All Christian parents wish there was something we could do to secure our child’s salvation. We would do it ‘with all our might’ because we love our child so much. But God has not made salvation the result of someone else’s faith – our children must come to Christ on their own.
Christians are born into God’s family ‘not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man [that is, through somebody else’s will] but of God’ (John 1:13). Nevertheless, although salvation is the work of God alone, and not something that we can do for our child, there is hope for every Christian parent. Consider the following ten truths.
First,a burden in prayer for your child is a gift from God. A persistent burden may indicate that God intends to give your child eternal life, because authentic prayer always begins with God. Though we cannot know all that God is doing, we should be optimistic if the burden is sustained.
Second, the miracle of the new birth can occur whether our child is attentive to the gospel or running away from God. Our children are like everyone else when it comes to God’s grace – spiritually dead by nature.
It makes no matter whether they attend church or not; whether they listened well to the truths we tried to teach them or not; whether they seem to have some interest in the things of God or none at all. God is utterly sovereign in salvation – he may convert a sinner in the pig pen or the pew.
Third, God does hear our prayers. Though God chose his own for salvation before the foundation of the world, he also taught us that we should pray for the salvation of sinners – and expect answers to our prayer! It is true that God is sovereign. It is equally true that he answers prayer for the salvation of the lost. Indeed, he could not answer prayer if he were not in control of all things.
Fourth, God’s election of those he will call gives us hope. Every child is on its way to hell unless God intervenes. God’s election is our friend. We could have no hope for our child’s salvation without it, because no one would ever turn to Christ if left in their natural state of depravity (Romans 3:9 –11). But many willturn to Christ because God has chosen them to life. We can be encouraged.
Fifth, because of your own witness, your child has some knowledge of what it means to be a Christian. The Spirit can awaken and use this knowledge at any time. Though conversion to Christ is no less a miracle for a knowledgeable child than for an ignorant one, God always uses the gospel seed in every conversion.
Sixth, your own disobedience in the past will not keep your child from becoming a believer. It is pointless to berate yourself for failure on your part, as if it were the reason your child is without Christ.
This does not mean that parents should not repent, do better, and even admit failures to their children. But your child is without Christ because of his or her own sin, not yours. Everyparent is sinful and inconsistent but, this has never been a barrier to God.
Illustrations abound of children from far less godly homes than yours who are none the less gloriously born again. This may even have been the case in your own experience.
Seventh, some children may have to cut loose from parental care before they will face up to their own need for Christ. Many only discover this need in the context of struggles and difficulties. It may take an attempt at solo flying to persuade a child that they really need another as their pilot.
Eighth, remember that many people have come to appreciate their experiences prior to conversion. I’m not saying that they would not have wanted to know Christ sooner, but that the pain of their pre-conversion history has left them with compassion, humility, understanding, knowledge, testimony – and a burden for the lost that they could not have acquired in any other way.
They see God’s wisdom in the timing of their conversion. Paul said there was a reason he was converted only after becoming a murderer, blasphemer and an aggressor – to demonstrate that God can save anyone. With God there is no such thing as a hopeless case.
God’s way is perfect
Ninth, you cannot save your child yourself, no matter how hard you try. You must have faith in God, for this is the only way to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Your confidence and rest in God, who answers prayer, will encourage others in the same situation. It will also help you respond to your child more positively and make your life far more joyful than anxiety ever could.
Finally, remember that God has a purpose in all he does. We will one day rejoice that he has done a perfect job of ruling his universe and redeeming his church. When we acknowledge this and put Christ even above our children, we will actually demonstrate to them the truth and power of the gospel.
This edited version is reproduced by kind permission. Jim Elliff is president of Christian Communicators Worldwide (www.CCWonline.org).