One of the reasons people struggle with their faith is that they have false expectations and assumptions about God. It can be very disappointing when a promise in the Bible doesn’t seem to work in my life! Worse is when a promise seems to work for other people and not for us! I know of one atheist who went to a Pentecostal meeting and dared God to do a miracle, when God fell through, it was the final straw that broke his faith.
If we want our children to have a strong faith, we need to help them understand Scripture properly and have accurate expectations for how God works in the world. A great example is helping our children understand that every promise in the Bible isn’t meant for them. Take Psalm 91 for example. Psalm 91 makes some startling claims – claims that are loved the world-over by prosperity gospelites. Here are just five of its beautiful verses:
Psalm 91:9-13 (HCSB)
9 Because you have made the LORD—my refuge, the Most High—your dwelling place,
10 no harm will come to you; no plague will come near your tent.
11 For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.
12 They will support you with their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the young lion and the serpent.
Now, I’ve met a man who lived this very passage out as literally as anyone I know. His name is Pastor Wally Magdangal and I spent half a day with him about 12 years ago and heard his testimony. During the time of the Persian Gulf War, he led one of the largest secret underground churches in Saudi Arabia. He was eventually arrested and tortured for some 70 days. Unbelievably, he was freed due to international pressure on December 23rd just days before his scheduled execution on December 25, 1992. You can find many interviews with Pastor Wally on YouTube and would be inspired by his story.
In our conversation, Pastor Wally told me how he was tortured. The guards would lay him down, whip his feet and then make him stand in order to persuade him to denounce Christ. Over and over again they beat him like this. The guards were very perplexed by how he could keep standing with bloodied feet, as was Pastor Wally! Until he realized that each time he was hoisted to his feet, they remained just inches off the ground. It was then that he says he remembered the verse “They will support you with their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” That verse became Pastor Wally’s personal promise. What a miracle!
However, that verse did not become Jesus’s personal miracle. It is a remarkable thing when a child realizes that the Devil tempted Jesus in Matthew 4 using scripture to do so! Of course, Jesus didn’t bite. Now it might have been that if Jesus had thrown himself from the Temple rooftop, that angels would have swooped in to save Him. But perhaps not. They also could have swooped in to save Him from the cross, and they did not.
This is an important lesson for our children. There are promises in the Bible that are, quite simply, not meant for us! It would be ludicrous for 90-year-old women the world round to claim Sarah’s promise of childbearing in her old age! When we teach children to treat the Bible as a “name it to claim it” type of book, we are not teaching them faith, we are teaching them magic. And this realization is very disconcerting for a child!
What are they to do?
What are we to do?
How can we know what is and isn’t a promise for us?
The answer is so simple; have an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ.
Do you remember “sword drills” from your summer camp days? The speaker would call “SWORDS UP!” and every camper would raise their Bible above their head in anticipation of race through the Bible to find a specific passage of scripture. That phrase, “swords up,” is based on Ephesians 6:17 which says “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.” However, that phrase, “God’s word,” in this case is not referring to the written word, but rather a spoken word (in Greek, rhema.)
A rhema word is one that God whispers directly into your heart. And did you know that before you can claim a promise in scripture, the Spirit of God must whisper into your heart “This one’s for you!” If He doesn’t, that verse remains a promise for another day or another person, but it isn’t yours to “claim.” HOWEVER, if the Spirit of God does whisper into your heart, you can take that promise to the bank! God’s promises never fail… once they are offered to you!
Do you understand why this is so critical? Our children read their Bibles very literally, and with a very naive sense of entitlement. They don’t see the conditions that precede the promise. (“…IF you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32) I suspect God often honours their simple faith, and I am certain that He is never angry with it. However, we do our children a disservice if don’t teach them the proper way to read and apply the promises in the Bible.
If you model an authentic relationship with Christ, in the miracles and then muck of life, your kids will follow you into the faith of their parents.
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