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TEXT: I Timothy 5:8
SUBJECT: Family Life #31: Pray for Your Kids
This is the fourth Sunday afternoon of the month and time for another sermon on Family Life. In the next few minutes-Lord willing-we'll all be "hearers of the Word", but I pray God will make us more than that, that we'll also be "Doers of the Word".
May the blessing of Jesus Christ be on our families!
I Timothy 5:8 begins with an assumption. Paul assumes that ungodly men-for the most part-take care of their families. They provide food, clothing, shelter, and often, quite a bit more. What he said of men in his day, is equally true of today. Most people you know are unsaved. Yet their basic needs are met. They have a roof over their heads, enough to eat, decent clothes to wear, and so on.
From the example of unsaved men, Paul goes on denounce believing men who won't take care of their families. They-he says-
"Have denied the faith and are
worse than infidels".
In other words, if ungodly men take care of their families, then we must too.
The sort of care Paul has in mind here is of material things. A Christian man must take care of his family's physical needs. He doesn't have to provide luxuries and meet their every lust, of course, but he must put a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and clothes on their backs.
Christian men must take care of their families' material needs.
That's what the verse teaches. Starting there, I want to make an argument from the lesser to the greater. I feel justified in doing that because Paul does the same thing a few verses later! Urging the people to support their pastors, he cites a verse in the Law about it,
"You shall not muzzle the ox as it
treads out the corn".
That's not a real flattery comparison, but it is an apt one. If animals that work for your crops deserve to eat, then so do the pastors who work for your souls!
But that's a topic for another time. For now, let's go back to the man's duty to meet his family's material needs. If he ought to do that, how much more ought he to pay attention to their spiritual needs?
A lot can be said here about helping your wife to grow in grace, loving your parents and in-laws, and so on, but-for now-we'll limit ourselves to the kids. And the parents' duty to care for their eternal welfare.
Spiritually speaking, what do your kids need most? Four things come to mind. Your kids need:
Other things can be added to the list, of course, but if your kids have these four things, they'll be pretty well off in this life, and very well off in the life to come.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO
Can parents do anything to help their kids hate sin and know God and believe in Christ and serve the Lord? Of course we can!
We can tell them what sin is. We can warn them of its cunning and dangers; we can show them how much we hate it-not only in them, but even more in ourselves. We can keep doubtful magazines and videos out of the house. We can monitor what they watch on TV. We can show them what sin does to people-people in the Bible (like King Saul and Kind) and people we personally know. We can teach them the horror of sin. And we ought to.
We can also tell them Who God is. That there is a God and that He's a Personal Spirit-and not a force or an idea or a power or an image of any kind. We can tell them what His attributes are:
"Wisdom, power, holiness, justice,
goodness and truth".
We can tell them that God was Embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ. And whatever we see in Christ is also true of God. We can tell them that the Father and Son have sent the Holy Spirit into the world, and that He converts sinners and makes them holy. Although we cannot give them a full or perfect description of God, we can give them a true picture of Him.
We can also tell them about faith in Christ. What faith is-trusting the Lord Jesus for your salvation. Why faith justifies-because it receives of Him. What faith produces-holiness of life. And where faith takes you in the end-to heaven.
We can also tell them about discipleship. What it means to follow the Lord Jesus Christ; how to deny ourselves-and why it's necessary. How disciples treat each other; what we do for the lost; and so on. But not only can we tell them about discipleship, we show them how it's done.
Parents can do a lot for their kids' spiritual good. We can teach them; we can set a good example; we can reward them for doing good; we can punish them for doing evil; we can keep an eye on the friends they keep; we can steer them away from the values of the world and its language. We can do a lot for them! Much more than we often think.
A holy parent is a mighty weapon in the Hands of God.
WHAT PARENTS CANNOT DO
But we cannot save our kids.
We cannot make them hate sin. We can tell them how wicked and abhorrent sin is-but we cannot make them hate it! Kids are born in sin, and apart from God's renewing grace, they like it! Not every sin is equally enjoyed, but every unsaved person-kid or adult-finds some sin or other very much to his taste.
Let me tell you a story. When I was boy, my grandmother lived with us. Now, she was from the south and ate soul food long before anyone ever called it soul food. Her idea of a decent supper was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, okra, biscuits, and apple pie. To her, the idea of eating something like pizza was unacceptable! For years, she told me that I didn't like pizza. The stretchy white cheese, she used to say, looked like cat guts!
For several years, I agreed with her. I wouldn't touch a pizza (or tacos or lasagne or anything these prune pickers would eat) with a ten foot pole. Until one day, I tried pizza. From then on, I told her, "I like pizza". And nothing she could say would change my mind.
Here's the moral to the story: There was something in me that liked pizza-no matter how much my dearly loved grandma told me not to like it. In the same way, there is something in our kids that make them like sin-no matter what we say about its guilt and pollution and danger.
We can warn them about sin and keep them away from some of it, but we cannot make our kids hate sin. We can make them tell us they do, but we cannot make them mean it.
We cannot make them know God. We can read the Bible with them for hours on end; we can make them memorize a thousand verses; we can make them study the catechism, sing good hymns, and listen to the best sermons, but we cannot give them an understanding of the Lord. A head knowledge, maybe-but that's all.
I can name kids who never missed a day of Bible reading or a night of family worship. They attended Christian Schools and went to church two or three times a week. They could recite the Catechism word-for-word and defend the Five Points of Calvinism. But now, judging from the lives they live, they don't know God at all. They don't hope in His mercy; they don't fear His judgment.
