Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Case for Childhood Devotions

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:14-15 (NKJV)

You are doing many things right. You have prayer with your children at bedtime. You take them to church and Sunday School. You have family worship, teaching and exhorting these precious ones whom you hold as a trust from Almighty God. If you are homeschooling parents, you have Bible class and you guide them in Scripture memorization. But I have a couple of questions which I believe are crucial: Do your children have personal devotions? Do they start at a young age, that is, as soon as they are able to read on their own?

If your answers to these questions are no, consider making it a priority in your family to begin this practice now. As important as a daily time with the Lord may be to you, view it as being just as essential in the lives of your children. "Why?" you ask. "I don't know if they're even converted!" That may be so, but it's my contention that whether they are saved or not is not the issue. The real issue is what will save them if they are not? And what will nurture them if they are? You know the answer, of course. It's basic to our faith and implicit in all our training. God's Word brings salvation and it is that very Word that brings growth. It's necessary at seed time and at harvest time. It's necessary for the adult and for the child.

From their newborn days, you nurture your children with their needed food. And when you do, you see your little bean sprouts becoming firm, sturdy plants. You and I know, however, that the needed food for their souls is the law of the Lord, which is perfect and "sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." (Psalm 19:10) So it is that God, in 1 Peter 2:2, tells His people "as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby." Indeed, as we see over and again in Psalm 119 and elsewhere in Scripture, it is the means to their cleansing and the path to their heart. It's a requirement for all that we are trying to accomplish with them.

"That may be so," you say, "but isn't it enough that they hear the Word in church and Bible class and family devotions?" As I implied earlier, that's good and right if you're doing these things. Praise God. I pray that He'll provide more and more parents like you. But listen to my case just a little longer while I give you three specific reasons why I believe it's needful that your children have time in the Word that is personal and that they have it daily:

First, a relationship with God is personal. It's one on one. Sure, it's important that a family worship together, study God's Word together, and pray together. But eventually, each individual in the family has to meet God face to face. Someday, your children will have to answer to their Creator on a personal basis. They will need to come to grips with who Jesus is and what this means to each of them, specially. We all agree that your children need to be taught and given loving guidance, but we also know that there will be a day of reckoning which will take place solely between Susie or Joey and God. Personal devotions accentuate this fact, and the more often they take place, the better.

Second, one of our important duties, especially if we're homeschooling, is to help our children learn to read. It's one of the important areas of our parenting. Most of us have this view, as we know how vital this skill is to their futures. Soon after the attainment of some measure of ability, we encourage them in it. We give them good books, interesting books, to spur them on. It delights us when we see one of our little ones curled up in a corner reading something that has captured them. The point here is, as we encourage these private times with books, certainly we don't want to leave out the Bible! In fact, you probably already know that many great people in history who taught themselves to read, accomplished this by using the Word of God as their primary source. If you want to further advance their aptitude in this crucial area of life, then a daily time set aside in the Word, with added prayer, would surely be beneficial.

And third, having a set time of day for meeting with God in His Word helps build character. It's one more responsibility for them. It's a "promise" they need to fulfill every day. They will learn that they must be dependable and keep this "appointment" with the One who sees and hears all that they do. No one else can keep it for them. It's their duty and obligation to the Lord. You might also say that it helps them to learn a habit which will hopefully be with them all of their lives. Best of all, it's a habit which we can hope will lead them to God.

One more thing: While I am encouraging personal, even private, devotions for your youngsters, I am by no means negating the need for parental involvement. This is not only needful, but crucial. At some point after they've finished the day's devotions, talk to them about it. Ask what they learned in their time with God. Find out if they have any questions and provide any input that you think is necessary. They certainly will require your help. They only need to spend ten to fifteen minutes for their quiet time. For younger children, the time could be even less. It needn't be but two or three verses at first. When my girls were young, I "assigned" their verses by writing the dates and the assignments in a notebook for the one and on index cards for the other, with a question or two for them to answer on each passage. It takes a little time on your part, but it's worth it. Also, you might want to get your hands on a good children's devotional book to have around for times when doing it yourself would be too cumbersome.

Perhaps your children already have daily quiet times with Jesus. I hope so. But if not, consider prioritizing this addition to their lives for the reasons given. Maybe it's then and there that seeds will be planted in fertile soil. Maybe it's then and there that cultivation will take place. Maybe it's then and there that a harvest will come. Even if not, it is well worth the effort.

Lovingly, Nanna Maxine

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