More Than Once

When Cara and I are teaching or correcting one of our three precious girls, we have found that our girls respond the first time to our guidance. The next time the situation comes around, our girls never make the same mistake again. Instead, they display wisdom beyond their years and are a shining example to all 6, 4, and 2-year olds everywhere. Think I’m lying? You’re right.

If you have had the above experience, please contact me. I have a sneaking suspicion that no one reading this has ever had that response from a child. You know as well as I that teaching our children takes lots of time, repeats and do-overs. At times, our desire to “train up” our children in the Lord feels more like a slow, rhythmic beating of a head against a wall. Yet, God calls us to continue on.

In Deuteronomy 6, God outlines His plan for multi-generational faithfulness. In verse 7, there is an important phrase (one word in the Hebrew) that we need to keep in mind as parents. Concerning His commands, God says, “You shall teach them diligently to your children…” (ESV, emphasis mine). This Hebrew word (V’shinantam) is used in terms of sharpening a sword or a constant, purposeful action. It can’t be a one-time thing. Jeremiah wrote that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). As such, our natural bent is to sin. The natural response of our children is to do it their own way. Even if we profess faith in Christ, we still need our hearts trained to tune in to God’s voice. We still need our minds taught to focus on Christ (for more on this, see Romans 8).

So, if it takes more than once for our children to learn, then why do we approach faith and spirituality with a “one-time-will-do-it” method? Why do we think that one hour in Sunday School each week will take care of teaching the minds of our children? Why do we think that one hour in corporate worship each week will train their hearts to follow God? Don’t think we approach our faith that way? OK. When was the last time you asked your child what they learned in Sunday School or Children’s Church? When was the last time you shared with your children what you had learned in your personal study time?

Let’s finish reading Deuteronomy 6:7. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” God’s plan isn’t for the local church to serve and fill all our spiritual needs. God’s plan is the church to be a support for families who talk, reinforce, explain, and grow together in their walk with Christ. The teachable moments are at every time, in every place and during every activity.

It’s not always easy to be consistent in passing on the faith to others – even our children. Perhaps it’s not a matter of methodology as much as it is a matter of the heart. The context of this passage includes the warnings of Deuteronomy 4:9. “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.” After all, how can we teach our children diligently if we aren’t first diligent with our own souls? One hour on Sunday isn’t enough for us either.

Growing in our faith takes a lot of time, repeats, and do-overs. It takes consistency and perseverance. The more diligent we are with our souls, the better our children will understand that their faith is essential and spiritual growth requires them to be diligent. The more we discuss the truths of God’s Word with them, the “sharper” they’ll be in responding to life with biblical wisdom. Let’s keep in mind that, as in every other aspect of growth in life, passing on our faith needs to happen more than once.

{Looking for a place to start? Check out Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade.}

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