John and I are heading into a new parenting stage soon. In five months or so, our eldest son, Micah, will board a plane all by himself, travel across an ocean all by himself, and live on a continent – that I’ve never stepped foot upon – all by himself. Micah has been accepted to an apprentice program with Pais Australia for a year. I can’t say I’m ready for this change exactly. However, there is no doubt in my mind that Micah is prepared and equipped to launch into his new life phase.
We have confidence that Micah will experience an impactful year of discipleship as He learns to lean long and strong upon his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – all by himself. Micah won’t have John and me there. Over the course of Micah’s 18 years of life, John and I have been able to listen, to reflect, to love, to support, to care, to challenge, to exhort, and even to redirect our kid on a day to day basis. In five months’ time, our family interactions won’t be a daily thing anymore. We expect Micah will have the support, cheer and guidance of his Pais Australia team and his host family – but ultimately – we expect Micah will have his God with him as Micah goes forward without us.
This is our hope.
For the past 18 years and a few days, John and I have attempted to create a family environment in which our children seek the Lord Jesus Christ for themselves and find Him trustworthy, true, faithful, and present.
I would imagine that this desire is true for all parents who share faith in Jesus Christ.
We want our kids to know and trust Jesus Christ for their lives.
We don’t just want this reality – we understand that our life is not fully realized until our children are walking with Jesus Christ all on their own.
Paul expressed this heart truth when he finally heard how his Thessalonian children were doing with their new-found faith in Christ. Prevented from returning to visit his Thessalonian family in person, Paul said, “he could stand it no longer!” He had to know if his ‘kids’ were still living into and still growing up in their faith. Paul had a deep and profound love for this group of young believers. They had become a part of him. He had to know how they were doing and if they were all okay. He sent his friend Timothy to find out the status of this young church’s faith and provide Paul with some peace of mind. When Timothy finally returned to Paul, he offered affirming, encouraging, and life-giving news!
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?
New International Version, 1 Thessalonians 3: 7-9
Timothy’s faith report encouraged and strengthened Paul’s parental heart. There was both relief and joy in his words. His Thessalonian kids not only still believed in their Lord Jesus Christ, but they stood firm in their trust of Him. Now, Paul could breathe.
Finally, his baited breath released. Paul could live into his life with a greater sense of peace, comfort, and joy because his kids’ faith was sure and steadfast.
The Hebrew transliterated word for live is zao. Zao has both a physical world meaning and an eternal meaning related to life. Zao means to live and to breathe. Zao also means that one enjoys a real and true life that is active, strong, refreshing, blessed, and endless in the Kingdom of God. For Paul, this life-giving meaning couldn’t be any more important. Paul was able to live in-the-now knowing that his kids will be living into eternity – with him.
Paul experienced this comfort because his children stood firm in the Lord. In Jesus Christ, his kids were set in place, immovable, steadfast, unwavering, upheld, and sustained – even as they experienced persecution, suffering, and other harsh and cruel difficulties. Many from this first-century family of believers were being persecuted for their faith by zealous Jews, outraged Greeks, and ruthless Roman authorities. Each posed a serious and deadly threat to the young Thessalonian Church. To choose Christ meant to give up everything from their previous life and in so doing incur the wrath of others in the form of stoning, beating, torture, crucifixion, and death.
To choose Christ and to stand firm in Him was a costly, life and death decision.
Paul couldn’t force any of these young believers to remain fast in their faith in Jesus Christ. They had to make this choice for themselves as each new challenge and difficulty came at them.
This is true for my children – and yours too.
When Micah departs from our southern African home that is filled with enduring love and tried-and-tested support, and lands on the Australian continent, he will be walking forward with his Savior in a different way. As Micah lives into his new Australian experience, it is our prayer for him that Micah enjoys, maintains, and cultivates his own personal and intimate relationship with his Lord Jesus even as he faces a myriad of challenges, setbacks, misunderstandings, and trials of life.
Micah will face them.
No life is spared from hurt, loss, tragedy, and death.
Like Paul, John and I will be in earnest prayer for our son to experience the regenerating and persevering grace of his Lord and Savior. We will pray, like Paul, that Micah is steadied by the peace, strength, and assuring presence of Christ that will encourage Micah’s faith to go forward in Australia and beyond.
Yet, it is Micah who must choose to keep walking forward.
It is not my intention to guilt my son with such a choice. But there is great truth in the fact that as long as Micah and his brothers, Jake and Caleb, continue to choose Christ and live their lives in obedience to Him, my heart is comforted and at peace.
Maybe you can relate?
Friends, I am aware that for some of you, your children have either not chosen Christ yet or have walked away from Him for now. I am certain that your life and breath are affected by your children’s faith choices. As parents, we have a profound and overpowering love for our children that will never cease. Like Paul, we won’t experience life, peace of mind, and a comforted heart, until our children’s faith is sure and stable in Christ. We find it difficult to even breathe. And so, we pray. We pray and we pray and we pray. We must.
We want our children to know and experience the love of Jesus.
We want our children to understand that Jesus knows the cares of their hearts.
We want our children to comprehend that Jesus is not indifferent to their struggle.
We want our children to experience intimacy and connection with Jesus for themselves.
We want our children to feel the freedom and joy that is theirs in Christ.
We want our children to experience resilience and growth in disappointment and defeat.
We want our children to keep their eyes on Christ during times of waiting and waiting and waiting.
We want our children to trust in the hope of Christ and have an eternal perspective with each blessing and challenge that occurs in this temporal world.
We want our children to really, really, really live!!!! This can only happen in Christ as our children walk forward with Him each day.
This is how we are praying for our son, Micah, as he embarks on an incredible journey to Australia with his Savior. And this is how I am praying for many of your children as well.
My prayer is that we will all experience Paul’s joy:
In the middle of our trouble and hard times here, just knowing how you’re doing keeps us going. Knowing that your faith is alive keeps us alive.
What would be an adequate thanksgiving to offer God for all the joy we experience before Him because of you? We do what we can, praying away, night and day, asking for the bonus of seeing your faces again and doing what we can to help when your faith falters.
The Message 1 Thessalonians 3:7-10
Hey, drop me a note, email, or Facebook message if you want me to add your kids to my prayers. I’m currently praying for 33 children – of all ages – to come to know Christ or return to Him again. For me, it’s the most important prayer I commit to in this life. I will pray until your kids’ faith is assured and rooted in Christ – no matter how long it takes. You have my word.