Opposition can come from the strangest places; discouragement from the oddest sources; and both at the most unexpected times.
When someone is seeking the Savior you would presume that the Savior's servants would be excited. But that's not always the case. Sadly there are times when ministers can be mean, congregants cruel, and leaders just plain lousy. There are times, if we're honest, when you and I may be much more of a discourager than an encourager to a soul on their journey to Jesus.
In Matthew 19:13-15 we are told of a time when a group of children were brought to Jesus in order that He might lay His hands on them and pray. Sounds like a good thing, but that good thing was oddly disdained by the disciples - disdained to the point that they began to rebuke the parents for carrying their kids to Christ!
Parenting isn't easy, and parenting on the road to Calvary can sometimes feel more like parenting in the cross hairs of enemy fire... and in some moments, even in the cross hairs of unfathomable friendly fire.
The truth is:
- Satan would seek to hinder us from raising our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord - and he would do so with great glee and much malice aforethought.
- The world would strive to undermine our entire Biblical frame of reference - thinking it's doing us a favor in the process.
- Our own brothers and sisters in Christ can, at times, dishearten us in the duties of spiritual devotion - albeit unwittingly as they impose their own personal preferences upon us, have little mercy towards us, show little patience with us, and speak unkindly about us.
- We ourselves can become our own worst enemies in the arena of child rearing - both in our acts of willful commission and in those moments of lackadaisical omission. Our active scolding and our inactive praying, our public "piety" and our private impropriety - all of these damage our daughters and scar our sons.
So, what do we do when pursing Christ with and for our children brings about a battle? How do “keep on keeping on” in our parental acts of piety?
Well, one thing we mustn't do is surrender! In spite of the onslaughts of enemies from without and from within, we must press on, fighting the good fight and running the rough race. We must continue to carry our kids to Christ regardless of the snares that are set along the way - knowing that at the end of this conflict awaits the crown of righteousness for all who finish in faith. We must also remember that we don't fight alone for Jesus is ever fighting for us.
I was reminded of that fact this morning through the remainder of the details found in the story of Jesus blessing the little children.
Here's the full account:
"Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, 'Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.' And after laying His hands on them, He departed from there." (Matthew 19:13-15)
Several things about running the faith-filled parental race jumped out at me.
1. We must bring our children to Jesus on the good days, prior to any obvious trial and before any blatant opposition.
You know, the text doesn't seem to indicate that these were sick babes in desperate need of healing. They appear to have been under no great distress, dire straits, sickness, or suffering. It would seem that mom and dad simply longed to bring them to the Savior that He might extend His prayer of blessing upon them. It was sort of like a spiritual "well-baby" checkup.
You know, sadly I was sometimes pretty unfaithful with those "well-baby" checks because they took time and money and...well...since my kids didn't seem sick did they really need that visit to the doc? I hate to admit it, but my assumption that my kids were fine (resulting in a less than regular routine of healthy-day visits) is probably one of the reasons that my son's autism diagnosis didn't happen sooner - thus preventing some earlier intervention. I should have taken him to the physician for those routine physical exams even when it seemed that nothing was wrong - because the doc could see things I didn't.
With that said I have to ask, how am I doing on the spiritual end of that spectrum? Am I making an appointment with the Great Physician regarding my children only in the messy moments when the need is noticeable or in every moment - even when I think they're OK?
Truth is, there is a stealthy sickness of sin that is, even now, cancerously creeping deep within the hearts of our little ones - just as it is in our own. We may look nice and neat, we may appear hardy and healthy, we may seem together and tidy - but we're not. We are needy – ever and always needy of seeking the Savior personally and parentally. Am I seeking Him where my kids are concerned?
Jesus may not be physically in my village this day, but He is spiritually ever present. Am I taking advantage of the opportunities that He has given to come to Him (prayer, Word, worship)?
Do I view the need as too small, the cost as too great, and the "tick tock" of the time clock to be just too much to make a moment for daily prayer with and for my children? Am I diligent in the good days to intercede on their behalf and carry them to Christ on my knees that He might carry them in His arms all the days of their life? Or do I only truly commit to praying when there are problems?
