By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
There is so much we want to give to our children. Affirmation. Protection. Values. A good work ethic. And a whole lot of what will make them happy and successful in life.
I believe Jesus’ promise in John 10:10 to give us “life to the full” was meant to address our wants and needs that will never be fully satisfied apart from Him. He knew when we find our satisfaction in our Savior, there’s little else we want and need.
What if you and I could give our kids that kind of life to the full? We can’t give them salvation, of course, but we can teach them the fulfillment and satisfaction that comes from knowing who God is, why they’re here, and what life is all about.
One way to convey this to your children is to remind them that life is meaningful, life is short, and life must be grasped in all its fullness and lived in enjoyment with the Lord. In other words, teach them to seize the day.
Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” That’s another way of saying “Help us realize how short our lives are here on earth so we live wisely and make it count.” And when our children live that way, they can’t help but enjoy life and seize it for all its worth, too.
As you being to experience life to the full by incorporating these seven steps, you are setting the stage for your children to adopt these practices and mindsets, too. Here are seven ways to give your kids life to the full:
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1. Remind Them That God Is in Control--Always
One of the most important concepts I learned as a teenage believer was that nothing takes God by surprise. To be assured of His absolute sovereignty and the fact that nothing happens without passing through His loving hands, has been monumental in helping me trust Him, and not worry or experience fear or anxiety.
Some parents shy away from stressing God’s absolute control over all things for fear of not being able to address their children’s questions about the sovereignty of God. How do we explain to our kids when God allows bad things to happen? What if they start blaming God for their disappointment and loss?
A proper understanding of God’s ability to do all things, combined with an assurance of His goodness and love, will help your child face the disappointments of life without a sense of entitlement or bitterness because God let them down or didn’t perform to their liking.
They are watching you. You either trust God is sovereign or you don’t and when you trust Him, you can rest in the fact that He is good. That enables us love Him completely, trust Him immensely, and experience life to the full.
2. Instill in Them an Attitude of Gratitude
Scripture commands us to be thankful in all circumstances because “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18). Any time your children are in the will of God, they will experience life to the full. And according to that verse, the easiest way of knowing you are living according to God’s will is to be thankful in all things, not just the good things.
A key element of faith is truly believing that not only is God in control of all things, but He really can work all those things--even the bad things--for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
That assurance enables us to thank Him for everything that comes our way because, as we surrender it all to Him, He will make us more like His Son through it (Romans 8:29
. When your children see that you thank God for everything that comes your way, good or bad, they are likely to adopt that perspective so they, too, can experience life to the full, regardless of what it brings.
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3. Teach Them the Power of Prayer
Your child can miss life to the full if he or she is full of stress, anxiety, or fear.
Stress and fear come when we find ourselves unable to control our situations or schedules. Or when we bathe a situation in our minds with a number of “what ifs.” While some believe fear is natural for children, it’s natural for adults, too, if we’re not looking to a supernatural God.
Philippians 4:6-7 tells us “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (NLT).
When your children see you taking matters of concern to God in prayer, and then not just acknowledging but celebrating God’s answers and provision, they can become individuals who incorporate prayer into their lives as well.
A person who prays doesn’t stress. A person who prays isn’t anxious. A person who prays experiences peace. First John 4:18 says, “Perfect love drives out fear.” Teach your children to love God perfectly and where there is perfect love, there is absolute trust and no room for worry or fear.
4. Give Them Weekly Family Time
My friend, Connie, who has two daughters, ages 10 and 7, told me that she and her husband, Tyler, are deliberate and intentional in how they spend time with their children so they can pass on the perspectives, attitudes, and principles that will bring them not only Jesus, but a more fulfilling life:
“We have been drawn to be mindful of our time and intentional with it,” Connie said.
One of the ways they do that is by being creating meaningful time together as a family. “Whether it happens organically or is planned out, we make time to play games and have fun some way all together as a family. Saturday, we picked up a family movie we knew the kids would enjoy and made pizzas at home and cuddled up on the couch in the living room for the evening.”
