Deuteronomy 6:4-9 rings in my ear every time I think about a father’s responsibility:
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
It is very clear from the Bible passage that parents, especially the head of the family, have a very important role to play in the spiritual upbringing of our children, and spending time with them cannot be compromised. God designed the family for love, to first love Him, to nurture love within the family and through the love in the family to learn to love others outside the family. The centrality of God in the family is clear in the verses above.
When my children were young it was not difficult to ask them what they learned in Sunday School, but as they grew older their answers became curt. I attended Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and my children also attended its children programme. But as time passed, I noticed my sons spent more time in the virtual world. I was afraid for them, as there were so much ungodly influences lurking in the Internet. I feared that they were not growing spiritually.
I felt the urgency to create opportunities for my family to come together to share and pray. My wife at the same time felt there was a need to find activities to get the family to come together to play. She got us together once a week to play badminton or go to the gym or swim. With some effort I gathered them after the activity to share and pray as a family. It soon became a weekly meeting of at least an hour, where I asked them to share their lives over the past week and what they would be going through the following week. At this family sharing, we felt each other’s needs and I was able to occasionally share my thoughts of what I learnt from Bible studies and devotions during the week, and we ended by praying for one another.
The playing, sharing and praying were good. Thank God it began to bear fruit, after quite a few years at it. The Lord is good and He brings us closer together as a family. I learnt something from the experience. Just making sure children attend Sunday School and even BSF children programme is not enough. We must be intentional to create a family environment to allow faith to grow at home, seize teachable moments to guide or to reinforce what they may already have learned, and help them with application.
I attended the Faith@Home for Dads seminar by Mark Holmen recently, who referred to the same bible passage above and advocated that faith begins at home. He used the word “TRAIN” to remind us what growing faith at home involves. We must spend Time with our children and seize every teachable opportunity to help children grow spiritually. This could be during scheduled times such as meal time, bed time, or devotion time (which may work for some) or it may simply be unscheduled time during daily living. We must not be afraid of Repetition of God’s messages regularly in our sharing as it will help drive God’s Word deep into our children’s heart. Recognise the Acceptance a child needs, that children each need a different approach and we should emulate God’s unconditional love for all. We need to be Intentional to grow faith in the family creating the environment for it to happen and know that faith talk is Never-ending.
I now realise I could have spent more time with my sons, to seize teachable moments during our daily living to discuss their Bible lessons or simply ask them and myself what Jesus would have us do in our circumstances. I started late but thank God it is never too late to get started. I also realize that I need to be speaking, teaching, and modeling Jesus to my children whenever possible. I do struggle to do that and my sons can certainly point out some of my iniquities. To be effective, we need to be wary of hypocrisy, i.e. not practicing what we preach. Whether you like it or not, they are invariably influenced by what we are.
The world is getting ever so complicated, and the lure of the Devil is increasing in the media. There is increasing urgency to shape the character of our children to meet modern day challenges, by progressively addressing their changing needs, nurturing their values and beliefs, helping them develop life skills and building a support system to enable them to grow their faith in Jesus Christ. We have a better hope of doing so when we obey God and have faith begin at home.
By Lum Weng Kiong (YCKC Bulletin 27&28 September 2014)