Pillar Journal

Set a Trustworthy Example

Regardless of how old your children are or how mature they appear to be, you must model for them a life of deep convictions.

In warning his children against destructive lifestyles, the wise father calls his child to trust him and to observe his own lifestyle. Proverbs 23:26 says, “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” “Give me thine heart” means, “Trust me to guide you” (see v. 22). That implies openness (2 Cor. 6:11–13) not just to a father’s teachings but also to his “ways” or conduct. The father asks his son to watch how his father lives and to follow him in the same path of obedience.

Regardless of how old your children are or how mature they appear to be, you must model for them a life of deep convictions. If our children see that we take biblical truths lightly, that will influence them to take our teaching lightly. You can’t teach your children what you yourself don’t value.

A striking example of this is Luke’s account of the Lord’s Prayer. In Luke 11, we are told that Jesus “was praying in a certain place, [and] when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray” (v. 1). Jesus first practiced before them what He then taught them as His model prayer. It was His example that opened their hearts to His instruction. In the three and a half years the disciples traveled with Jesus, He showed them that prayer was a necessary discipline for a godly life.

In a similar way, we need to model our convictions for our children. They need to see us in communion with God. They need to see us reading and studying the Scriptures and sound Christian literature. They need to see us bless others with our confession of faith as well as by our efforts to help the downtrodden, widowed, and orphaned. They need to see how much we love Jesus Christ and His church.

Consider how you can model prayer for your children. Begin in your private prayers and devotions each day. In family worship, pray with and for your children. But do not end there. Make prayer both sides of the coin of your life. James 5:13 says, “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.” So let every sorrow or need stir you to petition and every joy and blessing move you to praise. Children need to see in our lives that prayer is the most natural, habitual, spontaneous, and important ingredient.

How does that work out in practice? Imagine that you are on family vacation and you drive by a serious car accident. You see the ambulances and drive on because the people are being taken care of. But you can also help by praying. It should be natural for your children to hear you say as a parent, “Children, let’s pray now for the family that was in that accident.”

Or imagine that you have gotten your teenage daughter a cell phone because she is driving and will need it for her safety. Do you just hand it to her? No, you say to her, “Here is your cell phone. This can be an instrument for much good or great harm. I want you to take it to your bedroom, lay it on the bed, get down on your knees, and pray to God that you’ll never use that cell phone for an evil purpose but only for the glory of God.”

Or imagine that someone shares a need or concern, and you say, “I will pray for you.” Why not pray with that person right then? If necessary, you can step into a semiprivate setting so as not to disrupt what is going on. Your children should grow up seeing you “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:4–5, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” Take everything that God gives you and sanctify it with prayer. That is a way to offer ourselves up to God day by day as a living sacrifice for His glory.

Fathers and mothers, think of your faith in Christ and your attitude toward life as a fragrance or aroma. What aroma permeates your home and your workplace? Just as your whole house will take on the predominant aroma of what is done in it, such as baking bread, your children will tend to absorb the fragrance of your life. What are they getting from you? Love? Hope? Joy? Patience? Purity? Praise? Or the bitter stench of anger, bitterness, unbelief, and sin? “Do as I say and not as I do” is a sure formula for disaster in parenting.

Ultimately, Christ Himself is the pattern for all godly living. Even the best father cannot measure up to this height. We can show our children how to repent and how to pray and a host of other exemplary matters, but Christ alone can show them the full scope of Christian character in glorious perfection.

Excerpt From
How Do We Plant Godly Convictions in Our Children?
Joel R. Beeke