The moment you’ve been praying for is here; your child says they are ready to receive Jesus. But how do you know if they are ready? Do they know what they need to know? Are they mature enough to make this decision?
Our daughter was 6 when she started asking questions about giving her life to Jesus. I was on staff at our church, so she was there whenever the doors opened. Between the church and home, she was learning about God’s love for her, her need for a Savior, and how Jesus was the only way to meet her needs. We had many conversations in her bedroom at night before my wife, and I tucked her in. She was asking all the right questions, and she seemed to clearly understand the Gospel for a 6-year-old. Our approach (right, wrong, or indifferent) was to keep asking questions about why she wanted to give her life to Jesus. We felt like if we could talk her out of receiving Jesus, she wasn’t quite ready. Eventually, we couldn’t talk her out of it. She seemed to understand that Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life and the only way to have a right relationship with God. She seemed to understand the power behind the crucifixion and resurrection and that if she confessed with her mouth that Jesus was Lord and believed God raised Him from the dead, she would be saved.
One night when I got home from work, my wife told me that our daughter wanted to ask Jesus to be her Savior. So we went into her room and began to ask all the questions, hear her answers, and pray for discernment. The results of that evening were that our daughter prayed a sweet prayer with us, accepted God’s forgiveness of sins, and asked Jesus to be her Savior and Lord. It was such a sweet moment! My wife and I both remember sensing God’s Spirit in the room with us in a very real way. Such a great memory!
Fast forward ten years, and our daughter calls home from being on a student retreat with our church. Through tears, she tells us that she had recently been struggling with doubt about her salvation but hadn’t told us. She spent a good bit of time with one of her leaders at camp and decided that she really needed to give her life to Jesus, and she told us that she gave her life to Christ at the camp. Stop right here for a minute, and let me share with you what I wrestled with for the next few days…
I was there! I was with her in her room when she prayed and surrendered her life to Jesus when she was 6. I remember conversation after conversation, where she would answer my questions and ask some of her own as she worked out what it meant to follow Jesus. I was there! So what does that mean? Was I wrong? Did I mess up? Did she really not mean it? Did she not understand? What happened in that room that night? Honestly, I was a little hurt (so selfish). As she told us that night, I had a weird combination of feelings. I was hurt, proud, relieved, confused, convicted, excited, and even a little angry all at the same time. I was there! So did she not mean it when she prayed with me? Was she too young? Did she not understand?
I don’t know the answers to those questions. I believe she understood as much as a 6-year-old can understand, and she truly meant the prayer she prayed that night as we knelt by her bed. I feel we were sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s working in her life at that time. I also know that my wife and I had prayed for her every day, starting about eight months before she was born (when we found out we were pregnant). One of the prayers we prayed for her all those years was that she would own her faith. She would not live based on her mom and dad’s faith, but she would know Jesus personally and own her faith.
So, where does that leave us? My daughter’s faith became her own that week at camp. We celebrated with her that afternoon. We wrestled prayerfully. We didn’t question what she did when she was 6. We celebrated what God was doing in her life at age 17 with her being baptized. We have watched her grow into a loving daughter, a wife, and a mother. She loves Jesus. She follows Jesus. She wants to honor Him with her life! God answered a prayer for us because she owns her faith now; it's hers.
How do we know if our children are ready? That is a difficult question, but here is my best attempt at an answer.
- Remember that God loves your children more than you do. Children are His idea, and your child is no exception. So that means you can trust God with your child and that He is at work in your child’s life.
- Pray for discernment. Ask God to give you the wisdom to know when your child is ready.
- Child-like faith is enough. Remember, the amount of faith we have is not as important as the object of our faith. Jesus said, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed you can move mountains.” It’s not the amount of faith but the person of our faith. That means that a 6-year-old’s faith in the right person (Jesus) is stronger than a 60-year-olds faith in the wrong person or object.
- Ask lots of questions and let them answer. Don’t answer for them. Gently correct them, guide them, and teach them the truth.
- Be sure they are clear on what the Bible says about following Jesus. His word will remain forever; that is what they will have when you and I are gone.
- Allow them to “work out their salvation.” Paul encouraged the Romans to do this. The goal is that they know Jesus and live for Him. If that means that they understand lordship differently as they grow older, and feel the need to respond, then that’s okay. We want them to own their faith.
My daughter has never questioned her salvation since that time. We are grateful and love watching her raise her children to trust Jesus. On another note, my son also gave his life to Jesus when he was six years old. He has never questioned his relationship with God and is living for Jesus. Is one better than the other? Not in my eyes. As a father, I am so thankful that God is working in my children's and their families lives. They own their faith and live for Jesus because He is their Lord and Savior, not mine.
So Lord, please give families wisdom and discernment when it comes to their children. Help them in their communication of the Gospel both in word and deed. Clear up any confusion in their child’s understanding of your love, forgiveness, and redemption. Help us to trust You with our children, and we ask You to save them.