Make the difference
By Jay Mooney with Cecil Culbreth
Parents have the greatest impact and influence on the lives of children and young people.
One student wrote to a national leader:
"I am your child. You have brought me into this world and raised me to what I am today. If I am not what I should be, please do not be too harsh with me for I am your product. My actions advertise the quality standards of home. You say that you love and yet it has been years since you put your arms about me at bedtime and with tears in your eyes asked your Heavenly Father to watch over me as I slept.
"You seem to be more interested in my school grades than in the condition of my eternal soul. You give me the impression that it is better to be popular than to be pure, better to impress people than be respected. So the next time you feel like throwing up your hands and saying, 'I just can’t do a thing with you,' please remember you have had the opportunity to influence me since I was born. And the Bible says ‘train up a child in the way he should go.'"
A U.S. study concluded that among all of the influences of modern life, parents still have the greatest influence. Seventy-eight percent of youth said the single greatest influence over their attitudes and actions is their parents. That study only scratched the surface.
The youth-parent connection is vital to spiritual maturation of a youth. It shapes a child’s eternal destiny. And the spiritually healthy child has the potential of shaping countless other lives for God. As a parent, you will influence your children to live for God or to live for Satan. Many of the behavior patterns you portray are being picked up by your children. That can be frightening or reassuring. What would you do if you only had your children for three or four years?
Let’s examine the parental influence from the perspective of Moses and his parents in Hebrews 11:23-27 (NIV). As background, according to Exodus 2:1-10, Moses’ mother only had him for a few years. Throughout his childhood and into his young adulthood Moses was “educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). Moses had a chance to be a great leader in Egypt, a powerful but ungodly culture, yet he chose to identify himself with the people of God. What made the difference in Moses’ life?
Confidence in God
“By faith Moses’ parents … ” Hebrews 11:23 begins. Moses’ parents believed God had given them this child and would take care of their child. They instilled that same faith in Moses. Take a look at Hebrews 11:24 and you see the phrase “by faith Moses.” Moses’ actions of faith as an adult were tied to the faith his parents had shown.
When it became impossible for Moses’ parents to hide him in the house, their faith was severely tested. But their faith in God sustained them. They knew God was in control. Parents must instill faith in God into their children.
Commitment to God’s purpose
Notice the next phrase in Hebrews 11:23 — Moses’ parents “saw he was no ordinary child.” Moses’ parents believed God intended to do great things through their child. Consequently, they had their priorities right. They were more concerned that Moses should succeed in the kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of Egypt.
Sometimes our children do not become spiritual giants because we do not expect them to become spiritual giants. Moses’ parents believed God would use their son. They saw God’s mission as Moses’ destiny. We need to instill a sense of destiny into this generation. God is going to use them in the last great outpouring that will take place on earth. “Your sons and daughters will prophesy” (Joel 2:28).
Are you expecting God to use your child?
Courage to do what is right
Hebrews 11:23 says Moses’ parents were “not afraid of the king’s edict.” As a result, Moses had courage to stand up for God. As an adult “he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger” (v. 27). It has been said, “We teach what we know, and we reproduce what we are.”
Courageous parents produce courageous children. Give us godly moms with a holy boldness and courage to stand up against those forces seeking to destroy today’s generation. Moms who choose to do the right thing although it is not the popular thing. Give us godly fathers who will boldly but lovingly say, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
Parents of Influence
Parents, live an authentic Christian life before your children. Model a love for God and a life of forgiveness. This doesn’t mean we begin with perfection nor even attain it. It means we model the essence of authentic Christian life that Jesus simplified in His teaching.
Love God with all that you are and love others as much as yourself (Luke 10:27). This is not a to-do list but an attitude of faith. It is exemplified in the practice of putting God first.
A couple of years ago a mature Christian leader shared with me one of his daily practices for fostering faith in his children. I began mimicking his practice and found it to be a blessing. He called it “TLC” — touch, love and compliment.
• Touch your children in a modest and morally assuring way. Too many youth are void of this loving embrace from parents and grandparents and begin to look for it in unhealthy relationships.
• Love your children through a word or deed.
• Compliment your children unconditionally regarding a proper aspect of their personality or practice. Sometimes this means you may be complimenting them on a whacky new hairstyle or torn-up new jeans.
Another powerful parental influence needed in our homes is the exercise of forgiveness. The way a parent handles being wronged by his or her child, friend, or co-worker can impact how a youth views the forgiveness of his or her Heavenly Father and releases that forgiveness to others (Ephesians 4:32).
At times I feel like I have blown it as a parent and husband with a selfish statement, moment of lost temper, or careless oversight. It is then I have sought to follow God’s directive to humbly repent of my sin before God and my family and seek their forgiveness (Matthew 6:12; Colossians 3:13). In every case, God has grown our love for one another and furthered us in the character of Christ.
Home is usually the most transparent place in life. If you can live a genuine life of faith at home, you can live it anywhere. Dad and Mom lead the home. Therefore, Dad and Mom, make the greatest difference in the lives of children and youth.
Parents, we make the difference. Let’s intentionally make a godly difference that blesses our youth.
JAY MOONEY is director of Assemblies of God National Youth Ministries. Cecil Culbreth, Youth Alive national coordinator and executive director of His Story, contributed to this article.
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