- 4. We may have hope because of God's election of those who will come to Him. Every child is on his way to hell unless God stops him. God's election is our friend. We would have no hope for our child's salvation without it, because no child would turn to Christ if left in the state of depravity (Romans 3: 9-11). But given God's election of people to Himself, we can be encouraged.
There is no true joy apart from a biblical understanding and embracing of the absolute and exhaustive sovereignty of God. This is the clear message of the Book of Ecclesiastes. Joy comes "at the end of a tether."1
That tether is the sovereignty of God. When you and I pray for our unbelieving children, let us pray that they would come to the end of their tether. In a state of what Charles Wesley so appropriately called "nature's night," they are in prison. It is a self-induced prison. God is in the business of setting prisoners free, is He not? His electing grace is our friend. In this history of redemption, God has worked wide and deep in Christian homes, in Christian families. We pray that God's eye will diffuse a quickening ray in the prison of our childrens' unsaved lives. May they awake, rise, and follow Him all their days.
- 5. Your child has some clear knowledge of what it means to be a true Christian. The Spirit certainly may bring this to bear at any time if this is His chosen method. Though it is no less a miracle for a knowledgeable child to be converted than a child with little knowledge, God always uses the gospel seed in every conversion.
The lives of John Newton and Adoniram Judson are very instructive. It can be a healing experience to read of children who have wandered from parental instruction and Christian obedience only to be returned to the flock by a Sovereign God who is committed to "saving His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).
Pray that God will set the logs ablaze by His converting grace. Pray regularly, pray fervently, pray believingly. Immerse yourself (as we have) in biblical truth. Shift your mind to the promises of divine grace found in the Scriptures. As a parent, focus your faith by meditating on a passage like Luke 15, in which you see the great images of faith. You discover the Father's grace in action. Lost things do not remain lost; they are found. The dead come alive! The lost sheep is found by the shepherd, the lost coin by the housewife, and the lost son is welcomed home with almost scandalous warmth by a loving father.
These are images for your faith—images of a Heavenly Father's heart for lost souls. Pray that God will give you faith to believe, and to help you in your unbelief!
- 6. Your own disobedience in the past will not ultimately keep your child from becoming a believer. It is pointless to berate yourself for any wrong behavior on your part as if it were the reason your child is without Christ. This does not mean that we as parents should not repent and do better, and even admit wrong to our children. But the reason your child is without Christ is related to his or her own sin. Every parent is sinful and inconsistent. This has never been a barrier to God if He desires to save your child. Illustrations abound of children who come from far less godly families who are nonetheless converted to Christ. In fact, this may have been the case in your own experience.
We have come to see that our sins and failures and inconsistencies have not been the reason for our children's unbelief. They were conceived in unbelief. They have responded poorly (at times) to our shaping influences, and their heart aversion to God's truth has taken form over many, many years. And now they have fallen into what we would consider Christian heresy (a contemporary form of Socinianism for the curious).
And yes, it is difficult to forgive oneself for failures and sins and inconsistencies and for saying those things to our defiant teens that should have never, never come out of our mouths. And yes, our children can be cruel and amazingly resourceful in their blame-shifting and fault-finding. I mean, it is never their fault, is it? Such is the fallen condition of man's heart. Sin has unhinged everything!
But Donna and I had absolutely no logs in the fireplace when God found us and set the fire in our hearts. Your children (and my children) have many, many fine logs on the heart. May God be pleased to light them on fire as we continue to pray. Confess your sins and failures, but remember, please remember, parents:
In the Gospel and for the sake of Jesus Christ, God deals with us as if we had never sinned. Equally glorious is that He deals with us as if we have always done the right thing. This is the meaning of justification, and this is to the praise of the glory of His grace. If you do not believe this, then you need to personally put the "amazing" back into grace for your own life as a parent.