There are certain things that happen in life which determine the way you live. COVID has changed the way we do lots of things. Our grandparents went through even bigger changes with World War 2. When your country is at war, you can't just keep living like normal. Businesses get shut down or repurposed. Families say goodbye to loved ones as they head off to fight. People get conscripted to serve the war effort. Everything changes. Something that we need to realise as Christian parents, is that we are at war.
We are at war
The Bible describes the times in which we live (between Jesus' first and second comings) as 'the last days'. And in these times there are going to be lots of crazy things happening. We will be persecuted, people will be saved from hell etc. And these things, massive though they are, are simply part of the normal Christian experience. Because Christians live in the last days. But there is one part of this reality that we can easily forget. We are at war. In Revelation, John paints a picture of what is going on for us in these times:
Then the dragon [the devil] was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus [Christians].
We are at war against the devil. He is trying to take us down, to get us to let go of Jesus. This is the environment we are raising our kids in. War. We can't relax and take it easy, we have to turn our whole lives into resources for the war effort. We need to work our whole lives towards our family holding ground when it comes to Jesus, and also winning ground for the gospel. Check out what Paul says:
Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
We need to have a wartime mindset when it comes to parenting, otherwise our kids could well be lost to the enemy. We need to take the spiritual reality of the battle we're in more seriously. Imagine if we didn't get enough bandages to the hospitals, or ammunition to the troops? What if it was our complacency that lost us the physical war? The tragedy would pale in comparison to that of losing our kids to the spiritual war, due to our negligence and laxity.
A family at war
But if we parent like we are a family at war, our kids will very quickly pick up on the serious nature of our lives. No-one living through world war II was chill. We can be no less chill. Our kids need to pick up the seriousness of the situation they've been thrust into. And it is our job as Christian parents to help them with that.
Talk with urgency about the things of God. Talk about the desperate need you have as a family to be trusting in Jesus. Talk about how missionaries (both here and abroad) are behind enemy lines. Talk about the desperate need your neighbours, friends and extended family are in without Jesus. About how they are on the brink of destruction, and that it could occur at any moment. Pray with urgency. Ask God to act now. To hold off Jesus' return until certain people are saved. Let your kids hear some desperation in your voice. If they understand the urgency, they might pick up the sense of seriousness and importance.
2) Know the enemy
Talk about the enemy. Talk about how the world, the flesh and the devil are trying to pull you and others away from Jesus. Talk about how Satan is dangerous, yet has nothing on Jesus. Pray for victory in your own lives over the devil, that you wouldn't give in to his deceitful schemes. Ask that others would be freed from his lies. Help your kids see that our world is not allied with Jesus, but hostile towards him. The things of this world won't help their relationship with him, but they will hinder it.
3) Radical Decisions
Make some radical decisions that show you are serious about the war effort. Give away big chunks of money, talking your kids through the process. Move to help a church plant begin. Evangelise another family together. Plan a neighbourhood event geared at evangelistic conversations. Downsize your house and give the money to church. The war effort comes at a cost. Is there any cost too great?
You never know when your kids will be on the front line. It's not worth waiting until that happens before you start training them. Train them in the one weapon we have, the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Read together regularly. Talk and pray with urgency about it. Read The Pilgrim's Progress together. A wonderful story that captures something of the wartime mentality. And inspire them to desire fighting for the Lord. Dream with them about where and how they might serve him in battle. Pray with them for opportunities to overcome the enemy in their lives and the lives of others. This will set them on a lifetime trajectory of fighting for Jesus.
The way you spend holidays can send a message as to what time you think you are living in. Do you go all out on relaxing, and forget about God and the war effort? Or do you make sure you visit a church, read the Bible, encourage your family to continue fighting sin urgently? Do you read Christian books, and thank God for the food, weather and chance to take a short breath? Do you seek out evangelistic conversations and keep training your kids in godliness? The war doesn't stop for us when we go on holidays. Teach your kids this by fighting and making a point of fighting when you take a break from all the other pressures of life.
You really can waste your parenting, even as a Christian parent. And living as though life is breezy is one surefire way to do that. Cruise ships aren't a thing during war. Let's not think we can live cruise ship spiritual lives! We need to live as though on a battleship. Our kids will notice which way we go and they will follow our lead. This is serious business. Let's give them every (or even any) chance in this battle.