It was a particular difficult day in the life of 3 1/2 year old Luke Sullivant. (He is pictured here with his lovely wife, Rebekah.) A series of emotional fits had occurred throughout that fateful day. Terri was worn out from having to deal with his outbursts, but it was now bedtime and things had quieted down. Luke looked up into the eyes of his weary mother and stated with very clear and certain conviction, "Da debul is trying to keep me from gettin' to God." Whoa! Terri knew a "magic moment" was at hand. She looked him back in the eyes and flatly stated, "The devil doesn't have the power to do that, Luke. Nothing can stop the love of God from getting to you. Jesus made the bridge for us to get to God when He died for our sins on the cross and then came back alive from the dead. And... you can pray tonight for Jesus to come into your heart and He will come in. All you have to do is ask Him and believe." Our boy Luke prayed the "sinner's prayer" that night. Terri and I can both testify to the reality that he was a deeply transformed little person after that night. From the next morning on, the goal and joy of his life became the desire to honor God the Father and Jesus the Son and even us...his parents. He has never significantly or seriously deviated from that spiritual center from that day--now 31 years later.
I have been watching the spiritual pathways of many children throughout my years of ministry. I've noticed some typical turning points at various stages of their lives that have been quite helpful to some fellow parents along the way. Of course, these are not "iron clad" principles without exceptions. Here is the first stage.
When children are about 4-6 years old:
Needless to say, we believe that very young children can experience the "new birth". (All five of our children came to personal intelligent faith in Jesus between the ages of 3 1/2 and 5.) Little children's consciences can become convinced of their need for Jesus to become their Savior and Lord and will somewhere along the way, typically, be willing to ask Him into their hearts...for real. I have seen the genuine evidences of the spiritual transformation of many young hearts by the grace of the Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. A lot of our friends in Christ confirm this in relating their own family members' conversion stories. (By the way, most people who come to faith in Jesus, do so before the age of 18.)
It's also a time to begin to pour into their young and open hearts and minds the amazing Bible stories, fun and memorable worship music for kids (my adult kids can still remember numerous GT and the Halo Express songs!), key passage memorization, nighttime prayers, great Christian children's literature and all other kinds of God-stories from our lives, our friends' lives and from history. Their young and adventurous hearts will thrive on these wonderful stories, themes and truths. I also encourage water baptism (at an age that they will be able to recall as adults), the laying on of hands and all the rest of the stuff that goes with laying solid foundations for their spiritual lives and their futures.
Even if our children don't have a clear "conversion" experience (Luke doesn't remember his) it is still good, right and wise to instruct our them in the ways of the Lord Jesus. We, at least, are creating "forms" that we can pray for the Holy Spirit to fill with "substance" in His time. Many, many people have said that after they have had a more adult conversion experience, the things they learned about Jesus and the Bible as children came alive to them...and they are grateful for their childhood spiritual instruction and the influence of their believing parents and various kinds of school teachers.
Some parents probably balk at creating such a powerful influence on their young and impressionable children, but I say "they're our kids" and, if no one else, God has called us, who have the personal knowledge of eternal life, to impress our own offspring with the beauty of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I say, don't hold back from praying for your children and grandchildren to come to faith in Jesus at early ages and sensitively leading them to Him when their "magic moments" are in the air.
A VOICE OF HOPE
Michael Sullivant's Blog
I am a child of God, husband, father, grandfather, spiritual father, author, speaker and hope coach.