Your Child’s Heart

At Bethlehem, we aim at Christian maturity. This means that by God’s grace we want our graduates to build strong, stable, and happy families that reflect the gospel in the world. Here is an exhortation from Dr. Rigney to his congregation on aiming for the heart in raising our children.

The banner that flies over our efforts at parenting is simple: be the smile of God to your children. God is a happy Father, who takes great delight in his Beloved Son, and in all of those who are united to his Beloved Son. He is well-pleased; he smiles upon his Son, and upon his sons and daughters. 

As parents, we want to reflect that reality in our homes to our own children. This means keeping our eye on the ball. Proverbs 23:26 says, “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” In your parenting, you are establishing rules and enforcing them. You’re giving instruction and then disciplining accordingly. But why are you doing all of these things? Why are you giving instruction and discipline? Because you want your child’s heart. 

And it’s easy to lose sight of this. It’s easy to give instruction and discipline because you want your child’s obedience, or because you want some peace and quiet, or because you have important things to do and the fussing, whining, quarreling, and provoking that’s going on in the kitchen is interrupting it.

And don’t misunderstand. You do want their obedience, and you’re responsible to God to instruct and discipline them. And a peaceful home is a blessing to everyone in it. But it’s possible to lose sight of what’s ultimate. It’s possible to lose sight of the fact that what you really want is obedience from the heart, peace and quiet from the heart. What you want is their heart.

So when you’re setting the rules, are you after their heart? When you instruct them in God’s laws, are you after their heart? When you enforce the rules, whether God’s rules or house rules, are you after their heart? 

We want our children to give their hearts to God. And so we want to help them practice by giving their hearts to us. They give their hearts to us so that they know what it’s like to give their hearts to a father, so that they can give their hearts to God the Father.

But perhaps we can say even more than this. Jesus tells us that there is a way of receiving children in his name that is also a receiving of Jesus himself. “He who receives them in my name receives me.” The two things—receiving children and receiving Jesus—become one thing, because the first thing is done in his name. When you receive children in Jesus’s name, what do you have in the end? You have the children, and you have Jesus. 

Similarly, there is a way of your children giving you their heart that becomes, over time, and by the grace of God, a giving of their heart to God. They give their heart to you, and, if you’re teaching them rightly, they give their heart to you in the name of Jesus. And when they do that, who has their heart in the end? You do, and He does.

Joe Rigney, Ph.D.

Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray that we all as parents and or those in community with children would be the smile of God to them and lead their hearts to Christ.
  2. Pray that our students and faculty would have a restful break and return rejuvenated for the final weeks of the semester.
  3. Pray for those considering attending Bethlehem that the Lord would guide their steps.
  4. Pray for the full funding of The Serious Joy Scholarship for this year’s students.