Lessons From Jesus
How are you providing opportunities for your children to encounter Jesus?
Jesus loves children, and throughout His ministry, parents intentionally sought Him to bless or heal a child. Our Father has a plan for our kids’ lives, and it’s better than any dream we have for them. Our faith as a parent is important. This week, explore how you can be a persistent parent when it comes to praying for your child.
About This Journey
You’ve heard the saying that children are resilient. As a Military parent the only thing constant is change, so you must be more aware of your responsibility to make emotional and spiritual deposits into your family. Follow the stories of six people who were devoted to loving children and played significant roles in their spiritual growth for generations to come.
This Week's Readings
Persistence Pays Off
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.-Matthew 15:21-28
“Persistence pays off” is a lovely phrase for a motivational poster, but let’s be honest: to the parent of a three-year-old (or fifteen-year-old), persistence can translate as annoying. I remember chuckling over the message printed on a magnet posted on a friend’s refrigerator: Having children is like being pecked to death by ducks. To say my friend had an active and persistent child would be an understatement. If you can relate, take hope, because persistence directed toward a positive course can indeed pay off! Persistence can be rewarding when it is directed toward helping children set goals and achieving objectives.
Parents with persistent children must also be persistent. We must be persistently patient! Matthew’s Gospel offers an encounter Jesus had with a persistent mom during one of his journeys. She sought out Jesus to help her daughter who had a serious spiritual need. She first went to the disciples, but they saw her appeals as a nuisance. The rebuff from the disciples did not deter her. When she finally made it to Jesus, she bowed down.
Her posture speaks volumes! Matthew describes this woman as a Canaanite, which means she was a pagan foreign woman. Yet, she knelt down before Jesus in a show of respect. She was persistent, but she was not obnoxious—she was respectful. She was not the mom who would march into the school to bully the teacher to make sure her child receives preferential treatment. With nowhere else to turn and desperate to aid her child, she showed great faith by turning to the only One who could offer help.
Though at first glance Jesus seems indifferent and perhaps harsh in his response, it is in fact likely that he traveled an out-of-the-way route in order to encounter this woman. In the process, he clarified the priority of Israel in his divine plan. This Gentile woman had greater faith than the Jews he came to deliver. She affirmed his identity, even as his own disciples struggled with acknowledging him as the Messiah. He reminded them of the main mission, while he recognized and acknowledged her great faith. The faith of the mother resulted in the healing of the daughter. Your faith as a parent is important. Do not hesitate to be a persistent parent when it comes to praying for your child.
How persistent are you in prayer for your child? What are your greatest concerns for your child today?
Use your list of concerns as a prayer guide. Lord, along with these concerns, may my child respond to your persistent call. Amen.
You Don’t Know What You Ask
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”-Matthew 20:20-28
Every parent wants the best for their children. I will be the first to admit I do not always know what is best. I recall praying about a specific job for one of my sons. I did not just pray—I PRAYED. The job was perfect for his interest, talent, and experience; surely, the Lord would see the facts and move on the powers that be to give him the job. When he did not get it, our family was devastated. But let me tell you the rest of the story. In less than a year, that division of the company went under. If the Lord had given us what we had prayed for, my son would have been out of a job.
I can identify with the mother who came to Jesus to ask him to employ her sons on his right and left. His response, “You don’t know what you’re asking” was not rude, but merciful. The mother’s request was ambitious, but was also sincere. She wanted the best for her boys. I do not fault her for her desire—I get it!
The sons of this mom were two of the twelve disciples who had just heard Jesus tell them (in Matthew 19:28): “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” James, John, and their mother took the opportunity to ask Jesus to establish a special place for them. They did not realize the suffering that Jesus would have to go through, and the suffering that would be required of them as his followers. They “did not know what they were asking.”
My boys will never outgrow my wanting the best for them, but I recognize I must temper my parental desire for their good with trusting that God knows what is truly good and best for them. God has a plan for their lives, and I believe his plan is better than any dream I have for them. My constant prayer is that my children will achieve the goals God intended for their lives.
In this passage, what quality did Jesus consider the greatest? How are you nurturing an attitude of service in your child?
Lord, I pray my child would develop a servant’s heart. Help me to serve you and others in a way that honors you and influences my child. Amen.
The Formula for a Perfect Child
And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”-Mark 9:20-24
When it comes to rearing children with strong religious convictions, I want a formula. You know what I mean: follow these simple steps and you will get a child who is compliant, godly, and on fire for Jesus. Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is, because there are no formulas.
Consider the desperate father who came to Jesus for help with his son who was under the influence of an evil spirit. As Jesus arrived on the scene, the Jewish experts argued about the best way to deal with the issue (Mark 9:14). The scribes had offered their formula for fixing the son, and the disciples offered theirs, but the formulas did not work and the child was still in need.
Sister, the power of evil and the battle for the souls of our children is real. The battle is evident for this dad who cried out to Jesus in despair to help his child. I wonder if he raised his child to follow the tenets of faith. Did he do all the right things and check all the boxes of the Jewish law and evil still overcame his child? Now even the experts could not help. I can imagine the pain and fear the father felt over his child’s frightening condition.