They also practice daily table time. “For us it's usually breakfast and dinner in this work-from-home season that Tyler's in,” Connie said. “We sit and have conversations, asking one another questions. In the morning, we usually read a devotional or we bring God into whatever we've begun to talk about.
"At dinner, we chat some more. We keep a jar of topics and if someone wants to pull from there, we ask the question and go around the table and answer. For example, Monday Emma decided to grab one from the jar and it said 'fear' so we all talked about what we fear. Sometimes it's listing things we're grateful for. I enjoy letting it happen organically.”
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5. Find Ways for Them to Serve Others
We are happier when we aren’t all about ourselves. And learning to serve others helps our children become less selfish.
Connie explains one way she encourages her kids to serve: “We try to point out the natural gifts and personality traits that the girls have and remind them to bless others with those gifts from the Lord. We emphasize that's why God’s blessed them with those gifts, so they can use them to encourage and bless others.
"Estelle is very compassionate, so she'll tell us of stories when someone's sad or hurt at school and how she'll go up to them and be with them, or help them. Emma is very thoughtful and loves to put gifts together for friends and deliver them."
Connie and Tyler also try to get their kids out of their comfort zones when it comes to serving: “We try to look to see where we can serve others, whether it's someone we know and a specific need that we can meet like providing a meal or watching a child, or noticing a stranger in need and doing what we can to help.”
One of their daughters had homeless people on her mind, so they put together bags of water and food that they carry in their trunk. Recently when they saw a man with a sign that said, "Hungry & Thirsty," Connie’s oldest daughter grabbed a bag from the back, rolled down her window, and handed it to him and said, “We’ll be praying for you.”
Teaching your kids to be aware of others’ needs and to serve is another way of teaching your kids to be more like Jesus. And when we are more like Him, we experience life to the full.
6. Celebrate God’s Special Blessings
It’s easy to feel entitled when God’s blessings are abundant. But making sure your kids are aware of special opportunities and unexpected blessings as being straight from the hand of God can curb their sense of entitlement and expectation, and prevent feelings of disappointment or bitterness toward God later on.
Connie told me: “When we're blessed with opportunities like a free trip to Walt Disney World through my husband’s job, we try to instill in our children the blessing that it is, thanking the Lord and thanking the hands here on earth that made it happen by drawing them pictures and writing them thank you notes.
"Yet, we also remind them not to expect that it will come about again, but instead see God’s work in providing it, how it lined up with our time frame and resources, and just be present to enjoy the time as it’s happening.”
This also allows us the opportunity to talk about expectations and that it's okay to have them, but if things don't play out as we've planned or dreamed, to accept what they are and be present in the moment God has provided.
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7. Emphasize God’s Daily Presence
Intimacy with God begins with an awareness of His constant presence and a communion with Him, regardless of where we are and what we’re doing.
Psalm 16:11 says “In Your Presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (NASB). Our kids should not grow up with the idea that being in God’s presence happens one day a week while they’re in Sunday School or will only happen someday future when they go to heaven.
Teach them the concept of Emmanuel--God with us. A constant awareness of God’s presence in our daily life brings God into the moment so our children can learn to enjoy Him during contentment, seek His comfort and stability during uncertainty, and pour out their hearts to Him when they feel like crying or complaining.
Connie said, “In short, our way of teaching our kids to live life to the full is to look for and see God's hand in things. To be intentional and present with those He places on your path, in your moments, life, and heart. To enjoy the blessings and experiences that we're given and to see where we can come alongside and bless others. To be aware of Him, seek Him intentionally, and follow His ways so that we can continue on the path He's laid out for us is what we consider living a life well and pleasing to the Lord, and ultimately that is what we're after.”
For more on raising godly children, see Cindi’s books, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom and When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter: Affirming Her Identity and Dreams in Every Stage of Life.
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