I wish I could write a formula that would guarantee godly, righteous children who will always turn from evil
And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:20–24)
When it comes to rearing children with strong religious convictions, I want a formula. You know what I mean: follow these simple steps and you will get a child who is compliant, godly, and on fire for Jesus. Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is, because there are no formulas.
Consider the desperate father who came to Jesus for help with his son who was under the influence of an evil spirit. As Jesus arrived on the scene, the Jewish experts argued about the best way to deal with the issue (Mark 9:14). The scribes had offered their formula for fixing the son, and the disciples offered theirs, but the formulas did not work and the child was still in need.1
Sister, the power of evil and the battle for the souls of our children is real. The battle is evident for this dad who cried out to Jesus in despair to help his child. I wonder if he raised his child to follow the tenets of faith. Did he do all the right things and check all the boxes of the Jewish law and evil still overcame his child? Now even the experts could not help. I can imagine the pain and fear the father felt over his child’s frightening condition.
Can’t you hear the emotion in the father’s words to Jesus, “If you can, have compassion on us and help us!” Jesus carefully responded with a challenge, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” The father replied to Jesus with raw, transparent honesty, “I believe; help my unbelief.”
Sometimes that is where I find myself as a parent. My faith is not perfect and I struggle to believe God will intervene on behalf of my children. I take comfort in knowing God understands the conflict of my faith. He not only understands my conflict, he understands each of my children and their struggles. The struggle of my faith shows my own desperate need for the mercy of God. This one thing I know: I must depend on him.
I wish I could write a formula that would guarantee godly, righteous children who will always turn from evil. The truth is, some children will readily do the right thing and others will test the waters or plunge right in when they should not. As a parent, there are no formulas; just faithfulness. I must be faithful to teach the principles of God’s Word to my children. I must be faithful to pray those principles become truth in their lives as they walk out their own faith journey. I must also be faithful not only to teach, but also to live out the truth of God’s Word in my life.
How do the words of Jesus in Mark 9:23 give you courage to trust God to help you rear godly children? How are you modeling faithfulness to your children?
Prayer for the Journey
Lord, today I pray I will be faithful not only to teach your truth to my children, but also to live out the truth of your Word. Amen.
1 R. Kent Hughes, Mark: Jesus, Servant and Savior, Volume 2 (Winchester, ILL: Crossway Books, 1989), 34.