Discipleship with Children: Seven Principles (Part 3)

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Very slowly over the last 2 months, I have been studying and writing about the principles of discipleship that I have seen in the Gospel of Mark.

In my first post, I wrote about how a teacher must develop a relationship with their student, identify with their student, and use all opportunities to teach a student the truth.

In my second post, I wrote about how a teacher must give opportunity for guided practice and must pray for their students.

Today I want to address the final two principles: A Teacher prepares a student for the future and A Teacher lives the example his students will follow.

6.  A Teacher Prepares His Students for the Future

When I was cleaning out my garage this past weekend, I came across a binder that contained a syllabus I wrote for my Seventh Grade English class (I taught at a small Christian school).  My first paragraph included the words, ” To succeed in today’s world and to impart the gospel to today’s people, Christians need to  know how to write, speak, and read well.”

My ultimate goal for my students was to prepare them for their future.

In Mark and the other gospels, Jesus, their Rabbi, or Teacher, takes the time to warn and prepare His disciples for the future.

He warns them about his coming death and resurrection:

“He was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”  Mark 9:31

He warned them about the persecutions and tribulations they would have to endure and about the false prophets they would encounter so that they could be on their guard, remain faithful and continue doing God’s work, despite discouragement:

 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.”  Mark 13:23

He comforts them and gives them hope with the promise of His return:

“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” Mark 13:26

Preparing for the future is something we all know that we should do.  I’m sure we have all heard or read Aesop’s Fable, The Grasshopper and the Ant, that warns us of the foolishness of not practically preparing for hard times that come in life.  Financial advisers tell us to have six or twelve months expenses saved for a crisis.  If there is a busy morning the next day, it is helpful to get things ready the night before.  I love having pre-prepared meals in the freezer to pull out on busy evenings.

We must also prepare our hearts spiritually for our future.  None of us know how long we have here on earth.  It is of vital importance to first, be sure you know where you are spending your future.

God’s perfect and absolute holiness and justice means that sin can not be brushed aside, excused or ignored.  It must be paid for. We all make wrong choices and do unkind and hurtful things.  We sin.  We break God’s law and we must accept the consequences for our crimes.  That means eternal separation from God.

But His mercy and love toward us could not leave us in such a desperate situation.  He had to make a way to rescue us.  And He did.  His heartbreaking yet glorious plan included God’s Son coming to earth as a man to  live a sinless life and suffer and die in our place.  He took the punishment for our sins.  He paid the price for our crimes.

Now forgiveness is freely available for those who accept it.  Those who do have their future secured for them.  This is the most important decision any human will make on this earth.

Once we have that settled, we still must work to be ready for our future by being busy at God’s work all the time.  We must live responsibly, love wholeheartedly, serve cheerfully.  We must be ready at all times to share with others the reason for the hope we have.

As a mother, one of my God ordained tasks is to disciple my children.  I must tell them about how they can be spiritually ready for the future.  I also train them and teach them practical things so that they will be prepared to live the life God wants them to live here on earth until they go to be with Him.

Therefore, Biblical and hymn studies come first in our schedule as it is first in our hearts and priorities.  Then reading, writing, math, science, history, fine arts, crafts, and life skills are all a part of week as they are important ingredients in my discipleship of my children.

7. A Teacher Lives the Example His Students Will Follow 

When I was a young teacher, one day, I misunderstood one of my students, a seventh grade girl and snapped at her.  Immediately, I realized that I had misunderstood and I had been completely unfair.  Her face fell and froze.  I got the other students busy at their task and then quickly went up to her and humbly apologized for my words.

The next year, I was subbing for another teacher in a class that she was in.  The students decided to play a classic let’s-see-what-we-can-get-away-with-because-there-is-a-sub trick on me (I think it had to do with the seating chart).  When I realized what they were up to, I was a little disappointed in the students and told them so.  Then I got them busy with whatever work was assigned to them and sat at the teacher’s desk with my own work.

This particular girl came up to me right away.  She apologized to me for her part.  I was impressed and blessed by her apology.  This incident with this girl has remained in my heart and mind all these years.  I had not really thought of my first apology as an example for my students to follow.  It was humbling and sobering to think that not just my academic lessons but my daily actions might influence them.

The whole book of Mark and actually, all of the gospels describe the perfect example in the life of Christ.  They recount his deeds, his teachings, his heart, his will, his obedience to the Father and his love for his people.

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”  I Peter 2:21

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”  John 13:14-15

Have you ever heard your words, phrases, turns of speech come out of your children’s mouths?  It might be a frightening idea that what we say in our homes might get broadcasted to the whole world.

More than that, our children see what we do and do it too.  My mom was a teacher, an enthusiastic and thematic party planner, and a crazy list-maker.  I am too.  But unfortunately, kids don’t just pick up on the good things.  They’ll pick up our bad habits and unattractive traits too.  The whole idea of “Do as I say and not as I do” is really just a joke.

So the only way to live the example I want for my children is to spend time with the Lord in his Word and in prayer every single day.  If I abide in Him and his words abide in me, then I will be prepared to live the best example I can for my children and for anyone else who might be watching.

And in it all: my marriage, my relationship and discipleship of my children, my service to others, my life, the grace of God envelops and enables me.  I stand through his power and his grace alone.  To God be the glory forever!

 

(I wrote a version of the poem “I Took His Hand and Followed.”  It is about following Christ’s example, so take a look if you’d like.)

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