At a recent Christian conference, I asked a friend what topic he might wish me to address in “The Weaver’s Hand” blog. After thinking on it, he told me he would like to know more about how parents could encourage their adult children to stay strong in their faith and live Godly lives. It always amazes me how God works. You see, that is a topic that is of major concern to my wife and me as well.
Note: This is a long article, but we pray it blesses you and your children.
The Challenges For Our Adult Children
One of the most difficult issues that we as Christian parents face is the transition of our children into adulthood. We look out at the landscape of salacious entertainment, one night stands, secularism, sexual identity crises, abortion, drugs, pornography, racism, violence, terrorism, political divisiveness, etc. and every bit of it is a worry. We are to be anxious for nothing, according to the word of God. Yet how will our children be able to navigate through such a terrain littered with such dangers? What can we do to encourage our children to make healthy, moral decisions, and maintain their faith?
In the now distant past, parents were concerned about their children finding a wonderful spouse or entering a career path that would allow them the financial means to buy a home and raise a family. Those are obviously still concerns but are now overshadowed by the sinister elements that can leave children not just single or poor but living on the streets or spending years in prison. Pornography and drugs are just two of many vices that are addictive. They can and do wreck marriages and careers, causing our adult children to struggle for years.
We see young adults walking away from belief in God, from the church. As such, their eternal lives are now at risk also. Religious pluralism and the rampant prosperity gospel threaten to lead them away from holding on to truth and from a life devoted to Jesus Christ. Cultural views of Christians as intolerant for our belief in the word of God in regards to sexuality and as the way to salvation through Jesus are putting intense pressures on us. How do parents help our adult children with these issues? What can we do?
The Power of Prayer
One obvious answer is prayer. It is only a part of the answer, but a key part. If we, as parents, let our fears cause us to try to seek solutions on our own, without turning to the One who is able to accomplish all things, we risk much. Placing trust in God through a strong, personal relationship with Him is always the best starting point.
Let’s look at just one of many examples in the Bible and then relate that to the plight of parents in today’s culture. In the Book of Acts, Chapter 12, there is an incredible story which illustrates not only the power of prayer but our view of God, which is often much too small. Let’s look at verse 5 –
“So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.”
Peter at the Gate
Peter, a beloved Apostle, a leader in the early Christian church, had been arrested by Herod who had previously ordered James executed. Peter was to be put through a public trial and then would be executed after Passover. We see from Acts Chapter 12 – verse 5 and following verses – that fervent prayers were being made by a small group of believers. If you had been there, in a modest house with candles burning and concerned voices all around you, what prayers might you have offered? Perhaps you would have asked God to give Peter strength to hold onto his faith even unto the moment of his execution. You might have asked that others at the trial would see Peter’s faith and come to believe in Christ as a result. You might have been thanking God for the impact that Peter had in building up your own faith. You might have prayed that Peter would suffer little and that his dignity would remain intact. Poor Peter!
Suddenly, you hear a knock on the door of the gate to the house. All around you stop praying and look up curiously. A house servant, Rhoda, gets up and goes to the door as you and others exchange looks. You close your eyes once more in prayer. You are startled out of prayer once again, hearing Rhoda’s excited voice as she comes hurriedly back into the room. We read what happened in verse 14:
When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate.
Peter was at the gate! Rhoda was so excited to hear and recognize Peter’s voice that she failed to let him in. You and the others had all been praying for him, and he was here!
If you have never read this portion of Scripture you might think the following would happen: All those in the house excitedly raised their voices and encouraged Rhoda to go let Peter in at once, as they gave amazed thanks to God for answering their prayers in such a wondrous way!
Yet, that’s not what happened. Not at all. Verse 15 tells us:
They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, “It is his angel.”
You Are Out of Your Mind!
I’m uncertain that God wants us to see the humor in this example but I can’t help but laugh every time I read this passage. The believers had gathered to pray for Peter. Yet when Rhoda was standing there telling them that Peter was at the gate, they said she was crazy. How much faith did they really have in God? Did they believe that God might strengthen Peter in some way, but could not ever imagine Him actually freeing Peter from prison supernaturally? For that is exactly what God had done. Read the entire chapter which details an angel of the Lord appearing in Peter’s cell as he was surrounded with guards and about the chains which fell off his arms.
