Intellectual Preparation: Relevant Reading and Value Viewing
You are probably familiar with the old adage: Garbage in, garbage out. There is a reason it is familiar to us; it is true. What we put into our minds molds what we think and feel and what we think and feel molds us into what we believe and, ultimately, into who we are. The Bible warns us of this fact in Proverbs 23:7 and points out that we should control what we think about in Philippians 4:8 and 2 Corinthians 10:5. What are we allowing our children to put into their minds? If we want them to become faithful Christians in a future that is likely to involve persecution against them, then we are going to have to train their minds.
In Jesus’ parable of the sower He explains that the seed that fell among the rocks and thorns didn’t produce fruit and even withered and died because of problems they faced. We don’t want that to happen with our children, and the only way to avoid it is to build strong deep roots and prepare them for the temptations and persecutions that they may face. Too often we have babied and protected our children’s minds from any of the negative things Christians have faced or may face in the future. Because of that they are totally unprepared for any hardships they may face. Even something as insignificant as losing a friendship or being laughed at for believing something in the Bible is enough to drive them away from the church, the Bible, and their weak faith in God. I am not saying we should be scaring 5 year-olds by telling them about all the bad things that have happened and could happen again, but we need to face it ourselves and reveal it to our children as they grow older.
We already talked about impressing them with the Esther Factor in an earlier section. That is appropriate for even young children. As children mature, however, we need to help them discover that there is a cost to following Jesus. It’s time to help them see that things don’t always work out like they did for Esther, Daniel, Joseph, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, or even Elijah and Jeremiah. The fact is that even though all of these faced danger, persecution, and/or physical harm, their lives were spared. Not everyone who stood for God was so fortunate. We need to let the older children see those that lost everything including their physical lives for God. They need to consider Hebrews 11:37 and those that were stoned, slain with the sword, even cut in two with a saw (tradition says that was Isaiah). What about those Jesus referred to from Abel and the many prophets who were killed up to Zacharias? What about Jesus Himself, Stephen, James, Paul, other apostles, etc?
It would be good to read in the scriptures about those righteous individuals who were killed. The books of the Maccabees and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs would also be good for older children. In addition to those kinds of things it is important to be fostering a Biblical worldview in their minds and hearts with the things they read, watch, listen to, and play. Movies, TV shows, books, music, video games, etc. all fill our minds and our children’s minds with thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. As adults we often recognize something that is not good, but children are much more impressionable and can easily come to believe things that are not true or right. Children say things they hear without knowing that there are bad things that shouldn’t be said. We recently stopped our preschool-aged daughter from watching an educational reading show because one of the characters used some slang words that we did not want her to say. Too many of the educational and entertainment products that are being produced for young children push sinful, atheistic, or evolutionary agendas, and those being produced for older children are even worse.
Perhaps the most challenging thing here may be the necessity of examining our own thoughts and beliefs to see if they really line up with the Bible’s teachings, specifically, those of Jesus in the New Testament. Violence, vengeance, hatred, enmity, strife, etc. are all contrary to Jesus’ teachings and will not please Him. Jesus’ primary teaching to us is love for God first and for our fellow man second, and we must understand the power and strength of love. If we can instill in ourselves and our children this kind of love we can do what could never be done for money, prestige, popularity, or out of hatred and anger. With love we can do even what we would not do for faith.