In 1 Samuel 3, we find little Samuel hearing from God while sleeping in the Tabernacle:
2 One night Eli, who was almost blind by now, had gone to bed. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle near the Ark of God. 4 Suddenly the Lord called out, “Samuel!”
“Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” 5 He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go back to bed.” So he did.
6 Then the Lord called out again, “Samuel!”
Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you, my son,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.”
7 Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before. 8 So the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. 9 So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.
10 And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”
And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”
Within this passage are some amazing principles that parents today should take careful note of.
Firstly, it’s safe to say that God intensely desires a relationship with your kids. He wants to speak to them. However the only person in the world who can facilitate that discussion at first is YOU.
That’s a heavy responsibility. You need to own it. That’s what it means to be a parent.
Now, I don’t know if anyone is ever thoroughly prepared to walk somebody into a relationship with God, but through the Holy Spirit, we’ve been given that privilege. And if we are open to His help, I know that each of us can do it.
So, if we look at the third chapter of 1 Samuel through this lens, we’ll see a lot of truths about God’s view of our children and of us as parents.
So, God wants our children, but just like Samuel, our children are going to instinctively run to us. Because they typically see God nor hear the audible voice of God, the only authority that they are keenly aware of is their parents.
Therefore, we – as parents – are our kids first step on their journey toward God. Now, I’ve met some parents who say, “I’m not going to force God on my child. I’m just going to let them grow up and make their own decisions.” Well, as I’ve said before, it’s inconsistent to have this perspective. We make our kids brush their teeth, we feed them nutritious food, we educate our kids… all because we know that it is important to train them and provide for them what they will need to be healthy and successful adults. That being said, we need to also accept the responsibility to train them up and prepare them for eternity as well. If they don’t hear about God rightly from us, then they probably won’t hear rightly about God at all. We can’t push our responsibility as parents onto Sunday School teachers. The Church is meant to help us and to foster discipleship in our kids, but it’s not meant to take the responsibility of discipling and training our children from us.
Secondly, God wants His own conversation with our kids, and we need to let that happen. And, despite all the things that we can criticize about Eli, here’s one thing that I believe that he did very well. When he finally understood that it was God’s voice calling to Samuel, he taught Samuel how to hear and respond to God’s voice. We need to remember that God loves our children – even more than we do! We need to be willing and able to release them into His care. But how do we prepare them for this conversation? Consider number three:
Our kids will not always know when God is at work, so it’s up to us to show them. He’ll often speak to them without them knowing that it’s Him. Now, Samuel was lucky – he received that audible voice from God that we all want. But, if hardly any of us receive this, how are we to know when God is trying to speak to us, much less our children? Many times, it’s easy to see that God speaks to us through painful circumstances. So, if your child is going through some tough times, you should be ready to point out how God may be at work even through their painful days. You also have the ability to actively explain Biblical principles to your kids by reading children’s Bible stories and then teaching them how to apply these principles to their daily lives. For instance, if your child has a particular heart toward a group of people or a leaning to serve in any type of scenario, point out to them that that is God working in their heart and wanting to prepare them to be used by Him.
Next, and I know that this may be a little bit different than the story in 1 Samuel 3, but it’s an important principle that needs to be pointed out. Here it is: Spiritual maturity usually doesn’t outpace emotional maturity. God reveals Himself to your child when He knows that they are ready. Not when YOU think they are ready, but when He knows that they are. And when you recognize that God is trying to speak to them, through life’s circumstances, through stories, or through prayer, YOU NEED TO GET IN THERE and walk your children through it.
I remember a time when my daughter, Marli, said to us while we were reading our family devotional, “I think that God wants me to minister to the people of Korea.” Now, I have always had the strong desire that God would use my kids for His purposes. But I really didn’t like the idea of Him using my little girl half-way around the world, in a communist country where the persecute Christians. Sometimes it’s hard to surrender your kids to His plans, especially when they reach farther than we can see, or are willing to see. And yet, as parents, we have to let it happen. If we don’t, then we are guilty of holding them back from all that God wants for them, and for those whom God wants to affect through them. Today, we’re over ten years away from that morning conversation, and my daughter still has a heart for ministering in Asia. She hasn’t gone yet, but it’s amazing to see how God continues to prepare her for His work. Yet, I still vividly remember my immense fear as God spoke to and through my little girl. It scared me to death! But if I maintain the perspective that I am merely a steward of all the things that God has blessed me with: my home, my finances, and even my children, then it’s easy to trust her future to Him.
And, just like Eli, we need to be willing and able to teach this next generation how to hear from God, and just as importantly how to respond to Him when He speaks.
Finally, remember that the message that God gave to Samuel was a tough one to hear. Often times, coming face to face with God’s heart on an issue could be very painful for us, since His heart is pure and He desires that ALL people would draw close to Him. When we see the world around us through His eyes, it can cause our hearts to emotionally break – and it can have the same effect on our kids. But, we must allow God to do what He needs to do in the lives of our children and foster instead of prevent an atmosphere where God speaks and our kids hear from Him.
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