"I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread" (Ps. 37:25).
I'm sure you remember the slogan that went around in the 70s, "God has no grandchildren." At the time, I took it to mean that our children needed to have their own relationship with God, rather than depending on ours. Probably influenced by Solomon's admonition to "Train up a child in the way he should go" (Prov. 22:6), many churches spared no expense and went to extraordinary lengths to reach the children in order to secure their place in the kingdom. Some mothers and fathers feared they would stand in the dock (Judgment seat), and be found wanting as to how they reared their offspring. This led to overzealous means of getting the child in line, often with just the opposite results. Fear always leads to neurotic overcompensation, which can drive the kids the other way, screaming into the night. Years ago, when a friend was lamenting that his mother told him his son would burn in hell because he refused to go to church and get saved, I commented, "If your son saw anything in your life that he wanted, you couldn't keep him away from church." When your children do see something in your own life that they want, you won't have to nag, threaten, browbeat, or bribe them to listen to your counsel about your relationship with God. They will want what you have and will not rest until they get it.
My daughter is grown and along with her husband, doing a superb job of rearing their children, proving that most of my fears were unfounded. Now, I see the observation that God has no grandchildren as more of the "Good News" of the gospel, which just gets better and better. I'm exceedingly grateful for the Christian home I grew up in, and that there never was a time when I didn't know that Jesus died for my sins. Yet, judging by the drop off in church membership today, it is obvious that something is amiss somewhere, and "head knowledge" based on law about how to live is not enough. Don't worry, this is NOT a "how-to-parent" treatise. I'm the last person in the Universe qualified to write such a piece. Rather, it is an affirmation that in spite of our neurotic tendencies, our failings, our obsession with codependency (which is rampant among Christians and in fact is the only addiction sanctioned by religion), and all our self doubts, God is truly in charge. He is the one ultimately responsible for bringing our children into a relationship with Himself. We are prone to failure, but God can never fail!
Bringing up children who know and love the Lord is NOT about the rules you lay down, most of which you can't keep yourself, and it is NOT about keeping them away from evil, though how anyone thinks you can really do that in 2006 is beyond me. It is about the grace of God which floods in to cover our failures, and yes, that includes our sins in relationship to our children as well. This grace moves forward to succeeding generations and also reaches back to cover the relationship with our own parents, which honest people will admit was rarely perfect.
Abraham was an idol worshipper, as I've pointed out several times lately, but that did not deter God from making him the father of all who believe. You may remember the story of Abraham's scheming grandson, Jacob, who went back to the land of Abraham's birth for a wife. He married two women, Leah and Rachel, and had 12 sons, which became the 12 tribes of Israel. After serving his father-in-law Laban for many years, Jacob received instructions from God to leave Padan Aram and return to the land of his father Isaac (Gen. 31:13-17). He took his two wives and their children, his camels, asses, sheep, and goats and fled from the presence of his conniving father-in-law. The angry Laban pursued them because Rachel had stolen his household gods, and he wanted them back (Gen. 31:32-34). Having experienced the living God, Jacob had been changed (even his name, was changed from Jacob to Israel, by the angel of God. See Gen. 32:24-28), but clearly, Rachel had not been, as her idol worship proved. Yet, God used her eldest son Joseph to save the whole tribe of Israel from famine and starvation. This is another example of election, of God's choosing whom He will use in spite of what the parents and grandparents might be like.
We all know Christians whose children have given them heartache and grief, with just cause to despair, but there are far more, who in spite of having great kids, still wring their hands in fear and dread of "what if?" We live in an uncertain world, full of dangers at every turn, temptations that our grandparents didn't even know existed. We are bombarded daily with violent or seductive images of sex, drugs, and rock and roll on TV, Video games, Movies, and more. How can anyone escape corruption, many parents wonder. The answer again to all our fears is God's grace for us and for our children.
This is not a deep theological tome, but rather a personal testimony that our kids have the same Father we have. It came to me as I was writing this that someone "out there" apparently needs to hear that the Good News applies to our children as well as to us. It is human nature, I suppose, to be more worried about our kids than we are for ourselves, precisely because in the case of grown children, we have no control over the choices they make. The truth is that we don't have control of much in our own lives either, but somehow, we've been sold a bill of goods which says we are supposed to be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. That is ridiculous in the extreme when you see it written out, but if we were really supposed to be responsible for the things we think we are, then that "God description" would have to apply to us. It does not.
