Spiritual Training of Children

Let's return to the subject of boys and what they and their sisters need from parents during the developmental years. At the top of the list is an understanding of who God is and what He expects them to do. This teaching must begin very early in childhood. Even at three years of age, a child is capable of learning that the flowers, the sky, the birds, and even the rainbow are gifts from God's hand. He made these wonderful things, just as He created each one of us. The first Scripture our children should learn is, "God is love" (1John 4:8). They should be taught to thank Him before eating their food and to ask for His help when they are hurt or scared.

Moses takes that responsibility a step further in Deuteronomy 6. He tells parents to talk about spiritual matters continually. Reciting the children's poem "Now I Lay Me down to Sleep" at bedtime is not going to get it done. Scripture tells us: "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates" (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

If this passage means anything, it is that we are to give the greatest emphasis to the spiritual development of our children. Nothing even comes close to it in significance. The only way you can be with your precious children in the next life is to introduce them to Jesus Christ and His teachings, hopefully when they are young and impressionable. This is Task Number One in child-rearing.

For those of my readers who need a little help in clarifying those objectives, let me ask you to project yourself momentarily to the end of your days, perhaps many years from now. What will give you the greatest satisfaction as you lie there on your sickbed, thinking about the experiences of a lifetime? Will your heart thrill to the memory of honors, degrees, and professional accolades? Will fame be most highly prized, even if you manage to achieve it? Will you swell with pride over the money you've made, the books you have written, or the buildings and businesses that bear your name? I think not. Temporal successes and accomplishments will not be very gratifying in that moment of destiny. I believe the greatest sense of fulfillment as you prepare to close the final chapter will be in knowing that you lived by a consistent standard of holiness before God and that you invested yourself unselfishly in the lives of your family members and friends. Most important, knowing that you led your children to the Lord and will be with them in eternity will outrank every other achievement. All else will fade into insignificance. If that is a true representation of how you will feel when your days are growing short, why not determine to live according to that value system now, while you still have the opportunity to influence the impressionable kids who look up to you? This may be the most important question you as a mother or father will ever be asked to answer!

Not only is spiritual development of relevance to eternity, it is also critical to the way your children will live out their days on this earth. Specifically, boys need to be well established in their faith in order to understand the meaning of good and evil. They are growing up in a postmodern world in which all ideas are considered equally valid and nothing is really wrong. Wickedness is bad only in the minds of those who think it is bad. People who live by this godless outlook on life are headed for great pain and misery. The Christian worldview, by contrast, teaches that good and evil are determined by the God of the universe and that He has given us an unchanging moral standard by which to live. He also offers forgiveness from sins, which boys (and girls) have good reason to need. Only with this understanding is a child being prepared to face the challenges that lie ahead. Yet most American children receive no spiritual training whatsoever! They are left to make it up as they go along, which leads to the meaningless existence we have discussed.

Book: Bringing Up Boys

By Dr. James Dobson

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