignoble instincts advised, “That’s good enough. Back off your pace. Take it easy.” Noticing this trend, Darlene started to push herself. When she set a goal of 3 miles, she finished 3 miles—even if it meant running at a more modest pace. She refused to let the “take-it-easy monster” dictate her actions!
Soon running became much easier. As reaching each goal became habit, Darlene’s stamina and endurance increased, too. Many times she ran beyond the distance she had planned—feeling like she could keep going and going! Laziness rarely reared its ugly head, and running became more and more enjoyable.
How true this is of our daily choices! When God sets high standards—of loving our neighbors, remaining humble, and being ‘set apart,’ we exercise the fruit of self-control in the power of the Holy Spirit to make excellent choices. Let us run in such a way to finish well (1 Corinthians 9:24).
What You Can Do
It is time to “raise the bar.” Kids have untapped potential to learn practical skills for using God’s Word, relating to people, and living out their faith in the real world. Challenge your child to reach his or her full potential as a Christian.
- Use teachable moments (Deuteronomy 6:1-7): Your son or daughter needs modeling and intentional conversation about using God’s truth to make right choices. Discuss daily situations your child will face. Practice saying “yes” and “no.” Shepherd him or her as new challenges and choices arise.
- Set the bar high (1 Corinthians 9:24-27): Establish expectations based on your child’s ability. Raise or lower those expectations when appropriate.
- Encourage Each Other Daily (Hebrews 3:12-14): Building up one another as a family makes a huge difference! Daily words of encouragement help each family member pursue God’s very best!
- Walk with Jesus (John 15:1-4, 9-10): To make wise choices, keep your heart connected to Jesus! Practice family devotionals together; then when your child reaches the elementary grades, help him or her establish a personal time with Jesus.
Discipleship Begins With Our Children
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