I'm constantly in awe of the resiliency of the human spirit, the God given ability to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and keep going against terrible odds. Add the Spirit of God to that, and you have an unstoppable force. Add unconditional love and grace on top of it all, and you have a son/daughter of God who has overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. When you consider that it is Christ's faith by which we live, not ours, and faith itself is a gift, Paul said (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:8), we can see why grace through faith is the victory that overcomes the world!
Some of you may not know that Lenny reared 17 foster children in his first marriage. He told his kids that when things go well for them, they may learn 25%, but when things go wrong, they learn closer to 75%. It's hard to watch our children struggle when things do not go well in their lives, but that which produced fruit in our lives will do the same in theirs.
On the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter said of God's dealings, "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:39). God calls our children even as He called us, and by the way, their calling may not be what we thought it would be or should be. Trying to tell our grown children how to live their lives, and how they should serve God is a "heartache on the hoof" for anyone attempting it, or anyone receiving such well meant, but inappropriate advice. I've been on both sides of that coin, which is what has prompted me to quit, with God's help, either giving or receiving advice from anyone except the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this is what Paul had in mind when he said, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21). It came to me one day that the Bible never says that children should not provoke their fathers (or mothers) to wrath. Why? Because someone has to be the adult, and by necessity, it must be the parents who lead by example.
Did you ever wake up at 3:30 in the morning, terrified for your children's welfare? Not a pretty picture is it? Heart pounding, soul trembling fear masquerading as concern for our children, causes us to lose sight of grace and God's power. For me, the scripture is a blessed refuge when that happens, rarely now, but sometimes. For ourselves AND our children we can rest assured that "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him" (Isa. 59:19, KJV). Leave it to Isaiah to put the truth about God's grace in thrilling language. A few verses later, he makes this astounding prophecy: "As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD. "My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever," says the LORD" (Isa. 59:21). God puts the gospel in our mouths to speak, and also in our children's mouths, in His time, in His way, according to His will.
To me, this is a promise that no matter what it looks like on the surface, God is going to work the same miracles in our children and grandchildren's lives that He has in ours. He loves them more than we possibly can, and since He knows the end from the beginning, He has planned exactly what trials and tribulations they must pass through. I sometimes say that being the elect is not something to be puffed up about. It just means you are the first to get dragged through the cactus patch backwards. Apparently, there is no other way for God to bring us out of law and into grace. So, when you see your children in some sort of trial, and your first response is to jump in and save them from it (a codependent compulsion), remember how God dealt with you.
This is why walking by the Spirit of the Lord is the only way to keep sane. He gets all the glory for how our kids turn out because He accepts the total responsibility. To me, worry is the only sin worth mentioning these days because it shows a complete lack of trust in God's ability to provide for our children or anyone else. It happens infrequently now, but when I wake up afraid or troubled, I pray that God will love me perfectly, for perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18). I also repent (change my mind) about WHO is in charge of the situation.
I'm thinking of a dear Saint at Medicalodge who has now passed into the arms of God. He told me almost every Sunday that B-I-B-L-E stands for "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth." It has a catchy ring to it and sounds good, but without the Holy Spirit's leading, it can be just more law to lay on our kids. Don't do that. It will provoke them to wrath and bring you down with frustration, guilt and shame. You couldn't live by law, so how do you expect they could? I said to someone recently, that trying to mix law and grace is like trying to mate a monkey with an ox. What you get is a big, ugly beast which can't climb very high, nor pull a very big load either.
Paul was on the cutting edge of the truth, called by God to reveal that we live totally by grace, NOT law. To the Galatians, he wrote, "We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified" (Gal. 2:15-16). Our grown children need and want freedom, even as we do. Like us, they need to know that "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1). Knowing you are free in Christ goes a long way toward helping you to live free and be free in Him!
As we pray for our children and grandchildren, standing in the gap as they endure their struggles, we remember what Paul wrote the Galatians. Like him, we are feeling "the pains of childbirth" until Christ is formed in them (Gal. 4:19).
Trying to live by law and expecting our grown children to do so causes us to fall from grace (Gal. 5:4). "But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" (Gal. 5:5-6).
Father we lay our lives down before You in worship and thanksgiving for Your beautiful plan which has its culmination in Christ Jesus our Lord. We thank You that the gospel encompasses all peoples, all nations, all places on the earth and beyond. Your grace exceeds all our expectations, meets all our needs, and lifts us into Your presence, where we and our children may fellowship with You and each other forever. In Christ, we ask it. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Too Much Grace?
When Grace Floods In
Predestined by Grace
The Glory Road
We're always happy to hear from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 8/11/06
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/09/08.