Many wonder how we can possibly hope to raise godly children in a world so full of hate and crime. The nightly news seems peppered with reports of adults, teenagers, and even children committing heinous acts. Many would say, “What has this world come to? When will it end? ” They are alarmed with the magnitude of serious crimes being reported but wonder what can be done. While we may not be in a position to change the whole world, or even our country, we can do something about the values and character our children see modeled in their own environment. If we hope to see them become godly men and women, then we have an important role to play.
Today we are going to discuss three important steps in cultivating godly character in our children.
- Develop godly character and principles in my own life.
- Model that character to my children and grandchildren.
- Reinforce and encourage their progress as they become godly men and women.
The word “cultivating” brings back memories of farmers with their tractors and plows making tireless trips up and down the expanse of dirt in the fields beside my childhood home, back in Ohio. Often clouds of dust would surround the farmer as he broke up the fallow ground. The dirt had become hardened by the lack of rain and the dormant season of winter, just lifting. Soon the trees would be in full bloom, and the sights and sounds of spring would return; ushering in with it the hope of a bountiful harvest.
Cultivating the dry ground is a critical step that is vitally necessary in the preparation of the soil for planting. Without first loosening the soil, the seeds cannot take root and grow. Jesus talked about the seed that is sown in the hard places in Matthew 13,
3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5“Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6“But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7“Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8“And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9“He who has ears, let him hear.
Cultivating godly character in our own hearts is the first step. We must know and understand who God is and who he wants to become in our own personal lives. If you have never asked Jesus to become the Lord and Savior of your life, then you must begin there. Developing godly character begins with a personal relationship with him. Above all else, it is the love of God that we allow to enter into our heart, that prepares us to receive. The love of God breaks up the hardened ground and makes it possible for the seed of his word to take root and grow in our life.
Step two is the renewing of one’s mind as spoken of by the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:2. Proving what is good, acceptable, and perfect. Transformation is the process that we must willing submit to for success. It is a process that continues throughout life. Renewing of our minds and the development of godly character comes as we diligently study his word. We must then allow Holy Spirit to speak to our heart about changes that we must make. The beauty of allowing God to transform one’s heart is that we then become an example to others. Becoming a role model, especially to our children, is vitally important.
What kind of a role model are you?
If a child mimics the attitude and behavior of their role models, would the mirror image reflected in your child’s behavior be pleasing? Or, would the stark reality staring you in the face, be one that brings displeasure and shame? Our children learn a great deal through observation. People they are in contact with on a daily basis serve as role models, and can greatly influence the development of their own personal attitudes and behaviors. Role models can thereby shape the potential of a child’s future.
Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
Recently, I heard a true story about three mothers and their daughters. For the sake of anonymity, let us refer to them as Mom A, Mom B, and Mom C. All were conversing in an amiable fashion. Anyone looking on would have thought that the three sets of mothers and daughters were the best of friends. All were talking, laughing, and seemingly having a great time. At least to any interested bystander, that was how it appeared. Presumably that is how Mom A and her daughter saw it as well.
Up front, this appears to be a very pleasant and friendly conversation to the mutual satisfaction of all. It was a very positive environment in which to nurture the relationships of all six young women. That is, until the first mother and daughter exited, saying their good byes.
That is when the tone of the conversation began to change. As quickly as the first two left, the whispering and criticizing began. Mom B began criticizing Mom A, and Mom C and their two daughters were immediately attentive to all that she had to say. Then Mom C began sharing some other tidbits of gossip. She found first one thing, then another to spout off about, running Mom A and her daughter in the ground with her criticisms. Not to be out done, the two daughters quickly chimed into the conversation with their own negative input. Mom A and her daughter were the unsuspecting victims of a verbal attack executed through the vehicle of malicious gossip.
What had started out as a beautiful day for three mothers and their daughters, quickly took a turn for the worst. Two mothers modeled a behavior that was quickly adopted by their own daughters. As parents, grandparents, and significant others, we have an important role to play in shaping the future of our children. We can serve as role models influencing them for good, or evil. What we choose to model in the presence of our children and grandchildren is up to each of us.
So, what type of role model are you? Are you cultivating godly behavior in your own life that can serve as an example to others? Moms and dads have an important role to play in the future of our children. The influence of one’s own behavior and attitude is powerful, but others that your child comes in contact with can have an impact as well. It is therefore vitally important to exercise caution in determining what type of environment a child will be exposed to on a frequent basis. Once again, children learn much by observation, so what will they observe in the environment surrounding them? It is up to parents and grandparents to create a nurturing atmosphere in which godly character can be observed and developed.
So, if we are to train our children to live a godly life, what does that look like? Obviously that is not what Mom B, Mom C, or their daughters were displaying by their behavior in our illustration. While all four may know and love the Lord, their behavior would not serve as a good example. Gossiping, criticizing, and fault finding are not fruits of the spirit. At least not a godly spirit, we are all in the process of being perfected and therefore grace is to be exercised by all. How can we shape the character of our children to become godly adults? Let us attempt to define godly behavior.
Godly behavior is simply living in a manner that reflects the very heart and personality of God. James wrote in his letter,
“You believe that God is one, you do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” James 2:19 NASB
He then goes on to state in the next verse that “faith without works is useless” or “dead” in the KJV. Therefore merely knowing God is not sufficient, it is living by faith evidenced by our actions that perfects our godly character and makes us a living epistle of God himself. We are ambassadors of the kingdom; therefore we do through our own good deeds and godly character model God himself upon the earth.
The God that our children, our grandchildren, and all others we come in contact with should see is the God in us, through our own behavior and attitude. We should mirror the very image of God. Paul wrote,
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 NASB
That image, the mirror image of God is created by our mindset, behavior, and actions, but evidenced by our fruit.
David wrote in Psalms 1:3 a
And he will be like a tree firmly planted by the streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season…
The preceding verse talks about delighting in the law of the Lord. In other words, as we spend time immersed in his word, we begin to become what he is. We begin to reflect who he is, his character is formed in us, and the evidence is in the fruit we bear. What fruit? Galatians 5:22 -23 states that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Our final point is this. We must encourage and celebrate our children’s successes. As they make wise decisions and exhibit godly behavior we need to point that out to them. Reinforce godly behavior when you see it, encourage it. You can even counsel your child when difficult situations present themselves. What would Jesus do if he were in this situation? That is always a valid question for discussion. If uncertain, search the scriptures for an answer. Help your child develop his/her own time for bible study and prayer. Lead by example. Smaller children need to be guided in their learning of biblical principles. Perhaps a family time of study would work well for the young children and teens alike. Make it a practice to pray with them.
If we have any hope at all of changing the world, we must begin somewhere. Somewhere begins with me. Step one is to change ourselves. We must choose to live godly lives both in word and deed. We must choose to model that behavior and lifestyle for all to see. We must also choose to become involved in our children’s’ lives and encourage them to develop godly character in all that they do. Who knows what God can do through the efforts of a multitude of parents, all dedicated to raising godly kids? Spring is upon us, and it is time that we who are about our father’s business begin to cultivate godly behavior. Raising godly men and godly women for the generation to come, could change the world… one child at a time.
This article first appeared in Faith Filled Family Magazine in March of 2015