Q: What Does It Mean to Have a "Relationship with God"?
Jesus died for your children so that their sins could be forgiven. But why? So that they could have a close relationship with God, their heavenly Father!
Make sure your children know that God is eager to have a relationship with them. In the words of John 14:23, "Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.'"
God wants a special friendship with your kids, one He can have with no one else because each child is one of a kind. In this private relationship they get to know God in their own unique way.
Children need to know that deciding to accept Jesus as Savior is the beginning, not the end. Getting to know God is something exciting they'll be doing for the rest of their lives. Here are some ways to help your kids understand that:
- Let your children see how your relationship with God works. Allow them to hear you pray honestly and conversationally; encourage them to pray the same way, even about things that may seem trivial. Tell them about something God has taught you from the Bible. Talk about times when you've felt especially close to God. If you sometimes feel far from Him, admit it; if it's sometimes hard to relate to a Person who's invisible and doesn't speak to you audibly, admit that, too. Tell them what you would miss most if you couldn't have a relationship with God. As children learn that a relationship with God can be very real even if it has ups and downs, they'll have more realistic expectations as they begin their own.
- Create visual reminders of the relationship between your children and God. Have children draw pictures of themselves hiking with Jesus, for example. Or cut a picture of Jesus from a Sunday school paper and add it to a family portrait. Post these reminders where your children will see them frequently.
Q: Why Should I Obey God?
Your children won't always understand why God says to do something. But if you're teaching them who God is and what His character is like, they'll be more likely to trust that His way is best. Children also need to know that, whether they understand the reason or not, it's vital to obey. Their obedience does not depend on their understanding; He is, after all, God.
- When using Bible stories to show how to live God's way, help your children make the connection between the Bible characters' acts and the results. For example, Joseph was faithful to God. He suffered for a time in prison, but later God rewarded his faithfulness, making Joseph the second most important man in Egypt.
- It's easy when you're tense or hurried to answer your children's questions with "Because I said so." But this reasoning doesn't help them understand that your instructions are for their own good; it doesn't help them trust you. In the same way, "Because God says so" is inadequate. God doesn't just tell us what to do in the Bible; He often tells us why. If you don't know the why behind a command, look it up — or ask someone who's studied the issue.
- Many children are fascinated by the human body and how it works. Using age-appropriate books, explore with your children the amazingly intricate way in which God has created us — from our infection-fighting blood cells to our self-mending skin. Point out that God knows everything about us because He made us; we need to respect Him and obey Him because He's our Creator.
- Who knows the best way to use a computer, mountain bike, or video camera? The person who designed and made it! Explain to your child that the designer can tell you how everything was meant to work, how to get the most out of that thing, and what not to do with it. As the designer of life, God knows better than anyone else how life works. It only makes sense to abide by His guidelines.
- While following God's instructions does lead to the best kind of life, that kind of life isn't necessarily the easiest kind. Doing the right thing can get us in trouble here on earth. People have, after all, been killed for obeying God. Point out to your children that real success in this life is pleasing God — and we may not see the rewards until we're in heaven.
For your children, turning their lives over to God means agreeing that He knows what's best for them, and that He has a great plan for their lives. It means entrusting their dreams and ambitions to His care (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Q: Why Is Following Jesus Hard?
"Being a Christian is just too hard!" If your children feel that way, they'll appreciate the truth that we don't have to live the Christian life under our own power (Philippians 1:6). Let them know that their part is mainly to cooperate with what God wants to do in their lives. He's right there, ready to help them become more like His Son.
Point out to children that if they've received Jesus as Savior, God is with them continuously through His Spirit who teaches them from His Word, reminds them of His way, and gives them strength to make the right choices when they ask for it. God is for them, cheering them on, helping them grow to the next step.
- When children do the wrong thing and feel guilty about it, they may wonder whether trying to follow Jesus is a lost cause. Assure them that God is never surprised by our mistakes or sins. If anything, He works to bring these into the open so that we know about them and can deal with them. God is there when we blow it; the best Person to talk to right then is God Himself, as we ask Him to forgive us and to help us obey Him more completely.
- Children may be confused over how much of the Christian life is up to them and how much is up to God. Explain that God doesn't do it all, moving us around and talking through us as if we were ventriloquist's dummies. God is more like a coach, ready to help us learn how to be and what to do. We can choose to cooperate with Him or not. God helps us love, for instance, but doesn't do it for us. That has to come from our hearts.