Train a Generation of Warriors for Christ
January 21, 2021
Ephesians 5:13-17 (NIV)
‘But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.’
Brothers and sisters in the Lord,
It is time to wake up.
I have seen a lot of talk on social media about how we shouldn’t despair because God knew what He was doing when He ordained that our children would be born during this time. They are metaphorical “Esthers,” being alive “for such a time as this.” It is true that the tumult we’re experiencing in our nation and world is no surprise to God, and for that we can rest in full confidence of His sovereignty. This does not, however, excuse parents from our responsibility to “train up our children in the way they should go,” as some have been in the habit of doing.
There are many good, God-loving parents who instruct their children to go after their dreams and do all they can to make them successful in life. Most of us would love to see our children living the American Dream: Having a successful job, marriage, family, beautiful home on the cul de sac, and an SUV parked in the 2-car attached garage. I just have one question about this dream: Where do you see that in scripture? What I see instead is the challenge to take up our crosses and follow Jesus to the point of death. Matthew 16:24 (NIV) says, ‘Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”’ Are our children exempt from this command? Absolutely not, and neither are we.
Our children have been born into this world at the exact moment God planned, but it doesn’t mean they were born ready for it. As parents, we must train our children for a faith battle. Don’t allow the enemy to convince you that your child’s greatest success will be their job resume. It’s also not going to be their list of activities. It’s not going to be if they have healthy relationships and get to check lots of items off their bucket lists. The greatest success your children will gain from this life will be the crown they wear in the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8 (NIV) says, “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Make no mistake. We are training our children not for life, but death. This sounds harsh, but the Gospel is often abrasive to our heart’s desires; and that is the point. May we die to our own desires so that the Spirit may live in us. Our children are engaged in spiritual battles of the likes we have never seen. The least we can do for them is to arm them with the weapons they need to fight.
I fully anticipate that by this point I have lost some of my audience, and that’s okay. This message is not for the fainthearted. However, if you are with me; if you acknowledge that what our children face goes far deeper than our physical eyes can see; if you are ready to train a generation of warriors for Christ, then read on.
There are three things we must do to train our children for battle. The first action item is to get your own spiritual priorities straight. Now is not the time to be focused on your own career and finances or get distracted with social concerns. The Lord will provide all that you need. We only need to seek Him first. Matthew 6:31-33 (NIV) says, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat? Or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” We get our spiritual priorities straight by developing a hunger and thirst for the Lord. There is no substitute for daily scripture reading and prayer. Anything else is just self-help.
The second action item is to get the whole family involved in a community of radically devoted believers. If you think attending services at the church building one day a week is going to give you or your family the spiritual enrichment they need, you are sorely deceived. Let’s take a look at the believers in Acts 2:44-47 (NIV), “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” Your children need to see you and others living like they believe what the Bible says. A story about Jesus once a week with no practical application at home just teaches children to compartmentalize their faith. A compartmentalized faith is easily sacrificed for more “important” priorities later in life.
The third action item is the hardest one to accept. We must expect that people will hate us. I am not just referring to the abrasive interactions of social and mainstream media, but even to others within the local church. Those who decide to live a life sold out to Jesus should expect to be misunderstood and mistreated just like Jesus and the disciples. If the Creator of the Universe didn’t escape this world unscathed, then why would we? This is the step that separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:33) Following Jesus takes sacrifice, and not everyone is willing to pay the price.
To be prepared to train our children up in the Lord is not a simple task. We were blessed with a precious blessing in each child, and the Lord may ask us to lay our gift on the altar as Abraham did Isaac. But don’t despair! The Lord has not left us to fight this battle on our own. As you grow deeper in relationship with the Lord, the Holy Spirit will teach you everything you need to follow Him. We lay down our worldly riches and pick up an eternal blessing that never fades. Then, one day you will have an unimaginable reward when you celebrate with your children in the Father’s house for all eternity. Remember the promise of Jesus in John 16:33 (NIV), “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”