We give our children many experiences. We ensure they receive an education. We allow them to explore. We give them love. We teach them financial responsibility and we teach them there are consequences for disobedience. And though we take them to church, read them Bible stories, and say bedtime prayers with them, do we do anything to increase their faith - to make God's presence real for them in their lives?
Before David fought Goliath, he told King Saul, "Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine."
These were David's lion and bear stories. David had learned to have faith in God that gave him confidence to face Goliath. Statistics suggest 70% of students who grow up in church drop out during their college years and only half of those who defect ever return. (See Why College Kids Leave the Church by Bob Russell Ministries.) I suggest the main reason is that we have so provided for our children, so protected them from evil, so sheltered them from the world that they never had a reason to depend upon God for anything and thus are easily dissuaded from continuing a walk with Him.
Chuck Swindoll recorded this story about Dr. Donald Barnhouse. "Robert Dick Wilson was one of the most brilliant men of his time. He was a Hebrew professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. One of his graduates was the famous pastor Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse who later on went on to pastor the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Twelve years after graduation Barnhouse went back to Princeotn to preach in the old Miller Chapel. On that occasion, his former professor Dr. Wilson sat on the front row to hear him. Now I don't know what you would all know about this necessarily but to preach in front of the guy or guys who instructed you how to do it can be intimidating. But there he was, Barnhouse preached and afterwards Robert Dick Wilson came up, extended his hand and said to Barnhous, 'If you come back again, I will not come to hear you preach. I only come once. I am glad that you are a big Godder. When my boys come back, I come to see if they are big Godders or little Godders and then I know what their ministry will be.' And Barnhouse asked him to explain. Dr. Wilson said, 'Well some men have a little God and they're always in trouble with him. He can't do any miracles, he can't take care of inspiration and transmission of the scriptures, he doesn't intervene on behalf of his people. They have a little God. I call them little Godders. Then there are those who have a great God. He speaks, it is done. He commands and it stands fast. He knows how to show himself strong on behalf of them that fear him. You Donald have a great God and He will bless your ministry.' And he paused, smiled, said, 'God bless you,' and walked away. So, are you a big Godder or are you a little Godder. Do you have in your mind's eye a little God that you'd like to believe him but he's so small and so insignificant and you're always distressed. Or is he a great big unlimited all-powerful, almighty God?"
Here is an example of the potential of protecting or of teaching faith. It comes from a Facebook post. (The names have been removed).
"Please pray for my 5th grader. He was told by his teacher in class to write what he did over spring break. He wrote that he saw God's Not Dead and when his teacher read it, he approached him and said, 'God is dead.' There is an evil influence in our schools and I pray that my children will stand up and be courageous to share their faith."
There's an old saying, "Never discuss politics and religion in polite company." The same could be said for social media! The responses to this post go a long way to reveal whether those that comment are big Godders, little Goders, or maybe, they do not have God at all.
"I hope you report that to the administration!"
"I hope you are scheduling a meeting with that teacher."
"So proud of (your son). Praying that his faith will grow stronger."
"Praying for that school and your son!"
"5th grade? Really? Report that teacher for sure. Public school teachers are not allowed to talk religion to the kids!!"
"(Your son) will be in my prayers, as will you, as you move forward in addressing this delicate situation. Much prayer for wisdom will be going up for you."
"Wow, I can't believe a teacher actually said that. I don't want any teacher talking religion to my children at school, it's not their place. I am responsible for leading my children on that path."
Now, consider these additional responses:
"In a way, this teacher has done you and (your son) a favor. He has admitted he has a need for Christ, so you know where he stands spiritually. He has demonstrated to Devon that the world is hostile to Christ. He has given (your son) an opportunity to practice what the Bible teaches - that we should pray for those who have authority over us. Though his remarks were out of line and inappropriate in a school setting, perhaps through prayer God will set circumstances in his life for him to realize he has a need for Christ. What is the greater victory ... a teacher gets reported for an inappropriate remark which engenders more hostility toward Christians in his heart and in the hearts of his family or that (your son) - and the rest of us - pray for this teacher and he gets saved? Not only that, but (your son) gets to hear you say that we should pray for his teacher, thus giving you the opportunity to set another Godly example. And, should this teacher say anything to (your son) again, his response can be, 'I'm praying for you.' Those words have had a profound impact on many non-believers.
"I agree he should be prayed for, but as an educator with over 40 years experience, his comments should not be tolerated. Not all children have great parents to help them weather a storm like this."
Can you see the big Godders? Can you spot the little or no Godders? We should seek opportunities to lead our children into becoming big Godders.
In his book, Say It With Love, Howard Hendricks recorded this true story about answered prayer: We had a lovely couple in Dallas a number of years ago. He sold his business at a loss, went into vocational Christian work, and things got rather rough. There were four kids in the family. One night at family worship, Timmy, the youngest boy, said, "Daddy, do you think Jesus would mind if I asked Him for a shirt?" "Well, no, of course not. Let's write that down in our prayer request book, Mother." So she wrote down "shirt for Timmy" and she added "size seven." You can be sure that every day Timmy saw to it that they prayed for the shirt. After several weeks, one Saturday the mother received a telephone call from a clothier in downtown Dallas, a Christian businessman. "I've just finished my July clearance sale and knowing that you have four boys it occurred to me that you might use something we have left. Could you use some boy's shirts?" She said, "What size?" "Size seven." "How many do you have?" she asked hesitantly. He said, "Twelve." Many of us might have taken the shirts, stuffed them in the bureau drawer, and made some casual comment to the child. Not this wise set of parents. That night, as expected, Timmy said, "Don't forget, Mommy, let's pray for the shirt." Mommy said, "We don't have to pray for the shirt, Timmy," "How come?" "The Lord has answered your prayer." "He has?" "Right." So, as previously arranged, brother Tommy goes out and gets one shirt, brings it in, and puts it down on the table. Little Timmy's eyes are like saucers. Tommy goes out and gets another shirt and brings it in. Out—back, out—back, until he piles 12 shirts on the table, and Timmy thinks God is going into the shirt business. But you know, there is a little kid in Dallas today by the name of Timothy who believes there is a God in Heaven interested enough in his needs to provide little boys with shirts. Thank God, He answers our prayers.
Do you have lion and bear stories that you can share with your children? Are you asking God for something seemingly impossible for no other purpose than for Him to glorify His great Name? Are you teaching your children to pray for something more tangible than, "Now I Lay me down to sleep ..."?