Can’t you hear the emotion in the father’s words to Jesus, “If you can, have compassion on us and help us!” Jesus carefully responded with a challenge, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” The father replied to Jesus with raw, transparent honesty, “I believe; help my unbelief.”
Sometimes that is where I find myself as a parent. My faith is not perfect and I struggle to believe God will intervene on behalf of my children. I take comfort in knowing God understands the conflict of my faith. He not only understands my conflict, he understands each of my children and their struggles. The struggle of my faith shows my own desperate need for the mercy of God. This one thing I know: I must depend on him.
I wish I could write a formula that would guarantee godly, righteous children who will always turn from evil. The truth is, some children will readily do the right thing and others will test the waters or plunge right in when they should not. As a parent, there are no formulas; just faithfulness. I must be faithful to teach the principles of God’s Word to my children. I must be faithful to pray those principles become truth in their lives as they walk out their own faith journey. I must also be faithful not only to teach, but also to live out the truth of God’s Word in my life.
How do the words of Jesus in Mark 9:23 give you courage to trust God to help you rear godly children? How are you modeling faithfulness to your children?
Lord, today I pray I will be faithful not only to teach your truth to my children, but also to live out the truth of your Word. Amen.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.-Luke 15:17-20
I set out to be a perfect parent, didn’t you? Like you, I also purposed to have perfect children. Unfortunately, both my children and I missed the mark by a long shot. No seminar, book, or blog post could make them—or me—perfect.
The father in this famous parable (Luke 15:11–32) would have wanted perfect children too. Jesus told the story to show God’s great love and mercy. Reading it as a parent, the parable offers much to teach us about being a parent of imperfect children.
We meet two sons. The younger son asked his father for his inheritance before the father died. Dad had to know this would not be in his son’s best interest, yet he gave him the money. Why would he set him up for failure? My “control the situation, control the child” tendency has a hard time with the actions of this father. But I remember the times when I allowed my own children the space to fail and they learned some of their most significant life lessons. How many lessons did I keep from my children by manipulating circumstances and controlling situations?
Then there were the times when my children made mistakes and I used the “I told you so” guilt card. Mother-guilt—I know it well. But the father here did not use guilt. He waited patiently for the son to return. No doubt he prayed for mercy, and the son came to his senses and returned home.
When the father saw the son, he ran to meet him. The words depict joy and relief, but there is more to see here. In that culture, a father running would have been shameful. No self-respecting man would run, because to run he must hold up his tunic, which would bare his legs, and bare legs equaled humiliation! Why would a dad subject himself to such disgrace? He ran to reach his son before the boy entered the village. Otherwise, the villagers might meet his rebellious child with a ceremony called kezazah. In this ceremony, a large pot was broken in front of a child who attempted to return home. The people would shout, “You are now cut off from your people!” The entire village would reject the child. The father headed off this rejection and was willing to endure the shame to welcome his son home.
The father took the shame and showed forgiveness and compassion. I need to remember this story when I want to throw the shame card! This is the love, mercy, and forgiveness God has shown me through Christ. How can I not offer the same to my child?
Do you avoid guilt and shame in parenting your child? How do you see the actions of the father as being merciful and not an act of rescuing the son from consequences of his behavior?
Lord, thank you for your love and forgiveness. Help me to parent my child the same way. Help us all come to our senses and humble our hearts to repent. Amen.
Let the Children Come
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.-Mark 10:13-16
You may have heard the story about the mom with three rambunctious little boys. A friend asked her if she had it to do all over again would she have three children. She thought about it a moment, and responded, “Yes.” She paused and then said, “Just not the same three.”
If you are a parent, there have most likely been days when you felt the same way. I have done my share of complaining about my kids when they were irritable, rowdy, or uncooperative. No matter the age or stage, those days will come.
The accounts of Jesus with children are numerous throughout the Gospels. In Mark 10:13–16 we read of parents who traveled to bring their children to him so that he would touch and bless them. However, the disciples tried to keep these folks away from Jesus. Did they think children were a disruption or distraction? Did they believe children were not as important as adults? We do not know the disciples’ true feelings about children, but we do know the feelings of Jesus toward them: He loved and welcomed them. He did not become exasperated with the children; he became exasperated with the disciples for their attitude. He ordered them to stop hindering the parents from bringing the children to him.
We cannot fault the disciples too much, as they were following the custom of the day. The phrase, “seen and not heard,” was in full force concerning children. Society kept them on the periphery until they became old enough to be useful. Jesus went against the status quo and made himself available and attentive to the little ones. He valued them and honored them by using them to illustrate the type of faith needed to enter into heaven—faith like a child.
Our children are never too young to begin introducing them to Jesus. Military chapels and civilian churches have rituals to connect our children to their faith. These ceremonies are important events for children, families, and the faith community. What is most important for our children is that they do not just encounter the disciples and followers of Jesus, but that they have a personal encounter with Jesus. Jesus wants to bless our children, and the greatest blessing they can receive from him is eternal life.
How are you providing opportunities for your children to encounter Jesus? In what ways does your chapel or church make children welcome?
Lord, help me to see my children as a blessing and not a burden. I pray they would know and never doubt their value to our family. I pray they would know and never doubt their value to you. Amen.
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