What Does The Bible Say About Raising Children?
The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off…. Acts 2:39
“Dear Dr. Sala,” wrote a father well into his 70s, “One of my greatest heartaches is that my children are not living for the Lord. They were all raised in a Christian home. In fact, my wife and I have spent most of our lives in the Lord’s service, but more than anything else, we would like to see them come back to Him before we die.”
Nothing can be more distressing than feeling strongly about certain values, including your relationship with God, and then seeing your children reject those values and turn their back on God. Scores of letters have come to me from you who have unburdened your heart, laden with guilt, because you are convinced that you did something wrong, when the fact is that your son or daughter has a mind of his or her own, and has chosen to walk a different path, one that causes you to lie awake nights worrying over your son or daughter.
Can we as Christian parents hold on to the expectation that God will honor His word and, in time, will turn the hearts of our children towards heaven?
The issue that has to be faced is simply this. Is it wishful thinking to expect God to do this? Or are there definite promises that you can hold on to, asking God in faith to honor His word? First–be very sure that God will honor what He has promised in His word no matter what the time frame may be, whether you live to see it, or it comes together long after our influence has paled in death.
Are there promises in Scripture, which extend to your children? The answer is, “Yes!”
Long ago the writer of Scripture said, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, KJV). This promise, of course, doesn’t eliminate the stubborn will of a youngster who wants a taste of the world or deny him or her the power of choice. Nor does it suggest that our children do not have to make the same transactions of faith that we had to make, but it does give us as parents confidence to trust God in the meantime.
Paul also believed that God was concerned about our families, for he took advantage of the fear that was in the heart of a father in Philippi as he said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household” (Acts 16:31). On the Day of Pentecost, Peter said that the promise of the Holy Spirit was not only for those who were present, but in his words, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off…” (Acts 2:39).
If you need further encouragement, let me share one more thought with you, something that perhaps you have never noticed. In the Old Testament, there are two passages that ask the question, “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?” and both of those passages are followed by promises which extend to your children. Is that merely a coincidence, or is God saying specifically that nothing is too hard for Him, including changing the stubborn will of a prodigal son or daughter and pointing that one back toward home and heaven? Those two promises, if you would like to jot them down, are Genesis 18:14 and Jeremiah 32:27. Great promises.
Long ago when Judah and his brothers went down to Egypt and the youngest, Benjamin, was detained, the oldest brother, the one who bore responsibility for the lad, asked, “How shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me?” (Genesis 44:34, KJV). That’s a question every parent must ask in relationship to God, “How shall I go up to my father at the end of my life, and not have my children with me?” Think about it. Trust Him, and do the right thing.
Resource reading: Genesis 18.