Raising Children in the Gospel

Editor’s note: This throwback post was written in 2015 and was first published in Church China (a mainland China Christian publication) and then translated and published in English on China Partnership’s website. This updated version of the article has been edited and condensed to increase readability.

This month, CP is praying for Chinese Christians as they seek to instruct and raise their children to love and follow God. With that in mind, this article on raising children in the gospel is a timely reminder of how following Jesus changes our parenting — and ultimately leads us to experience God’s love and tender care of us.

There is no method by which we can we achieve our goal; this can only be achieved by God, relying on his promises and grace. There are many rules; however, problems arise through practicing these rules. The Bible is the only one we can always trust.

Thanks be to God, who gave me two children, and guided me with unfailing love and faithfulness. Below are some thoughts from my own experience.

  1. As parents consider the gospel in their parenting, they will gain a deeper understanding of it.

Raising children is a situation God puts us in so we gain a better understanding of the gospel. Only in Christ can we get out of our own successes and failures and raise children according to his will.

My husband and I have two young children. Before our daughter, we lost a baby at the end of my first trimester. However, everything the cross brings is grace; when we have kids, but also when we lose them. Only after we lost our child did we know God’s sacrificial love. While we lost our baby unintentionally, he intentionally gave his Son. We were able to know him more and praise and rejoice in his salvation, treasuring it and God’s one and only Son.

Raising children is a situation God puts us in so we gain a better understanding of the gospel. Only in Christ can we get out of our own successes and failures and raise children according to his will.

Through pregnancy, I also have a better understanding of God’s authority. I thought pregnancy was a simple thing that I could control. I thought I could conceive whenever I wanted. After half a year of failure, I humbled myself. I thank God for giving me this lesson, and I keep reminding myself: he is the sovereign God, he is the Creator.

Dear brothers and sisters, we cannot control the chance and time of pregnancy. We should hand his authority back to God. If we want a baby, and it doesn’t happen, we should go to God and consider it in him. The lesson of waiting is priceless. Do not complain because of long waiting. Complaining is a great sin, and God sees it as unbelief. God makes us wait because his wonderful will is ahead.Bottom of Form God is almighty. Giving children is not hard for him. The essential point is to learn the lesson he gives: wait, submit, and be content only from his salvation.

During parenting, my sinful nature is often exposed. God is holy and disciplines us; we discipline our children, yet are sinful people, the same as them. But I often look only at the speck of sawdust in the children’s eyes, paying no attention to the plank in my own. Sometimes it is them taking me through grace and making me ashamed, rather than me disciplining them.

My daughter expresses dissatisfaction by crying and screaming. There were times I took the same action as her. Because I’m a grown-up, my voice is louder and covers hers, so she was terrified and cried even harder. Sometimes after I “roared,” I regretted it, shedding tears and praying for forgiveness. Sometimes, however, my daughter forgave me first. She talked to me with a smile while there were still tears on her face. Ashamed, I hugged her and asked her forgiveness. I was rebellious for years, but still the heavenly Father accepted me with patient and gracious love; yet as a mother, I didn’t live as an example. How contrite my spirit feels!

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There was a time when I parented for my own honor. While at church, for example, the children had conflicts in which parents needed to intervene. Part of me did this not only for discipline, but to show how good I am at parenting. Later, I deeply regretted this, since it was harmful to my girl – treating her as a sacrifice to honor myself without any love for her or God, but only for myself.

All this keeps me aware of how broken I am at parenting, so I humble myself and live dependent on God’s grace. Otherwise I wouldn’t think it was God; I would think I have the ability. It is good to have these experiences so my sinful nature will be revealed, so I come back to the cross for strength and raise children “in Christ” with hope.

  1. Only God’s honor, only God’s grace.

Different children have different personalities and stages. Discipline can be built into some children by training in a certain way, but some cannot. If we are dogmatic, we lose the heart of having God as Lord, and believe it is possible to raise children without God’s promise and grace.

We should put the responsibility of being parents in the right place, and help parents see it does not depend on their own ability to raise up children, but on the covenant and promises of a faithful God.

Do not take successful examples as templates. Especially if one has a relatively good experience, it is important to humbly admit it is the fullness of grace, given free of charge by God. Otherwise, it not only ignores differences among children, but also brings “spiritual pressure” to other families.

