By Summer Stevens
As a parent, I love the word “instill.” It means to put in, drop by drop. Values, principles and a Biblical worldview are truths that we have the privilege of instilling in the lives of our children. Every hour, every day, every month, we add drops of truth into the souls and minds of the precious little people God entrusted to us, with the goal that when they graduate and leave the house, we have infused them with the truth they need to love God and live a life of purpose. Here are my Top 5. If you have young children, I would encourage you to sit down with your spouse and determine your own Top 5.
You Are Valuable
Like most parents, I want my children to be spared from many of the mistakes and hurts I experienced. When we instill a belief in our children that they are valuable, they will make life decisions based on that belief—what kinds of friends or relationships they keep and how well they take care of themselves physically and emotionally. Misunderstanding one’s value can lead to addictions, promiscuity, anxiety and depression. Alternately, being able to invest oneself fully into meaningful relationships and expressing deep needs in a healthy way all come from a firm grasp of one’s value. God created every person with value, because we are made in His image. Our job as parents is to instill every day those drops of truth that communicate, “You are valuable. You were born valuable. You are valuable to God and you are valuable to me. Even if people don’t always treat you with value, that doesn’t change the fact that you are valuable.” This shows up in practical ways like caring for our children’s physical and emotional needs, celebrating their birthdays or personal successes in a way that makes them feel loved, and taking the time to listen to and engage in the things that are important to them. A healthy presentation of a child’s value also leads to opportunities to share the gospel. “You are so important to God that He wants to be with you forever! Here’s how…”
The Bible is the Trustworthy Word of God
Every Christian parent that I polled when researching this topic mentioned the Bible. We all want our children to know and believe the Bible. But it’s more than that. My husband and I want our children to not only read and believe the Bible because it contains truth and God’s words and instructions to us, but because it is our best way to know the heart of God, His character, and His never-ending love for us. We want our kids to go to the Bible because they meet God in the pages and because His words to us give us spiritual nourishment and strength that we need every day, just like we need food and water. So how do you communicate a hunger for God’s Word to your children, and not just the necessity of reading it? First, you model it. You tell them about it. You get in the habit of sharing what the Holy Spirit revealed to you through His Word. When you serve in your church or give sacrificially to a friend in need or forgive when it hurts because that’s what the Bible says to do, you include your children in those conversations so they can see that God’s Word affects how you live. Prioritize Scripture memory, perhaps your favorite verses, or those that clearly communicate the gospel, or verses that will help in times of disappointment, anxiety or temptation.
Jesus Was Perfect So You Don’t Have To Be
One of the reasons parenting is so difficult is because we have to train our children to “be good” (honest, hard working, responsible, kind) and yet we have to communicate our acceptance of them when they aren’t good. When they fail, our job is to wrap them in love and forgiveness, and then tenderly lead them to Jesus and His beautiful redemption story. Sometimes, it’s in the middle of his sin that a child can truly see his need for Jesus. “The way you treated that girl on the bus, teasing and making fun of her…that’s sin. That’s why Jesus had to die, because we sin. Think about that for a minute. But that’s the beauty of God’s love for us. He forgives us wholly and completely.” As parents, we have to create an environment where it’s ok to fail. To fail big. We want our kids to fail big at home so they have the love and support of family to pick them up, dust them off and point them to Jesus. Don’t miss these opportunities. When (not if) our children fail, we want parents to be the “safe place” where they come to confess, receive counsel and love, and as they transition to adults, they will come to see God as their safety and refuge during times of failure. As “Free Grace parents” we can assure our children of their salvation based on whether or not they believe in Jesus’ promise of eternal life, and we can remind them that when failure in life comes, they don’t have to doubt God’s love for them or their eternal destiny.
Love Others Well, Especially in the Church
The Bible has revealed that in this age, God’s primary instrument of movement is through the church. Jesus says Christians will be identified by their love for one another (John 13:35), and the author of Hebrews commands that we “do not neglect meeting together” (10:25) so that we can encourage one another when persecution, doubt or hard times come. The church is a gift. Do you believe that? Do you teach your children this? One of the truths I desire to instill in my children is the commitment to love people, and especially those in the church. Of course, you have to attend church to truly love those in it. As American culture becomes increasingly post-Christian and hostile to Biblical morals, it is essential that our children feel a strong connection with their spiritual brothers and sisters. These relationships will give them a sense of belonging and affirm the faith in which they have been raised. The church is where we worship together, where we serve, where we learn, where we bear the burdens of others and where others bear our burdens in times of need. When it functions as God designed it, the church is beautiful. It isn’t perfect because we aren’t perfect, but as parents, we need to be 100% pro-church and model commitment and love for this God-ordained, supernatural entity.
We Have a Hope
It is so easy to get caught up in worldly pursuits—remodeling a house, planning for vacation, earning a degree. Most of us with older children are already starting to think about what vocation they will choose and what college they will attend. Sometimes I look around at my life and my daily desires, and they don’t look much different from my unbelieving neighbors. Oh, dear friends, this shouldn’t be! The one thing that separates us, right here and now, from the world is that we have a hope! Jesus is coming back, He is going to make all things new, and we have the promise of a glorious eternity. One of my favorite verses right now is Eph 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or imagine…” When I think about heaven, that verse comes to mind. If I can even imagine the splendor or the joy or the laughter or the exhilaration or the contentment of heaven, God will do exceedingly abundantly more. Wow. We have the opportunity to instill this hope into our children. When my oldest son was five years old, we told him about the Rapture. For months, around the dinner table, he prayed that the Rapture would come soon. He drew pictures of Jesus in the clouds. He talked about it all the time. He was thrilled! Our hope should produce thrill! As parents, we need to talk about eternity, a lot! We talk about it because it provides comfort on the sad days when our children are facing heartache and loss; we talk about it on the good days because it’s a glimpse of the coming glory and what we have to look forward to; we talk about it when we work hard for Jesus because we know that there will be rewards in heaven. Today’s generation is saddled with anxiety and depression. Teen suicide is on the rise. Why? Because of a misplaced hope or no hope at all. This world, even the best it has to offer, does not offer eternal hope. Only Jesus does that. Let’s fill our kids up with the hope they need to fix their eyes on Him, the author and perfecter of our faith.
When Paul talks about the armor of God in Ephesians 6, the first piece of armor is the belt of truth. When our full-time parenting comes to an end, let’s be confident that we have instilled necessary truth into the hearts and souls of our children so they can have the belt of truth firmly buckled around them as they go into the world, to stand firm against the enemy and to confidently fight the battles God has prepared for them.
Summer Stevens lives outside of Pittsburgh with her husband Nathanael and their five children. She has a Masters in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and enjoys running (but mostly talking) with friends and reading good books to her kids.