I live in a small rural community where people often burn brush, trash, and other debris that they do not want to take the time to dispose of. It is common in the summer and fall to drive past houses where dark clouds of smoke are billowing from the back...
One of the fiercest battles a Christian parent engages in is the war to maintain consistent family devotions. We often start strong in leading regular family devotions, but then somehow we realize it has been days, weeks, or even months since we’ve led our family spiritually. Once that realization dawns on us, the enemy is quick to condemn us as a failure so that he might discourage us to give up the fight and surrender.
Nearly everyone knows the name Alexander the Great and that he was a fierce general. But fewer know he was knocked down and injured in many a battle. Alexander received an ax to his helmet, a sword to his thigh, a missile to his chest, a rock to his head, a dart through his shoulder, and arrows on three separate occasions to the leg, ankle, and chest. When knocked to the ground in battle Alexander would get up again and resume the fight. As a result, he never lost.
So, mom or dad, do you find yourself failing in the area of family devotions? Has laziness shot his arrow through your motivation? Has a busy schedule cut off your ability to fit in family devotions? Or perhaps forgetfulness has struck a blow to your head, and although your desire to do family devotions is strong, you merely keep forgetting again and again.
To all who have fallen hear this battle cry: Get back up and continue the fight for family devotions! A battle rages for your family and God is calling you to stand up and re-engage. And he not only calls you to do this but enables you to do so through Christ.
There is an important truth most discouraged parents have never heard. Falling isn’t failure. Solomon said it this way: “for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again,” (Proverbs 24:16). So, that means if you have missed a whole year of family devotions but get back up and start again, then you have not failed. Remember that all your shortcomings have been taken on and redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ. Through his grace and mercy, we have the ability to fight for God’s glory without feeling overburdened by our past.
So, here are a few practical tips, meant to give you strength and confidence as you conduct family devotions, and lead your family to a biblically rooted love for Jesus Christ.
Use a Gospel-Centered Family Devotional
God in his kindness has given us a role to play in the salvation of our children. We share the seed of the gospel with our kids and then entrust them to God who can cause that seed to sprout and grow. The Gospel is powerful and able to save.
You don’t need to wow your kids with an academic, two-inch thick study Bible that dares you to figure out where to start. You just need something that helps your kids understand the Gospel. Paul said it this way:
I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, (Romans 1:16).
Paul’s confidence didn’t rest on his ability to change people but on the powerful message of the gospel, which the Spirit of God causes to spring to life and grow in the heart of the hearer. This is why I wrote two gospel-centered family devotionals, Long Story Short and Old Story New. The gospel is deep enough to keep the oldest and wisest parents learning and growing all their lives, yet simple enough to transform the heart of the first grader who has just begun to read.
Don’t be Fantastic; Just be Faithful
Too often parents are discouraged when their presentation in family devotions feels flat. They don’t see it having an immediate impact on their kids. But God has called us to be faithful and it is he who transforms our children’s hearts. That doesn’t come by our hand.
The exciting thing to remember is that God can use even the feeblest attempt at family devotions to transform a soul. When it comes to family devotions, think faithful, not fantastic. Think of your family devotions like a drop of water falling upon a stone, one drip seems irrelevant, but faithfulness wears a hole in the rock over time. Paul writes, “neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
I can remember starting a family devotion with great vision and calm only to find myself yelling at my kids for not paying attention. “Great,” I thought, “now I’m getting angry and yelling at my children for our family devotions – way to go, Dad.”
If you fall, remember you’ve got to get up. Keep going so you can say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). And, don’t be fooled into thinking your kids are not listening. They hear and absorb more than you realize. You will have good days when they engaged and participate. But, there will be other days when none of that is true—yet they still may hear what you have to say.
Choose a Good Time
Two times work well to do family devotions. One is when you gather for a meal. After dinner, before dessert works well. Place your devotional down next to where you sit at the table. Then explain to your kids that after dinner you are going to do a short devotional before having ice cream for dessert. That should give you the ten-minute hearing you need.
Another great time for family devotions is spending ten minutes with your kids at bedtime. Kids will enjoy spending those moments with you. If talking through a few questions allows them to stay up, you might find your devotions stretching into the night.
Ask God to help you
Too often as parents, we forget to engage God and try to do things in our own strength. The truth is the Holy Spirit is available to help you and guide you (Luke 12:12). Take an opportunity to read a day ahead in your devotional. Or, read the devotion you want to use with your children at dinner in the morning. Then pray and ask the Spirit of God to help you understand his Word. God will answer your prayer and give you the gift of illumination to better help you understand and apply what you read to your life and the lives of your children.
If you’ve fallen in the battle for family devotions, remember Christ’s mercy and grace. Don’t think about yesterday, but think about today. Plan to lead your kids in family devotions. If you are wondering what you could share, start with Proverbs 24:16. Let the kids know you are going to be the righteous person who gets up again after failure. Confess your weakness, ask for their forgiveness and then pray as a family for grace. Dust off your Bible, then join in the battle. As parents, we need to fight for family devotions. Remember that what God has done for you should compel you to continue doing good works, like family devotions:
By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)