If you have ever tried to help a young child understand faith, then you know how difficult of a task that is. It’s not a concept that is entirely concrete–it’s a bit abstract. So it’s hard for a young mind to fully comprehend and appreciate it. It requires us to explain faith as trusting in something or someone without having all the information simply because that person or thing is trustworthy. Like I said…hard.
But what can help us is a short conversation between Jesus and two others being crucified with him that Luke records for us in his gospel. A story that contains incredible significance as to how we disciple our kids because it lays to appropriate groundwork for understanding what it means to have faith in Jesus.
The Faith of a Thief
On one side is a thief who looks at Jesus with contempt—as if this moment is proof enough that Jesus is a fraud. “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39). However, the other thief not only understands the condition of his own heart, but also recognizes Jesus as the true Messiah. And without hesitation puts his faith in him. It’s quite likely that he understood the Jewish expectation of the Messiah, caught, at least a glimpse of Jesus’ ministry, and accurately added up the evidence to conclude that Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise to the nation of Israel and the rest of the world.
Although it might be easy to gloss over this moment or get caught up debating this man’s eternal future—we must not miss the gospel plain and simple hidden in this short interaction. The thief on the cross knows his sin, accepts the punishments and in asking Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Is both and statement of belief and a request for forgiveness. This man put his faith in the promise of God made real in Jesus.
But here’s the thing, as parents, we can’t just meditate on these truths or admire them from afar and hope our kids just some how “get it.” We have to help them catch it, own it, and live it. So here are a few ways, as parents, can help brings the idea of faith to a whole new level of understanding and create habits that will greatly impact their walk with Jesus.
Memorize Hebrews 11:1 to Help Frame Up Faith
I am a big fan of memory verses. Maybe I still have some Awana in my blood. When it comes to faith, Hebrews 11:1 is a no brainer. It frames up any conversation about faith perfectly. Talk about it, put it on your fridge, on your bathroom mirror, at their bedside—every place the whole family is going to see it. But here is the trick—you have to memorize it too. If you do, you will greatly increase the chances they will too.
Look for Practical Ways to Define Faith
This is a hard concepts for young minds—it’s a little too abstract. So as adults, we have to explain it a lot and in a lot of different ways. So throughout your week, look for teachable moments to help drive home the point. Which incidentally comes from Hebrews 11:1 (see what we did there?).
Find and Share Your Reasons For Having Faith
Remember, the thief likely had reasons. But even more than that, we are given to reasons to have faith in God’s promises all throughout Scripture. Think about Moses, Elijah, Gideon, the miracles of Jesus, and even the activity of the early church. God always shows up and shows off. So as a family, talk this week about how God has shown up in your lives and how that has grown your faith in him.
As always, remember that disciple-making is an ongoing process and those important teachable moments often don’t coordinate with our busy schedules—nonetheless, take the time to take advantage. We only get one shot at raising our kids.