Their parents taught them faithfully and lived well before them, but now, they're heartbroken. Their kids may know a lot about God, but they don't know God. And their parents can do no more for them.
We cannot give them faith in Christ. We can tell them they're lost without it. We can tell them what it is and why Christ is worthy of it. We can urge them to believe, beg them, plead with them, cry for them, and even command them to trust the Lord Jesus.
But we can't give them faith. We can pressure them into making a profession of faith or trick them into it. But that's wrong and does more harm than good. No, faith is a gift we cannot give them!
"He came to His own, but His own did
not receive Him. But as many as did
receive Him, to them He gave the power
to be called the children of God.
even to those who believe in His name.
Who were born-not of blood, nor
Of the will of the flesh, nor of the
Will of man-but of God".
We cannot make them disciples. By careful teaching and close supervision and a consistent example, we may turn our kids into fine Pharisees, but we cannot make them disciples of Christ. Because-unless Pharisaism-discipleship begins in the heart. You can train them in fasting, tithing, and praying, but you can't make them new creatures in Christ. And that's the starting point of discipleship.
If our best efforts are doomed to fail without God's blessing, then what else can we do for our kids?
Only one thing: Pray for them!
You ought to pray for your kids. You ought to pray for them every day. You ought to pray fervently for them. You ought to pray patiently for them. You ought to pray humbly for them.
It's hard to pray for your kids every day because it's hard to pray every day. Many of us are super-busy. The time-saving devices we all own seem to leave us no time for prayer. The legitimate cares of the world and pleasures of this life squeeze the life out of daily prayer.
But it's not only legitimate things that keep us from praying every day. Sins do too. I cannot pray while I'm also prizing some lust in my heart; I cannot pray when I'm fussing with my wife; I cannot pray when I refuse to admit known sins. And neither can you. Our sins, therefore, keep us from praying every day.
Do you want your kids to hate sin and to know God and to believe in Christ and be His disciples. If you do, then pray for them every day. That's our Lord's promise,
"Keep on asking and you shall receive;
keep on seeking and you shall find;
keep on knocking and it will be opened
Pray for your kids fervently. When it comes to praying, quality is worth far more than quanity. The pagans thought they'd be heard for their many words. But the Lord said they wouldn't be. What the Lord wants is passionate prayer. It's something like "Wrestling with God"-and that's not easy.
Elijah prayed fervently and stopped the rain for three-and-a-half years, and then prayed fervently again, and brought the rain back. Perhaps if you prayed more fervently, you could stop your kids' evil ways and bring down from heaven their salvation.
Abraham is a fine example. God told him his first son would not be his heir, but that He would give him a son by Sarah, and "in his seed all the nations would be blessed". But note, Abraham didn't say, "Oh, in that case, never mind". No, he cried,
"O that Ishmael might walk before You!"
Pray fervently for the souls of your children.
Pray patiently for your kids. This is the hardest one to do. When they're babies, you have soaring dreams of their godliness. But, before long, all your dreams come crashing down all around you. It breaks your heart to see your kids not what you hoped they would be. If they're older, maybe they've gotten into serious trouble. Or, if they're younger, they're sullen or selfish or defiant-and you can see they're train wrecks waiting to happen.
You become discouraged. You've prayed for them a million times, but instead of getting better, they only get worse. You wonder if there's any use in praying for them at all!
You're tempted to give up praying for them. I know the feeling, but before you do, tell me one thing: what's the alternative? If you quit praying for them, what are you going to do for them?
Praying for your kids is a lot like farming. You need a lot of patience for it! "Wait on the Lord".
One last thing: Pray humbly for your kids. If your kids are older, you know this very well. Your super-parenting skills and ultra-holiness do not guarantee the salvation of your kids-or even their general goodness.
But if your kids are still little, maybe you need this word. The best parents in the world are those who don't have kids! They know it all and wonder how any parents could do as badly as we all do! When they have kids, they'll pray for them all right, but they won't pray in the posture of a needy beggar. Because they don't feel like a beggar! Like the church in Asia, these moms and dads are
"Rich, increased with good, and
in need of nothing".
Little do they know that all their plans and books and seminars leave them no better than any other parent,
"Poor, wretched, miserable, blind and naked".
In other words, dependent on God's grace alone for the welfare of their kids. If your kids will be saved, they must be saved by God. If they will be good now, it must be God who makes them good. If they will grow up to be productive citizens and Christians, God's gotta do it!
I've heard parents talk the way the Pharisee once prayed,
"I thank you, Lord, that I am not as other parents are."
But they are. It's this prayer that captures the ear of God,
"God be merciful to me-and my kids-
Pray for your kids.
Here's an encouragement: the Lord loves to hear your prayers. He writes them in His book and catches your every tear in His bottle (cf. Psalm 56).
Does He promise to say yes to every prayer? No He doesn't. But what about every good prayer? No, He sometimes says no to the best prayer request offered by the holiest person. He even said No to Jesus Christ when He prayed in bloody sweat.
But if you've read the whole Bible, you know that is the exception rather than the rule. Most of the time, the Lord says yes our humble and believing petitions. But He rarely does it right now. Most of the time, He says "Yes, I'll do it, but in My own good time".
So keep on praying for your kids. And may
"The desire of the righteous
For Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
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