Passing on Spiritual Passion to Our Children
by LESLIE LUDY
One of the most powerful messages I’ve ever heard was a grainy recording from the early 90s. It was a living room interview with evangelist Leonard Ravenhill near the end of his life. He was about 84 years old when the interview took place, and even though his voice was weak and warbled, the spiritual passion that emanated from his soul was unmistakable. He spoke fervently about true Christianity, repentance, and revival. But to me, the most powerful part of the interview was when he spoke about his conversion to Christianity as a young boy because of the amazing example of his father. He said:
I was 14, and I wanted to understand my father’s zeal for God. My daddy relished reading the Word of God. And he relished going to prayer meetings, even half-nights of prayer. He even relished being a street corner preacher. My daddy had inspired zeal. God had lifted the beggar from the dunghill, He completely changed my daddy. He had been in a certain system of religion that was based in fear, and then he got marvelously born again. He became fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. I never saw him downcast, I never
saw him thinking about giving up.
When he got saved, he tossed away his interest in professional football and everything else. I saw his joy — even though we lived in comparative poverty and hadn’t much money, because my daddy was a laborer. I remember him taking me to a half-night of prayer when I was 14, and my daddy, who was a big husky man, taking his coat off at 1:00 in the morning in a room that had no heat, and praying with tears and fervor … from that very day I recognized that there was something far beyondwhat the average Christian had…
I got saved at 14 — I’m 84 now. I’ve seen all kinds of tragedies in the Church. I’ve seen wars and rumors of wars. I’ve seen popular men go unpopular. But I keep looking to Jesus, and remembering these“old paths” that my daddy used to talk about so much. And it makes all the rest look like trivia.
As I listened to this passionate old man share such vivid memories of his father’s spiritual fervor, I was deeply stirred. I recognized that this is the kind of legacy I desired to leave for my children; a spiritual heritage that will be just as real and powerful to them when they are 84 years old as it is during the child-raising years.
But this is not easy. I’ve observed that there are many Christian parents today who are achieving good parenting outcomes; teaching things like hard work, academic excellence, financial responsibility, and conservative thinking. But there are few Christian parents I have seen who demonstrate that kind of spiritual passion; who are so fervent about the things of God that their children are changed
forever by their example.
A number of years ago, Eric and I were guest speakers at a large Christian family convention. The son of the event coordinators — a young man in his mid-twenties — was assigned to pick us up from the airport and drive us back and forth from the hotel to the convention during the weekend. As we spent time with this young man over those few days, it became obvious that his parents had raised him with good solid Christian morals and given him a proper education. He was a hard-working, responsible
adult who had a respectable job.
But another thing was obvious — he lacked spiritual passion. His walk with God was mediocre at best, and he seemed to approach the Christian life with a sense of duty, rather than true devotion.
As parents raising young children, Eric and I saw all the more clearly that no matter how excellent we might be at educating and morally training our children, if we failed to pass along genuine passion for Jesus Christ we would not be truly successful as Christian parents.
Eric and I have come to believe that there is something more God desires us to experience in our families than what is typical in Christianity today. This “something more” can’t be gained by just having good parenting skills or choosing the right homeschool curriculum. It is only found through, “Christ in [us,] the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). It is found only in lives radically given to Jesus Christ.
There are moments when I feel overwhelmed by this vision — wondering how I can possibly help my children gain lifelong spiritual fire that will never fade to a flicker; how I can help them not just fit Jesus Christ into their lives, but build their lives around Him. It seems like such a tall order in a world controlled by selfishness and spiritual apathy.
But in moments like these, I am always comforted by a simple yet powerful principle that Andrew Murray articulated beautifully:
“Example is better than precept … let parents be what they want their children to be.”
In other words, the very best gift I can give to my children is to personally pursue Jesus Christ with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength; to put Him first in every area of my life; to let them see my unwavering love and devotion to Him every single day. If I want my children to be spiritually passionate, I must cultivate spiritual passion in my own life.
Of course it is extremely valuable to pass along practical knowledge of Scripture and the Christian life to our children. It’s important to educate them well and teach them good morals and ethics. But they will never discover the “something more” that Leonard Ravenhill’s father exemplified to him unless we ourselves are radically and wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus Christ.
I’d like to offer two keys that have helped me put this principle into practice in my own life:
1. Pursue Jesus First
As busy moms who want to be successful at raising children, we are often prone to focus on “good” things — and then add Jesus in as an afterthought. It’s easy to put the majority of our focus and energy into things like being a good homemaker, educating our children, helping our family stay socially connected, providing financially for our children, etc. All of these pursuits are healthy and important. But they are not what is most important.
Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).
Are we willing to put those words into practice in our daily lives, even as busy mothers?
When it comes to raising spiritually passionate children, our focus should be to know Christ (personally) and to make Him known (to our children). All the other good things that we do as moms should be an outflow of giving Jesus Christ first place. First in our thoughts, first in our emotions, first in our focus, first in our actions. When we have the courage to put Him first, everything else falls into place.
Note: If you are looking for practical ways to build your life around Christ on a day-to-day basis, I would encourage you to read the books I’ve written on this topic, The Set Apart Woman and Set Apart Motherhood, and Elisabeth Elliot’s book Discipline: The Glad Surrender.
2. Remove Distractions
Because raising children can be exhausting, it’s tempting to believe that it’s okay to spiritually “coast” and spend what little free time we have on shallow distractions and cultural hype. But now is not the time to lay down our swords. If we allow ourselves to become distracted by excessive social media, entertainment, politics, or other personal pursuits, we will have very little left over to spiritually engage in the battle for our children’s souls.
One of the enemy’s sneakiest tactics is to distract us with cultural “noise” and temporal pleasures, blinding us to the reality of what is taking place in our homes and in the inner lives of our children. As Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 2:4, “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs…” (NIV).
We can only be spiritually tuned in to our children when we deliberately choose to tune out the clamor of the culture.
This will look different for each of us, but the core principle should be the same no matter what season of life we are in. As Amy Carmichael so beautifully expressed:
“Comrades in this solemn fight … let us settle it as something that cannot be shaken: we are here to live holy, loving, lowly lives. We cannot do this unless we walk very, very close to our Lord Jesus. Anything that would hinder us from the closest walk possible to us till we see Him face to face is not for us.”
Allow God to show you if there are any distractions in your life that are hindering you from being spiritually sharp and ready to engage in the battle for your children’s souls. Be willing to remove those things and replace them with activities that will truly anchor your soul — and your family — to Jesus Christ.
Counting the Cost
R. A. Torrey once spoke these challenging words for Christian parents,
“Oh, mothers and fathers, it is your privilege to have every one of your children saved. But it costs something … it costs your spending much time alone with God, to be much in prayer, and it costs also your making those sacrifices and straightening out those things in your life that are wrong; it costs fulfilling the conditions of prevailing prayer…”
Are we willing to count the cost of truly going after our children’s souls? Are we willing to spend time alone with God on their behalf, to be much in prayer for them, and to make personal sacrifices in order to put Jesus in His rightful place in our hearts and homes?
It is not a complicated formula or a specific curriculum that we need in order to raise spiritually passionate children. It is a heart captivated by the King of all kings. May we learn to love Jesus so much that our passion for Him becomes overwhelmingly contagious to our children, even when they are 84 years old.