Fathers, Teach Your Kids To Suffer Well

“Will I be killed?”

A pretty sobering question for a Monday night family Bible study around the dinner table. Nevertheless, my ten-year-old stared at me, eagerly awaiting an answer. Even though I had thoroughly read over John 15 in preparation to study it with my kids over a bowl of my wife’s chili that night, I had not really considered how I would answer this type of question if it were asked.

How honest are we with our kids about the cost of following Christ?

So far, I think I have done a decent job of teaching my daughters good theology. We talk about the sovereignty of God that brought our family together. When tough situations arise, we talk about how God tells us that He works all things together for good for those who love Him and for those whom he has called[i]. My wife and I try our best to center our home on a Biblical foundation of love and truth. However, with love and truth being inseparable, it would be incredibly unloving of us not to warn our kids about the consequences of proclaiming the Truth.

These consequences can vary from culture to culture. In America, we are seeing indications that the future of religious freedom will look much different than it has in the past. With impending legislation such as the Equality Act, it seems it will become increasingly lawless to stand against the culture and on Biblical truth about sexuality, marriage, and life in the womb. Laws like these could be the catalyst for censoring pulpits across the country. Preaching what the Bible says about cultural issues will likely be considered hate speech, therefore carrying legal consequences. Are we ready? Are our kids ready?

In the Gospel of John, Jesus warns his disciples of what to expect because of their relationship with Him. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.[ii] Jesus says the reason that Christians will be hated by the world is because we are not of the world. Christ has called us out of the world for a purpose—to bear fruit. Fruit comes in all shapes and sizes, but there is one fruit that will taste incredibly bitter to those that are perishing—bearing witness to Jesus.

It is increasingly apparent that the culture around us is growing colder to the things of the Lord. Naturally, talking with our girls through Jesus’ warning to His disciples in John 15 inevitably sparks questions in their minds regarding the practicality of living for Christ. I’ll be honest—it was difficult to answer my 10-year-old when she asked if she could be killed for her faith. I even caught myself wanting to ease her mind and give a watered-down, cowardly answer completely different than what Jesus says. The only thing she needs from me to aid her in her Christian life is to stand flat-footed and say Yes, you could be killed. It is a fact that Biblical preaching will bring persecution, be it emotional or physical. If you are a Christian, your kids need to know this—and not just know it but expect it. Fathers, what more glorious of a ministry do we have than preparing our children to suffer for the sake of Christ!

One key part in preparing their hearts and minds for this worldview is to remind them that they are not alone. This truth is two-fold. First, God gives us the body of believers to come together and worship and practice the one-anothers prescribed in Scripture.[iii] This is why it is imperative that we teach our kids that a pattern of going to church is not optional, but commanded[iv]. God has provided the regular gathering of the saints as a means of grace so that we may bear others’ burdens, and they may bear ours. 

Secondly, Jesus has sent us the Spirit of Truth[v] to indwell His people. Through Him, we bear fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control[vi]. He bears witness to our spirit about the things of Christ, and, through us, bears witness to the world. With the Spirit of God residing within us, sovereignly leading us through suffering and to the glory that awaits us[vii], there is not a single second of our lives that we are alone.

It is a great comfort to know that God has established the end, as well as the means to the end. Having discussions with our children about suffering in the light of God’s sovereignty is good and necessary but including the work of the Spirit is equally important. God has chosen His people to be the vessels that carry His Word to the world[viii], even in the face of ridicule, slander, imprisonment, and death. Though these things will come for us, He is with us always.  

The Bible describes two different people groups—those of us who are being saved, and those who are perishing.[ix] Our kids need to know the fruit of preaching the Gospel of Christ is salvation for His people. To the first people group, this message of hope is the power of God for salvation. Through the hearing of it, The Spirit regenerates His people. He removes their God-hating hearts of stone and gives them a soft heart of flesh desiring to worship and obey Him[x]. To the second people group, this message of the cross of Christ is utter foolishness. Though the world hears this message of the cross, they suppress the Truth of it in their unrighteousness. Our kids need to know these people will hate the message to the point that they would try to silence the messenger.

We can have family discussions about all the things mentioned here, but we as fathers must lead by example. Our actions will disciple them far more than a Bible study ever will. If we live like we are terrified of the way the world is going, and that our hope is in the frailty of mankind, then this is the message they will hear the loudest. Be honest with your children. Teach them to suffer well. Teach them that this life is just a vapor, a momentary affliction. Teach them, by example, that to live is Christ, but to die is gain.

[i] Romans 8:28

[ii] John 15:18

[iii] Romans 12:10, John 13:34, Romans 12:16, Romans 14:19, 1 Thessalonians 5:11

[iv] Hebrews 10:25

[v] John 15:26

[vi] Galatians 5:22-23

[vii] Romans 8:18

[viii] Romans 10:14-15

[ix] 1 Corinthians 1:18

[x] Ezekiel 36:26

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