When we pray for our adult child, how big are our prayers? Do we really expect that God will allow our child to steer clear of the influence of a society gone mad with sexual perversions and the addiction of drugs? Will He do that if we fervently pray, as the small group of believers did for Peter? When our sons or daughters make wise decisions and raise healthy families, will we believe that God answered our prayers with thanksgiving in our hearts?
May Your Will Be Done
It would be a disservice to not state here that God’s will is always done. Our will cannot be placed as an expectation upon God. That’s a hard thing for us to accept. When we pray it must be as Jesus’s prayer in Gethsemane.
“Not my will but yours be done!” ~ Luke 22:42
We must always leave room for God’s will, His solutions. It is quite safe to say that His wisdom and His plans are far above anything we can devise. If we pray for our child who is seriously ill or injured in an accident, we must be willing to accept that God may call them home. When we pray for our child who is addicted to drugs, it may be the Lord’s will that they remain so for an extended season in their life. It is hard. Very hard. Yet God’s grace is sufficient.
There is certainty that God desires to hear the prayers of His people. Philippians 4:6 tells us:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Yet He is the Master Weaver, and dark threads are often needed in the plans He has for us and others. We know from the experience of our own lives how tragedy and sadness often lead us to a deeper belief in Him. We realize at such times that we are not in control of our own destiny, let alone our child’s. Yet we are to pray fervently, believing that “With God, all things are possible.” ~ Matthew 19:26
They Look At Our Example
Yet prayer, as powerful as it can be, is just one answer to what we as parents can do. Another is our own actions, our own lifestyle, and decisions. Our children’s eyes are always upon us, especially as we tell them we believe in a God that they cannot see. They see a world full of many different beliefs and many who believe that we are all alone in a very big universe. We cannot underestimate how important our example is for them.
We see this play out in nature. Although God has given many of His creations “instinct”, many look to their parents for insight and encouragement.
“Church” is not a building, it is a community.
We, as a community of believers, are the Church. We each have a role to play in that community, in the same way that our ears, our hands, our feet have roles to play. We are members of the household of God, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. See Ephesians 2:19-22
Do our children see us in that way? Do our children see us “going to church” on Sundays and yet they see no evidence of God in our lives for the balance of the week? Do they see our excitement for a football team far exceeding any excitement we have for God? When they see us spending our time watching Hollywood movies and no time at all reading the Bible, what message are they learning from us? When our daily verse is what the President last tweeted or what the Democrats said in mock reply, as opposed to what God’s word says, do we help set their priorities on all the wrong things? When they see us get high on drugs, how can we expect them to “set their mind on things above”? – Colossians 3:2
We Are Forgiven
If you are feeling a bit convicted reading these questions, let me assure you I am also. There are many ways to miss the mark, to sin, in this world. Yet Christ died for us, while we were yet sinners. ~ see Romans 5:8 This is not a time to beat ourselves up, but a time to repent, to turn from our sin and devote our attention less to this world and more to the building up of the kingdom of God.
Is it possible for us to be so callous toward God and our faith that we are the ones driving our children to other “gods” such as money, drugs, fame…? On our deathbed, will we say to our children, “I wish I had spent more time at the office”? If one day we stand over the gravestone of our child, will we say “I should have spent more time talking with you about the things of this world like sports, science, mathematics, politics, and how to slay that final dragon in a video game”? How do our children and the salvation of others become our priority, and not our own entertainment and pleasure? Lord forgive us, we know not what we do.
Love. The best of the four letter words. We can love our children unconditionally. That doesn’t mean to enable them to live a lifestyle that is destructive. That will just allow them to destroy themselves more quickly and damage our lives in the process. If we truly love our children, we will raise them up to know and to trust in God, even when we as their parents cannot always be trusted to do the right thing. Be honest with them. Teach them the truth. We have been entrusted with the word of God. Share it with them. Let them see our joy in knowing God and our trust in Him. Let our love for God and our love for our neighbors be what they see when they watch us.
And He (Jesus) said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:37-40
“Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ Romans 15:5-6
Your thoughts and comments would be appreciated as always.