You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. ~2 Timothy 2:2
Discipleship – what is it? The word is a catchphrase thrown around casually but with little definition. No one would argue the command by Jesus in Matthew to go and make disciples, but many are stymied by what exactly making disciples looks like whether the disciple is your child or another believer. The truth is the word discipleship was never used in scripture. Disciples were first called Christians at Antioch in Acts, but the followers of Christ were all termed disciples in scripture. Jesus commands to go and make disciples, teaching what He had taught. Paul models discipleship in relationships with other believers in the New Testament.
None of us would ever declare ourselves unwilling to disciple the precious children we have been blessed with, but many times I talk with other moms about what tangibly does this look like in the day to day. What does it mean to actually “do” this with our children? Especially if we have never experienced it for ourselves? I think one of the best definitions includes the idea of pursuing a 3 prong agenda of grounding in and cultivating a love for the Word, teaching how to walk in relationship both with God and others, and how to serve/minister from a position that understands and extends the Gospel.
How do we ground them in the Word? practically? What is my vision, my end goal, the place I’m seeking to head to with this child (or this woman that sits at my kitchen table) over their lifetime? I often think in terms of word pictures, and I find with my children that teaching them spiritual truths inside of word pictures helps make the concepts tangible. One picture is given in Ephesians 6 for how we are to do spiritual battle for and with our kids. When our babies are little and have no spiritual understanding, we are the warriors with our baby on our back wielding our shield and sword, holding the world and the enemy at bay.
As they step into a walk with Jesus Christ, I need to introduce them to their sword and begin to show them its weight, strength, and sharpness. They now stand directly behind me in battle, still protected but beginning to learn the battle. We explore the goodness of the gospel – teaching them the truths that will anchor them in this unsteady world. We patiently walk them through all the points of their armor as it relates to their life, pointing out the protection of the helmet of salvation, the importance of feet solidly ground into the gospel of peace, the absolute must of His truth to hold their armor on. We teach them the importance of guarding their heart and pursuing righteousness. We point out the incoming arrows of lies, and our shield of faith absorbs the blows. When my children are young and young in their faith, my sword is active. I sharpen my sword openly, and my goal is teach them how to sharpen theirs alongside me. Mommas, if I can plead with you, God’s Word is living and active, it is so rich, so fulfilling, and it never returns void. He is Truth in a world that offers none. Spend time with Him in His word.
As they grow spiritually they need to move from directly behind me and my shield to beside me, with their own shield in front of them and their own sword sharpened for battle. The onslaught will increase in intensity as they grow, for the enemy now sees another warrior. In these early years of walking with Jesus, the enemy sights a warrior he is desperate to incapacitate. He would like nothing less than to convince this young believer to stay in the fetal position on the spiritual battlefield.
I train them in how to wield their weapon, trust their armor, and stand behind their shield. My goals are to help them sharpen their sword and fall in love with it. The Word of God is rich beyond belief. Explore the scriptures with your children, memorize passages, marvel at the picture of Who God is – His faithfulness, holiness, justice, graciousness, mercy, love, and peace. Show them the redemption story that runs from beginning to end and worship Him together. I want them to understand the great perfect protection their shield of faith offers. Their faith grows as they battle and trust the Holy Spirit within them. We have the honor of standing next to them as they stand firm and encouraging them in their battles.
My place is right next to them so that I can protect them if I need to when a particularly fast or fiery arrow is launched with my shield or so that I can put my hand out to help stand them back up and give them protection as they replant their feet in the gospel. But if as a parent, I am still trying to lug my teen around on my back as I do battle for the both of us, I stunt them. They will be ill equipped. And if I am disinterested in the great battles they face, too busy to encourage, listen, and pray with them, they will believe the lie that no battle truly wages and that it is ok to merely exist on this epic wrestling stage.
I am called to be faithful to this discipleship arc, threading these concepts into conversations all along the way. But I am not the outcome maker. I have to trust that the same Holy Spirit that leads me, the Word of God that is my sword and the shield of faith that God gives and grows in me is also within them if they are saved.
They need to stand firm on this battlefield, knowing I stand beside them and will assist with the lies the enemy slings because soon enough they will move on the battlefield and will be on their own. Their Sword needs to be sharpened and that comes with use. They need to trust that their shield of faith holds against anything the enemy would like to fire their way because the days are coming when doubt, fear, misgivings, and discouragement will assault them. Their armor is vital to their defense. And my role daily is to pray. Paul warns us, “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” Their battle is great, the lies are numerous, but the enemy is defeated! Jesus is Faithful and True.