Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Seeing Spiritual Growth in Our Kids

I often talk to my children about the importance of praying and asking Jesus to help us in our weakness, to teach us what is right, to give us wisdom when we aren't sure what choice is right. 

My point being that we cannot be good (or holy) on our own.  We need a stronger force to overcome our sinful nature.  No amount of effort on our part can make us bear fruit that imitates Jesus.  We need His Spirit to empower us, teach us, and give us the wisdom to do that which He desires.

"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7
"The Spirit helps us in our weakness." Romans 8:26
"But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 14:26

So there is a genuine joy that rises up in me when I see spiritual growth in my children because I know the Spirit is doing the work.  Especially when I see change in them, good change.  Like when they exhibit self-control in a circumstance they struggled to in the past.  Or when they choose to act kindly when countless times before they didn't. 

"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control...Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature and its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step by the Spirit." Galatians 5:16, 22-25

Over the past week, there were two particular occasions where I saw growth in my son Grayden in areas he has struggled with in the very recent past.  Areas we both have been praying about. 

The first occasion was at his brother Cole's swim lesson.  On this particular day, Cole was consumed by fear and was refusing to get in the water, let alone participate in the lesson.  In the past, Grayden might have patronized Cole for his fear.  He might have been annoyed and impatient with the attention his brother needed. 

But this time, Grayden was understanding and patient.  He took it upon himself to come alongside Cole and give him a gentle pep talk.  He spoke life giving words to his brother, encouraging him and building him up.  In the end, Cole overcame his fear, got in the water, and participated in the lesson.  And at the end of his lesson, Grayden never once said "I told you so."  Instead, he praised Cole's bravery.  It was never about him, it was about helping Cole.   

I sat back and thought to myself, "The Spirit's at work!  Thank you Jesus!"

The second occasion was at home.  While playing with Cole and another friend of theirs, there was a suggestion made to Grayden that Allie be the "bad guy" which likely meant in her near future she would be chased and attacked.  From a distance I overheard Grayden say firmly but nicely, "Nah.  We are all a team. She's a good guy too."  And just like that, his friend agreed and a little bully-session was thwarted. 

Again, I thought to myself, "The Spirit's at work!  He's bearing fruit."

While these are just two small examples of spiritual growth, they are examples.  And like I said before, they brought me tremendous joy.  The humble kind of joy that occurs when we see Jesus change a life. 

I felt led by the Lord to pull Grayden aside and tell him about the changes I was seeing.  Not to boost his ego or instill in him a spirit of self-righteousness, but rather to help him see how Jesus was changing him from the inside out.  Point out to him that where in the past he might have been inclined to gratify his sinful desires, on these particular occasions he did that which the Spirit of Christ in him desired.  I long for him to see that the Spirit of Christ is working in his life.

Friends, it's downright easy to see and focus on the growth our kids haven't made.  But what God has reminded me of this past week is that part of leading my children toward Jesus is helping them to see how He is working in their life.  I can't lead them in this if I'm not myself looking for His change in them. 

So let's pray together that we have eyes that look for the Spirit working in our kids' lives.  And let's pray for our kids that as they pray for more of Him in their life, they will begin to see all the ways His Spirit is teaching, empowering, and giving them the wisdom they need to live a life of love and integrity; one that imitates Jesus Himself. 

Help me to see your work in my kids' lives.  Give me wisdom and discernment to know when Your Spirit is empowering them to bear righteous fruit.  And I pray you would equip them with all that they need to live by Your Spirit and to gratify that which Your Spirit desires.  I ask that Your Spirit would give them power, love, and self-discipline in life.  May You teach them all things.  As they trust in You, may they keep in step with Your Spirit.  And I pray they would begin to see Your work in them, may they recognize good fruit in their life and give You the glory for it!

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