This remains one of the most shared things I’ve ever written. In these hard days, I felt it important to share again.
It’s hard truth, but there is HOPE! —-
They are some of the most miserable people I know–young adults who haven’t really picked a side. They try to live in two worlds—the one they rule and the one where Jesus makes the rules.
They know just enough about God’s ways to make them miserable in their sin; but they can’t quite bring themselves to surrender all of their lives to follow Him.
One foot in the world and one foot on the side of the Cross – riding the fence is wearing them out as they hold on to the lie that they can make themselves happy.
Many grew up in church but then college comes, and they walk away to “do it their way”. They don’t need “organized religion” –an occasional podcast or blog will do. They check off some imagined “religious box” with that. But deep down something just doesn’t feel right.
Oh, some still occasionally attend church and flock to grace-heavy churches that rarely speak truth but rather use a few Christian words to prop up motivational speeches that make them feel good about themselves, even if they are neck-deep in sin. But deep down, something just doesn’t feel right.
Others run away from it all. They try to numb their thoughts of the eternal and distract themselves with socially acceptable idols like physical fitness, sports, entertainment and the great outdoors. But deep down something still just doesn’t feel right.
Still others jump in an ocean of sin. They continually, willingly swim in it believing they have the freedom to do so. After all, they said a prayer long ago that covered all their sin…they have “fire” insurance.
But, they are all drowning—the swimmers in sin, the distracted, the marginally attached, the ones who know-better-than everyone else, the ones riding the fence. They are unstable in all their ways. James 1:8 says, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways”.
He is unstable. She is unstable. And they are miserable adults.
Time goes on – they move from relationship to relationship. They get jobs. Some get married. Some have children and some limp back to the church. They acquire all the material things the world says will satisfy. Yet, they are empty, and they are miserable.
Why aren’t they happy? They wonder along… silently searching.
And then. For some. Tragedy comes—job loss, cancer, divorce, miscarriage, death of a friend…and they are forced to face questions about living and dying and eternity, “Is God really real? Is He really who He says He is? Is there more than the religion they dabbled in as a child?”
They are confronted with the biggest question of their lives, “Is God in control of my life, or am I?”
They can’t fake it anymore. They can’t go on living in two worlds, not happy in either.
Tragedy has a way of knocking the fake out of us.
What we avoid the most, often has a way of helping some finally see they can trust God more than they can trust anything their eyes can see and so much more than they can trust themselves.
But does it take tragedy to make us surrender to Jesus, to finally find joy and rest in Him?
For some the answer is “yes.”.
But does this cycle of growing up in church, leaving the church, having kids, coming back to the church, really have to repeat itself for so many?
And is simply coming back to the church enough if we are destined to just raise kids who will themselves walk away from the church… and Jesus?
Is it possible to deeply love and follow Jesus without going on the miserable, sin-filled, often tragedy-laden, field trip?
There are some who never walk away from Jesus. What about them?
Some follow Jesus all of their lives. Yes, they still sin. They still “step” in sin, but they are never content to, as a life-style, “walk in it” because Jesus is the Lord of their lives. He is the boss, and the one they love and trust more than they trust themselves.
They know Him in real relationship. They have been intentionally, repetitively, exhaustingly, discipled and truly taught the Word of God. They’ve gone deep in their study of Him. His Word lives in them—they turn to it for direction, comfort, peace and hope.
Jen Wilken is right when she says, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.”
Perhaps as churches and as parents we’ve banked too much on emotion in trying to reach the lost and in trying to teach our kids.
We’ve over-hyped feeling and under-taught the Word.
We’ve poured more into entertaining rather than making disciples who make disciples who can stand on the Word of God when the enemy lies to them.
And he will lie.
And our kids, like many of us did, are apt to chase counterfeit after counterfeit because they haven’t been taught to recognize the real thing.
They haven’t been taught the Word of God and how to apply it to their lives.
Let’s be honest – the hours we spend teaching our kids the Word of God often pales in comparison to the hours we spend on homework, dance lessons, sports and entertainment.
So, why are we surprised our kids spend their time on everything but the things of God when they hit college and afterword?
Why are we surprised that our taking them to church two hours a week didn’t impact them more?
But friend, our job is not to raise church goers!
Our job as parents is to make disciples who make disciples. As we love Jesus with all our hearts, souls and minds; yes—MINDS we are to teach our kids to do the same. (Matt 22:37)
George Barna, known for his statistical analysis of various aspects of how we live Christians lives, surveyed thousands of young adults who did not walk away from their faith and lived lives characterized as “spiritual champions”.
Barna defines spiritual champions: as “an irrepressible follower of Jesus Christ who accepts the Bible as truth, lives by its principles, and seeks ways to impact the world and continually deepens his or her relationship with God.”
Barna’s goal was to find out what happened during a child’s formative years that led them to be irrepressible followers of Christ. Barna reports his findings in his book, “Revolutionary Parenting”. The big key– parents of those who lived their lives loving Jesus and seeing life through a Biblical lens (spiritual champions) saw the job of training children to know the Word of God to be THEIR job, first and foremost—not the church’s, not the youth pastor’s, and not the Christian school. They used those sources as supplements to support what they saw as their primary role.
These type parents are most likely to raise kids who continue in what they learn.
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:14-17
Could we parent this way and still raise a prodigal? Yes.
God gave us all a free will. Your kid got one too. So did mine.
There are no perfect parents or guaranteed outcomes. But there are parents who spend too much time on the wrong things. So, why not ask God to show you if this is you?
And why not today be determined to be more determined about teaching your kids the Word of God so they have a greater chance to love Him with all their heart, soul and mind?
It’s not rocket science.
Simply teach them what God is teaching you. Study the Word. Let that overflow into the life of your family.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)
Ask God to show you teachable moments throughout the day to apply Scriptural truth to the world you live in.
Trust Him that the Word will not return void. The seeds you are planting will grow.
Do all you can to guard your kids from the misery of a shallow faith. Teach them the Word and to guard their lives by it.
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” (Psalm 119:9 ESV)
Friend, I see it. This world is hard, and it will get harder. Parenting is scary.
But find comfort in this –God chose to bring your kids into this world for such a time as this. He knows what He is doing.
And He called you to be your kid’s parent. Trust Him to equip you to teach the children He has given you.
But take this high calling most seriously. You have no greater opportunity and no greater ministry than the ministry in your home of raising up disciples who will make disciples.