“In a relay, the most critical point is the passing of the baton.”
In Judges 2 we find out that after Joshua and the generation after him died, “there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger.”
Joshua and his contemporaries were mighty men of faith. They had seen God’s awesome works at the Jordan River, Jericho and the conquests of the Land of Promise. Yet, they had one great failure. They failed to pass on the “baton of faith.”
How can we avoid this as parents? I believe that one practical way is to have faith conversations with your children. Just a few days ago, my eldest son, Elijah, said, “Mom, I don’t feel like I have faith. How do I know that I really believe in God?” I was about to have a theological discussion with my 8 year old!
It was somewhat surprising at first. Ever since Elijah started reading his bible daily and journaling favorite verses, I assumed that the insights were just pouring out of God’s word and he was getting all of it. But this had not been enough.
Yes, God speaks to our children, but Edric and I have to teach our children why we believe what we believe. We have to dialogue with them to uncover what’s going on in their hearts because the devil is on the prowl. We often fail to recognize that there is a spiritual war ongoing and the evil one is after our children. He feeds them doubts and fears, and preys on their young faith. His aim is to destroy and distort a right view of God, themselves, others and the world. And if we are not vigilant about building connectedness with our children and open communication, we will not know the extent to which wrong thinking has blossomed. Furthermore, if we do not study God’s word ourselves or have a well-spring of scripture to draw from, we cannot effectively lead our children to the right answers.
During my conversation with Elijah, I reviewed the gospel message with him. I asked him if he believed that Jesus is the son of God, and if he believed that God loves us so much he sent Jesus to die for our sins. I asked him if he believes that Jesus is the only way to God and if he has trusted in Jesus alone to save him. He replied with a yes to all of these questions. So, I shared with him several passages of scripture to encourage him.
I said, “Elijah, if you know and believe these things, and if you have made Jesus Savior and Lord of your life, then that is faith. It’s not the bigness of our faith, but what we are putting our faith in. And God tells us, he who has the Son, has the life. God promises that you have eternal life if you have Jesus.”
And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:11-13 NASB)
I also added, “You can know if you truly believe in God by the way you live. I can see that you love God because you obey us, and you want to please God. These are all evidences of your faith. People who do not believe in God do not have this desire or the power to live for God.”
He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” (John 14:21 NASB)
So then, you will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:20 NASB)
He was listening intently to everything I was saying, and commented, “I like this conversation, mom. I like talking to you about these things.”
Outwardly, I was trying to keep my emotions under control, but my heart was breaking a little. As a mom, it concerned me that Elijah was struggling with doubt. I wanted all his questions to be answered and settled right then and there. But God reminded me that Elijah is his child and he is the one that will cause his faith to grow. He prodded me to tell him this verse, “You will seek me and find me if you seek me with all your heart.”
“Elijah, there is a verse in the bible which says, ‘you will seek me and find me if you seek me with all your heart…It’s in Jeremiah.”
“I know that verse, mom. I read it today in my Bible.”
I was so encouraged when Elijah said this. God had brought to my mind the same verse that Elijah had read. It was as an affirmation that God was mindful of Elijah.
I felt like God was also speaking to me. “Joy, you cannot force your children to believe in me. You can lead them to the truth but you cannot impose it on them. But don’t worry, I know Elijah. I love him and I will reveal myself to him. I will be the one to strengthen his faith. Encourage him to keep seeking after me and do your part to teach him about me.”
Two days later, Edric also spent some alone time with Elijah. The funny thing is, Elijah said to him, “Dad can you tell me a shortened version of what mom shared with me? She said a lot of stuff and I can’t remember all of it!”
Edric said he made it simple for Elijah. “Believe what you know about God now and let it grow.” He explained to Elijah that his faith would grow. His questions would be answered if he continued to seek God. Elijah liked that suggestion very much.
What did I learn from this experience?
Passing on the baton of faith begins with being available. Study God’s word and meditate on the truths and principles in it. Model faith consistently at home. Invest time in developing an intimate relationship with our children. Then take advantage of what my dad likes to call, “magic moments.” These are moments when our children are ready to talk and listen to us, when they will ask those questions that come from the depths of their hearts. I also need to add that fathers play a very important role. They are more effective because of their God-given spiritual authority as head of the home. Most of all, pray! We’ve got a long way to go to pass on the baton completely to our children. It will take a lifetime. So we need to pray for wisdom and discernment to understand and answer our children’s questions correctly. Finally, rest. Rest in the knowledge that “he who began a good work in the lives of our children will complete it, as promised.”
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NASB)