How are my prayers when things are pretty?
How are my prayers when things are pretty?
The same questions could be asked about my use of the Word with my little ones. Am I teaching them diligently and talking about these precious truths with them when we sit in our house, walk by the way, when we lie down and rise up? Is the Word written on the figurative doorposts of our home to be seen and used daily, or is it relegated to a back hall closet that is only to be cracked in a crisis?
And then there's corporate worship? Is my family faithful to be in church each Lord's Day - under the properly preached Word, amidst the faithful administration of the sacraments, and in fellowship with our family of faith? Or is it only on occasion because we can fare just fine without weekly worship? (Hebrews 10:24)
How's my time in the Word and in worship when things are well?
As I think on this passage I must ask myself, am I bringing my children to Jesus like those moms in Matthew or is my spiritual laziness and unacknowledged need a parental parallel of those discouraging disciples who rebuked them?
If I am unfaithful in carrying my kids to Christ in the days when opposition is absent, what will I be like in the days when it is threatening me with its painful presence?
2. We must rest that Jesus will deal with those who oppose.
As the disciples attempted to bully these parents into turning away from their devotional duty, the Savior stopped them.
Basically He said, “NO! Don’t keep them from coming! Bring them near! Carry them close! Let me love them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Jesus halted the harassment and silenced the censures. He blasted the barriers and made a way for those kids to come. Jesus was aware of the antagonizing actions of the naysayers and He did something about them.
He will for us as well.
As we run to the Redeemer and find the deluge of opposition raining upon us we must trust that the very God whom we so long to lead our little ones to will clear the course in His way and in His time. He will pave the path for us all to get there. Our call is to come. His promise is to provide!
Are you downhearted from the discouragement of those who oppose? Look to Jesus – even as the parents must have looked to Him that day. As the disciples’ lips dripped with criticism I can only imagine that the parents’ eyes turned to Christ in confusion and cried for clarity.
“What are we to do, Lord?
We are trying to come.
Shall we turn away?
They’re telling us to turn away.”
Looking to Jesus they found a Friend.
Listening to Jesus they heard a Helper.
He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
He will be with us as we strive to bring our babes before Him.
He will be with us as we strive to bring our babes before Him.
Beloved, foes will rail but ultimately foes will fail.
Do not abandon your parental privilege of delivering your sons and daughters to our gracious Savior even if in doing so all hell should defy you, all earth dispute you, and all mankind debate you. Jesus will defend you and depose all who oppose. Rest that He will rebuke them and redeem you!
3. We can rejoice that Jesus receives when others reject and that He comes when we can’t.
Over and over and over again I am reminded to be thankful that our Jesus is not like us. He does not treat us as we treat one another. He is patient, kind, gracious, tender, full of compassion – on and on His amazing attributes go.
While men may beat and bludgeon a bruised reed, Jesus never breaks one.
While men may huff and puff and seek to smother a flickering flame, Jesus will not extinguish one.
While men may hurl insults and fling intimidations at a weary mother who is already so discouraged in her striving to raise her children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, Jesus will not rail nor reject.
No, our merciful Master rescues and receives. He rescues us and our children from our adversaries. He receives us and our children when others would turn us away. Furthermore, He takes hold of us and of our children even when we seem unable to take hold of Him.
While opposition made it appear impossible for these families to lay hold of Christ, no opposition could keep Christ from laying hold of them. The text tells us that Jesus stretched out His hands and laid them on these children whom others sought to send away. Jesus was active in bringing them the blessing! He is active in bringing true blessings to us as well.
Matthew Henry writes:
“The strongest believer lives not so much by apprehending Christ as by being apprehended by Him, not so much by knowing God as by being known by Him. If we cannot stretch out our hands to Christ, yet He can lay His hands on us, and so make us His own, and own us for His own.”
Oh, these words and this passage give me hope. No one can truly stand between me, my children, and my Savior. The gates of hell shall not prevail.
As I look to Him, lean on Him, and learn to love Him - as I seek to bring Joshua and Elizabeth along on the journey, He is faithful – ever faithful in spite of all opposition, including my own.