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FIRST-PERSON: Helping a child through a faith crisis

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JACKSON, Miss. (BP) – And when your children shall say, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say…. (Exodus 12:26)

Parents, you’d better be prepared. That day will come.

More than likely, the way children will ask this question will not be with upraised hand and respectful tone. They will sound more like: “Why do we have to do this? It’s so boring! I don’t get anything out of it!” The word griping comes to mind.

Anyone heard that from your little ones?

Count on it. They will ask that question, however they phrase it. You’d better be ready with an answer.

Teaching a child that God exists

I wonder if we even have to teach a child God exists. They almost seem to come into the world with that knowledge. It seems more that we have to work to unteach them. However, it is necessary to tell them about Jesus. No one comes into the world with a ready knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth.

First, it’s a matter of establishing credibility. Does this require parents to jettison all imaginary characters and customs? To do away with Santa or the Easter Bunny? Some parents have answered yes. Personally, I’m not so quick to go there. After all, children have great imaginations and love to use them. The imaginary world of a child has room for all kinds of fantastic characters – from Winnie the Pooh and Piglet to Mickey and Minnie to Alice and Dorothy to Barney and Thomas the Tank Engine. The wonderful Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis are fantasies, written to entertain children while providing vehicles for the parents to teach them about Jesus. A child can enjoy imaginary people and fables, just so long as he knows these are pretend. And yes, he/she can handle knowing that.

After establishing a parent’s credibility, nothing convinces a child of the reality of God and Jesus Christ like seeing the parents living out their faith.

Howard Hendricks of Dallas Theological Seminary tells how a child in his city learned an unforgettable lesson about God. The father in a family with four boys had resigned his good-paying job to enroll in seminary and become a minister. They soon found themselves in financial need. One night as the family gathered to pray, 7-year-old Kevin said, “I need a new shirt. Is it all right to ask Jesus to give me a shirt?” Mom assured him it was indeed, and they prayed for Kevin a shirt.

Each night after that, Kevin would say, “And don’t forget to ask the Lord to give me a new shirt.” Night after night, that request became a regular part of their prayers.

One day a man from their church phoned. “Mrs. Johnson,” he said, “as you know, I manage a men and boy’s clothing store. And we have some shirts here we’ve not been able to sell. And well, I know you have four boys and thought you might could use these shirts.”

She said, “Oh, yes, we certainly could. What size are they?”

He said, “Well, that’s the unusual part. They’re all size seven.”

That night as the family gathered for prayer, little Kevin said, “And Mom, don’t forget to pray for my shirt.” His mother smiled and said, “Well, Kevin, you will be happy to know that Jesus has answered your prayer.”

“He has?” he said, eyes bugging out.

His brothers were in on the plan, so with that, the first brother went out and came back with a shirt, which he lay on the kitchen table in front of Kevin. “Wow, this is great,” said the 7-year-old. Then another brother came in with a second shirt and laid it on top of the first one. “Two? I have two shirts? I just asked for one!” he said. And the third brother brought in another shirt. By now, the first brother was back with another shirt. Shirt followed shirt, which they kept piling on top of the first.

The stack in front of Kevin grew to be 12 shirts high. By now, he was crying, he was so happy. His mom and dad were also in tears.

Hendricks says, “Out in Dallas, Texas, there is a little boy who has no trouble whatever believing that there is a God and that He answers prayer.”

Before my children believe in God for themselves, the plan is for them to believe in the God of their fathers and mothers.

How’s that working out at your house?

    About the Author

  • Joe McKeever