How elusive is the concept of faith? You may not be able to define it when asked, but its meaning becomes apparent in how you live your life. And your children will pick up on this.
As they observe your life and learn to pray for their own needs, they may think about faith in a way that makes God their own personal genie. Why wouldn’t they want the most powerful Being in the universe, the Creator of all, to do what they want, when they want it? Yet God doesn’t always deliver in the way kids may feel He should.
If your children have arrived at conclusions that don’t reflect what faith in God truly is, you can help them better understand the nature of this gift. Here are three myths you can talk about and dispel:
Myth No. 1:
God doesn’t answer our prayers because we don’t have enough faith.
The problem: Even those of us who have been Christians for a while occasionally wonder why God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers. Your children are no different. They may think that if they have enough faith, their prayers will be answered in the way they want them answered—an “A” on a test, a new bike, for friends to be nice to them.
Your response: The quantity of your child’s faith does not drive the result he wants. To help your child understand this, stress that who he has faith in—Jesus Christ—is more important than how much faith he has.
Myth No. 2:
You can force God to do what you want, if you have enough faith.
The problem: The strength of your child’s faith will ebb and flow if she thinks that faith is a Star Wars-esque “force” that she can train and tame to influence God to do what she wants done.
Your response: Faith is not a formula that your kids merely need to figure out, like the combination to a lock. There is no recipe for doing things a certain way, a strategy that somehow forces God to do what you want done. To help your children understand this, explain that faith is not confidence that something will happen or even hope that it will happen. It is a pure and simple trust that God knows what is best.
Myth No. 3:
Our faith in God rests on His blessings in our lives.
The problem: Your kids may have confidence and hope in what they want God to do and in what He has done for them based off what they see in their circumstances—they got that “A” on a test, were given that new bike, have those good friends. But faith shouldn’t rest on circumstances alone, because at some point, bad things will happen. Those bad situations mustn’t lead to lost faith or the belief that God isn’t there.
Your response: Help your children see that we must not look at our history of blessings, but instead at God himself, His love, His truth and His character. There is nothing wrong with praising God for the blessings He has given them, but faith must be focused on who God is and not on the comfort in our lives.
What is faith?
Hebrews 11:1 says that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Kids might desperately hope for something, but faith is being sure of that thing. It is simply the confidence that God is who He says He is and that He’ll do everything He’s promised to do.
This faith is illustrated in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Paul is drawn close to God, but also has a severe affliction. He responded to it by approaching God at his point of need. He asked confidently, fully expecting God’s grace and mercy. Paul did not receive physical relief, but he did hear God say, “’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” Paul chose to embrace his weakness as another means for drawing closer to God. His faith was in God and not in his own circumstances.
As described in Luke 5:12: A man who “was full of leprosy” fell before Jesus and begged, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” Jesus healed him because of his faith. It’s as if He said, “That’s all the faith I’m looking for. You recognized who I am and what I’m able to do, and you humbly asked.” The leper’s faith was focused on Jesus, on His power and goodness, not on whether Jesus healed him.
Help your kids recognize that the goal of faith is not to get God to do what we want Him to do; the goal is to get us to live with a right understanding of the character and promises of God. Ultimately, faith comes down to trusting that God knows what He is doing and our believing in what He has promised.
Andy Stanley is the pastor and founder of North Point Ministries, Inc., an organization that has the goal of establishing churches that attract “unchurched” people. His full message about faith can be found in Faith, Hope and Luck, a five-DVD set and study guide.