Raising Courageous Gospel Kids


[The following is a guest post by Todd Martin, Director of Journey Children’s Ministry at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, KY]

Courage has largely moved from real life to the realm of stories. Look at literature and movies, and you can quickly build an impressive list of the courageous. Look at society, and you’ll find it a much more difficult task.

It seems to be, that in selling children’s stories, the courageous hero is a must. In real-life work with children, however, a larger emphasis is being placed on taming them than in training them to be courageous.

As Christians, how should we think about these things in relation to our own children? How can we help them to become courageous Christians?  Here are some thoughts to help:

Showcase Jesus

Remember that courage is not your main goal for your kids; faith in Jesus is.    Many people have tried to aim at courage from the scriptures while bypassing the gospel. The problem with this approach is that it misses the point of the scripture and also misses the foundation of Christian courage.

Take for example many lessons on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that have as their main point “Daniel’s friends were courageous. You should be, too.”  At least courage is mentioned to the kids, but the lesson stops short of the gospel.

Why were Daniel’s friends courageous? Because they trusted God. (To be fair, most lessons do get that point across.) But Daniel’s friends didn’t just trust God generically. What specifically did they trust God to do? They trusted him to be faithful to his promises. What promises? Well, his promises to establish through Israel an eternal kingdom of perfect peace accomplished by the victory of a child descending from David who is Immanuel, God with us. Their courage was rooted in God’s powerful faithfulness to keep his good news promises that are centered on Jesus.

The good news is not virtue-centered. It’s Jesus-centered.

From whatever part of the scripture you are teaching your kids, use the main point of the passage in the big picture of the Scripture to guide your kids to Jesus.

Show them that courage is part of what it means to follow Jesus

While we give our kids Jesus-based teaching, not virtue-based teaching, we must at the same time remember that all of the Christian virtues are part of what it means to follow Jesus. In other words, your kids should hear from you why it is important to be wise, to be honest and fair, to be loving, to have self-control, and to be courageous in light of who Jesus is and what he has done.

While we focus on the cross, we don’t neglect speaking of virtues.  Instead, as we speak of them, we root virtues where God designed them to be planted – in the gospel.

In the case of courage, we are not just seeking that our kids be courageous generically. Instead, we are wanting them to have Christian courage.  My pastor, David Prince, has defined courage in this way: “Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting on the premise that there is something more important than fear.”  There’s a certain kind of courage found in people of all sorts of beliefs, but it’s when our kids understand what is most important in the light of God’s word that they are prepared to be courageous in following Christ.  

Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations, and certainly he wants us to make disciples of our children. Wrapped up in that task is teaching them to observe all that he has commanded. Throughout the scriptures God commands his people “Do not fear.”  This command is nearly always accompanied by a promise of God to be with his people or to act for them. Being courageous and trusting God to keep his word go hand in hand.

Give them practice in courageous trust

How can we help our kids grow in their ability to courageously trust? One way we can do this is in our own relationship with them. Does your child have fears? If so, thank God, because he has given you a special area of life in which you can disciple your child.

If you have a little guy who is terrified of the playground slide, lead him to conquer that slide, for the glory of God ,    accompanied by the promise that you will be there with him. If you have a toddler who panics when you try to wash her hair, help her conquer her fear of water by trusting you when you say, “I’ve got you! I’m holding you tight!” It may not be easy, but guide these little ones to courageously face all kinds of fears, and to trust you in leading them to do so. In doing so, you are preparing them to courageously trust God. They are learning to obey Him in the face of temporal fears and as they face difficult times in life.

Focus on God’s real promises

As we train our children to courageously trust, remember that we are we are focused on God’s powerful faithfulness to keep his actual promises. God has not promised us (and by extension, our kids) that today nothing bad will happen, that there will be no accidents or injuries, and that there will be nothing but success. If we are guiding kids to trust God in such ways, we are guiding them towards an inevitable crisis of disappointment. Instead, we should teach our kids the real promises of God – that God has a hope and a future for his people, that he is causing all things to work together for their good, that there is no condemnation for those who trust in Christ, that he is the ultimate victor, and that he has an eternal home for his people.  Our assurance to our kids should reflect Jesus’ teaching “In the world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)

Give them examples of courageous Christians

Inspire your kids with examples of Christians who are courageously trusting God.    Tell them of missionaries who are travelling to dangerous parts of the world because they want to share the good news of Jesus where there are no churches. Tell them of those who are imprisoned or cut off from their families because of their faith and yet are faithful to their Savior. Tell them of people who are lovingly speaking of Jesus in settings where they are being mocked. Use modern examples along with the stories of the past.

Above all, remember how they look up to you. Your example will trump all others. Be the example for them of someone who is faithfully trusting God in action, despite whatever circumstances you find yourself in.

Courageously trust God in parenting

One of the ways you can demonstrate courageous trust to your children is by courageously trusting God in your parenting. When you allow the question “What will honor God?” to dominate over the question “What is most safe?” you demonstrate a courageous faith to your children. Our children need us as parents to be the voices urging them to attempt great things for God rather than the voices calling them back from the battle.

The culture we live in here in North America is becoming less friendly to Christianity, yet Christ’s promises are unshaken. If trends continue, we can only expect an increasing hostility to the Christian message as our children grow. By Christ’s own words, we can expect them to suffer in ways for following Jesus. Don’t shelter them from the cross, but encourage them to follow Jesus. By God’s grace, and through the work of the Spirit, as they learn to trust God to keep his good news promises, may our children display in the world the God-glorifying virtue of courage.

By |February 24th, 2016|Categories: Blog|

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