As a parent, I can beat myself up for the mistakes I’ve made in raising my children. I sometimes see those former “persistent sins” in them. I can also focus on my better efforts, and even see results in my family, but realize I cannot take the credit. God gave them a heart for justice, a desire to do their best, a strong sense of right and wrong.
Last night someone quoted: “For years you must tell your children about God, but there comes a time when you must stop that — and tell God about your children!”
Abraham did just that. He said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” (Genesis 17:18) However, that prayer didn’t seem to be answered.
David prayed for his son along with the entire nation, yet those prayers were not totally answered either:
“I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.” (1 Chronicles 29:17–19)
Earlier, the young boy Samuel had a message from God about his mentor, Eli. God said:
“And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.” (1 Samuel 3:13)
When Samuel told Eli everything, hiding nothing, Eli said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.” (1 Samuel 3:18)
In my extended family, there are ‘nice’ folks and a few involved in very ‘dark’ matters. Some seem religious but are enmeshed in false teaching. Most of them seem uninterested in Jesus Christ and the Gospel of grace. Can I do anything about it?
In today’s devotional, Fortner blames Eli that his sons perished, and blames Lot that his wife and others perished. He says it is right that we pray for our family members, but we must do all we can to teach them the way of salvation and whatever else possible to bring them into the kingdom of God.
I agree, but what about parents who are not Christians themselves, or have no Bible training, or who have unbelieving spouses, or who missed some of the important life lessons? Can they use any of that as an excuse?
For years, we stew about our shortcomings and blame ourselves, yet Adam and Eve lived in a perfect environment with a perfect Father, and they still sinned and hid from God. Being a good parent is to God’s glory, but it does not guarantee perfection in our own spiritual lives, never mind the lives of our children.
Eli was not much of a father, but he did accept the decision of God to punish him and his household. My mother did not teach me or my siblings much about God and my dad was old when he became a Christian, but three of the four are walking with Jesus. How did that happen?
I do not understand God’s decisions and choices, but am totally grateful that He can save anyone, regardless of their nurture or nature. A friend said she was not interested in God, church, or religion. She drove to a Christian camp to pick up someone who asked for a ride and wound up listening to the speaker. She was intensely drawn to give her life to Christ, even though she gripped the chair in front of her so hard that she nearly dragged it (and the man in it) to the front during the altar call. How did that happen?
People have been saved because of dreams, visions, turning on the radio at the right time to hear God’s message, and through all sorts of strange and unexplainable situations. God’s work cannot be thwarted. What He determines to do, even bad influences cannot stop.
It is not selfish to focus on family in my prayers, yet I know if they are saved, it is only because of the sovereign will of God by grace through faith in Christ. Like all others, they are children of wrath and deserve God’s punishment for their sin. But as Fortner says, if God saves my family, I will serve him with gladness, and if He does not save them, I will still serve Him with gladness. He is God; let Him do what seems good to Him.
Jesus, I try to balance the reality of Your sovereign grace with the reality of missed opportunities. Most of the time, grace wins. I cannot reverse time; yet I can be obedient now. I talk to You about them, and when You give opportunity so I can talk to them about You, I do that. However, I know that if anyone is marked for salvation by Almighty God, it will simply happen. Nothing is too hard for You. May Your will be done.