We should not make our “parenting achievements” (which are actually God’s merciful grace” another’s weakness. Each child is distinct and perfectly suitable for their family. They are created by God, and are his exceptional, rich grace.

Some believe it is not right to raise children without following certain parenting books. This deviates from raising children in the gospel. These days, there are more and more “second generations Christians,” and we are praying for more attention to Christian education. But Christian parents should only exalt salvation in the cross: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Parenting does not get better with parents’ spiritual growth; it depends on God’s grace. When I look back on my rebirth, I know there is no credit for my own work. Salvation is outside of me. The goal of Christian education is to let our children have a new heart that has been forgiven by Christ, so they can be God’s people. Parents have no power over this. When children come to Christ and admit he is Lord is all up to God’s grace.

Nevertheless, the Bible tells us we should pass salvation onto our descendants, and try our best to “lead” them to the Savior, bringing them up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” We should put the responsibility of being parents in the right place, and help parents see it does not depend on their own ability to raise up children, but on the covenant and promises of a faithful God. We can raise children with firm hope because of his completed gospel.

  1. Start with God’s kingdom and righteousness, and believe he is in the same boat with us.

It becomes busier after having kids. But everything God gives is so we can know him better. Parents shouldn’t stop getting close to or serving God by making excuses such as limited time and energy. When I was single, the sister who preached the gospel to me said, “If you cannot be content with God when single, you cannot be content with marriage.” If one cannot be content and satisfied with and passionately serve God when you don’t have children, you cannot be satisfied after having them.

My husband and I have asked again and again for hearts that keep Christ at the center, and faithfulness that keeps God’s family first. (Gifts come second, faithfulness first: “It is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”) People are weak. Without constant praying, without relying on God, after having kids, parents regard them as the center and their spiritual condition deteriorates. When we value God’s kingdom and righteousness, all necessary things will be given by him.

As a result of my husband’s workplace, our church and family are in different cities. When our daughter was young, we did a three-hour commute every week, taking bus, train, and subway. If God had not protected us with his strength, we could never have done it. Yet my daughter was specially protected by God and never got sick because of travel, something which could not have been achieved by our care.

Each family has a different situation, but the general rule is this – families should keep Christ as the center.

The verses of the Lord calming the storm particularly comfort, encourage, and help me as well. Parents know there is no still child. Other people see kids when they are quiet; only parents experience how hard they can cry. There were lots of these moments with my daughter, and some of them have no explanation. When she cried extremely hard, these Scriptures came to my mind, and helped me understand he is with us in the same boat, taking charge of everything. The storms are allowed by him, or even arranged on purpose for our benefit. Hence, I do not fear storms. There will be more snares, but holding his promise to be with us on the same boat, we do not fear. Only by relying on his powerful Word can we overcome all hardships.

  1. Keep Christ as the center of family.

Parenting and marital relationships are inseparable from commitment and faithfulness to the church, because only by receiving love, wisdom, and grace from the Lord can we raise our children under his instruction. Because my husband serves in the church, I need to take up more housework and childcare responsibilities. This does not mean husbands can take service as an excuse to avoid housework. It means as a wife, I hope my husband can be the spiritual leader of our family, and have more wisdom and love from God to guide and protect his wife and kids. Hopefully, we sisters encourage our husbands to grow in God’s Word and commit to church service, so the marriage becomes more solid, with better spiritual quality. In addition, people with pastoral experience will know better how to depend on God when pastoring their own children.

When kids are young, mothers need to put more effort into their daily care; however, when they grow up and know how to express, think, and argue, it is important for fathers to communicate with them. As head of a family, fathers are their family’s pastors. They should communicate to kids with spiritual wisdom, guiding them to God. This is my own understanding, and each family has a different situation, but the general rule is this – families should keep Christ as the center.

Shu Jingjing is a pseudonym for a Chinese mother of two and pastor’s wife who lives in a large city in mainland China. 

Pray for Chinese Christians attempting to raise their children in the gospel.

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Further Reading

Witness in Persecution: I Am Grateful
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Witness In Persecution: Heart Struggle
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How I Prayed For Instruction
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