“Fight for your families, your sons and your daughters…” (Nehemiah 4:14).
In the Bible, cities were often built on hills for strategic purposes so residents could see any potential threat that approached. Thick walls with guards atop them surrounded the cities, offering further protection.
God called Nehemiah to lead the people of Israel in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. As they went about this task, he warned them to guard against opposing forces that sought to destroy their city and harm their families.
Today’s parents feel the same sense of urgency to protect their kids, but from far more dangerous and unseen forces. Temptations come from all sides. We know that the enemy’s mission is to keep our children from embracing Christ (John 10:10).
A quick glance at the news of the day reveals multiple ways that society seeks to undermine biblical teachings. Adolescence is a critical time period for establishing these foundations. Studies show that two-thirds of Christians come to faith before the age of 18. In fact, 43% accept Christ before the age of 12.
Clearly, dads and moms must give priority to their kids’ spiritual upbringing. How can parents establish spiritual walls to protect their faith?
LIFT UP FAMILIES IN PRAYER
Prayer is a powerful weapon God has given us. When facing threats, the Israelites first prayed, believing God was able to protect them (Nehemiah 4:9).
Scripture teaches that the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective (James 5:16). Through prayer, Christians fight the enemy with supernatural power (2 Corinthians 10:4).
Here are some specific ways we can pray for our children:
- Pray that our children will love and serve the Lord (Proverbs 22:6).
- Pray that the Lord will give our kids a love for His word and desire to commit it to their hearts and minds (Psalm 119:105).
- Pray the Lord would protect their minds from doubt (Ephesians 6:16).
- Ask God to fill them with His Holy Spirit and overshadow them with His presence (Ephesians 5:18; Luke 1:35).
- Pray they will resist temptation through the power of the Spirit (James 4:7).
- Ask God to give them wisdom as they seek direction for their lives (James 1:5).
Even if you find yourself discouraged because your child is not following the Lord, don’t give up. Like the Parable of the Prodigal Son who repented, we know God is able to get their attention and bring them back to the faith. Nothing is too hard for the Lord (Jeremiah 37:27).
LIVE THE FAITH
A Barna Group study showed that children rarely embrace spiritual principles and practices that their parents fail to demonstrate in lifestyle. It is highly likely that my kids will not love Jesus any more than I do. They won’t study their Bible more than I do, or participate in the church or ministries more than me. I am the example they observe.
If a son, daughter, or grandchild is under your influence, your faith is on display. They’re watching how you live your life, what you say and do each day. Most behaviors are caught, not taught. As the apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Does my life reflect my faith? Our children are looking to us. Are we leading them to church, demonstrating the importance of worshipping God with other believers, and studying His Word regularly?
What about how I live? Is the mom or dad our children see at church the same person they see at home? Am I honest in even the smallest areas of my life? Are my words and actions pure and helpful, rather than hurtful?
For the sake of our families, we must have a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ.
LEADING FAMILIES TO JESUS
The ancient Israelites were instructed to love God and teach His word to their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).
When it comes to guarding our families, laziness is not an option. An upset parent once came to the church youth pastor, accusing him of failing at his task, due to the wayward direction of the child. The youth pastor wisely reminded the father that he only spent several hours each week with the youth, but the parent resided in the same home.
We are grateful for the ministries of the church and should find a congregation with strong discipleship programs. However, it is still a parent’s responsibility to instruct his or her kids in the Lord.
We need to read the Bible and pray with our children regularly, helping them learn God’s Word and how to apply it to their lives. Their classes at church will reinforce what they’re taught at home.
Church history records times where the Church was weak, but faith continued because families worshipped together in their homes. This may seem overwhelming. Parents may say, “I don’t know what to do” or “I don’t have the training.”
You can lead your family in a devotion. Find a time that works for your family. Then, read a passage from the Bible or ask your kids to read. For younger children, invest in a good children’s Bible. Ask a couple of questions and pray together. You may want to work Scripture memorization into the routine, helping each other hide God’s Word in your hearts. The more we do it, the easier it will become.
And, if your child or teen asks a question you don’t have an answer to, don’t be ashamed to say, “I don’t know. That’s great question. Could you let me get back to you?” Then, study and come back with a reply.
If we are willing to spend countless hours each week taxiing our kids to ballet and piano lessons, and football and soccer games, surely we can give priority to spending a few minutes praying and reading the Bible together. Because, far above achieving a scholarship or starring role, my greatest concern should be for my child’s soul.
LEAN ON THE LORD
The people of Nehemiah’s day experienced the stress of accomplishing a difficult task while protecting their families. Nehemiah reminded them:
“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome…” (Nehemiah 4:14).
Giving priority to our child’s spiritual needs in a world that opposes our cause is no easy task. But we don’t face it alone. We serve a powerful God who stands ready to help us. The Gospel of John reminds us that God has given us His Holy Spirit (John 14:26). He will teach us and give us creative ways to communicate the story of Jesus to our families.
The same power that raised Jesus from the dead resides in us (Romans 8:11). The Spirit will guide us as we pray for our kids, empower us to live the faith in front of them, and enable us to lead them in discipleship.
Keith Surface is a happily married father of four teenagers who resides in Ozark, Missouri.