Our First Mission Field
Dr. Valson Abraham
Our children are our first mission field.
We live in a turbulent world inhabited by troubled youth and children, alienated from their families and society. Apart from a dramatic intervention by God, we face a troubled future because these troubled youth grow up. Soon, they become parents themselves. They take places in seats of government, business, education, the arts, media and communication. How we raise our children today influences our society for generations to come for good or for bad.
Our troubled generation today did not “just happen.” Two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul identified a major cause for an alienated generation when he wrote, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Too many parents stimulate angry and rebellious spirits in their children when they resort to harsh discipline or fail to discipline them at all. Such extremes never work. What is needed is right discipline. What does that mean?
The key to right discipline is for parents to first discipline themselves, to submit themselves to their heavenly Father. Parents submitted to God know their children are not their personal possessions to treat as they please, but gifts of God. Parents are not to use children for their own purposes and ambitions, but to patiently help them to develop the unique personalities God gave them.
Parents must not impose their own personalities upon their children but guide them in those biblical principles that enable each child to develop in his/her own way.
Like us, our children are born in sin. We depend upon God’s mercy and grace in our own lives when we fail, and we should let our children know it. We must treat our own children’s shortcomings with mercy and grace so they will think immediately of God and His grace and how He helped their parents in times of weakness. Discipline is necessary, but to humiliate a child for failure or inflict physical, verbal or emotional abuse have no place in a Christian home.
Paul tells us to raise our children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This means they should not just learn “to be good” in conventional ways, but to make Jesus Christ Himself their standard. Just as Jesus exhorted and encouraged His disciples in ways beyond common morality, parents should do the same for their children.
It takes much time and effort to do this. Parents must learn to sacrifice their own interests to bring their children into emotional and spiritual maturity by instruction and example based upon the Word of God, not what they read in magazines and see on television or the internet. Fathers and mothers must spend less time at the office or other activities to accomplish this God-given mission. Their own children are always their first priority.
In this training process, be positive. Do not be too quick to offer constant criticism, but rather keep alert to those times when children do something right, and be sure to praise them.
Trying to force religion down your children’s throats or coerce a “decision for Christ” is never right. Pray for them, wait for the Lord’s timing, and do not force your own. Don’t let them learn or use pious words and phrases they cannot understand. Going to church, Sunday school and youth group are good, but even better, children should see in their parents consistent character, integrity, and kindness that win their respect and motivate them to become like their parents.
They should see in their parents a worldview and lifestyle that sets them apart from parents of neighbors and friends who worship other gods or care nothing about God. They should understand from their parents that this difference comes because of God’s gospel of grace through Jesus Christ in their lives. Christian parents should prepare themselves to counter the false standards their children hear in the world outside the home with biblical truth.
Children should hear regularly from their parents how Jesus has changed their lives, answered their prayers, and shown His faithfulness. Children should see in their parents the joy of the Lord, and know their parents pray for them every day. They should hear their parents regularly thank God for their blessings, at the dinner table and elsewhere. They should regularly gather together as a family to hear the Bible read and applied to their lives.
Children should see and hear their parents read and quote their Bibles and pray for those in need, not just as a routine habit, but as a vital part of their lives. They should hear their parents apply the scriptures to their lives, work, family and the world around them. They should see their parents take a vital interest in those who still live in darkness without the gospel.
Parents should live in such a way that their children know that Jesus Christ is head of the house. When children visit the homes of their friends, they should see the difference Jesus Christ makes so this will become the model for them when they raise their own families and exert influence upon others around them.
Yes, our children and grandchildren are our first mission field. If we have done our job right, our children will more likely become God’s effective ambassadors to their own children and a needy world around them.
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Father God, thank you for the gift of our children, made in your image. Help us to raise them in the discipline and instruction of your Son. Help us to raise them as you are raising us now, in your grace, mercy, wisdom and love, to glorify you, know your blessing and bear much fruit in your name, in their own homes and in your world. In Jesus’ Name.