Building Faith in Children
They’re young now, but they won’t be young for long.
James and Ellen White had four sons. One died as an infant, and another died at the age of 16. Still, Ellen White regarded child raising as a sacred responsibility. Using her counsel recorded in The Adventist Home, we imagined how she might respond to the following questions.—Editors.
At what age should children be introduced to Christ?
“Children and youth should begin early to seek God; for early habits and impressions will frequently exert a powerful influence upon the life and character. Therefore the youth who would be like Samuel, John, and especially like Christ, must be faithful in the things which are least. . . . When the Lord sees you are faithful in that which is least, He will entrust you with larger responsibilities.”
The Bible says, “Give me thine heart” (Prov. 23:26). How does this relate to sharing faith with our children?
“The Savior of the world loves to have children and youth give their hearts to Him. There may be a large army of children who shall be found faithful to God, because they walk in the light as Christ is in the light. They will love the Lord Jesus, and it will be their delight to please Him. They will not be impatient if reproved, but will make glad the heart of father and mother by their kindness, their patience, their willingness to do all they can in helping to bear the burdens of daily life. Through childhood and youth they will be found faithful disciples of our Lord.”
You’ve written that young people are responsible for their own choices. What should our young people take away from that counsel?
“Your parents may teach you, they may try to guide your feet into safe paths; but it is impossible for them to change your heart. You must give your heart to Jesus and walk in the precious light of truth that He has given you. Faithfully take up your duties in the home life, and, through the grace of God, you may grow up unto the full stature of what Christ would have a child grow to be in Him. The fact that your parents keep the Sabbath, and obey the truth, will not insure your salvation. . . .
“In childhood and youth you may have an experience in the service of God. Do the things that you know to be right. Be obedient to your parents. Listen to their counsels; for if they love and fear God, upon them will be laid the responsibility of educating, disciplining, and training your soul for the immortal life. Thankfully receive the help they want to give you, and make their hearts glad by cheerfully submitting yourselves to the dictates of their wiser judgments. In this way you will honor your parents, glorify God, and become a blessing to those with whom you associate.”
Jesus would have the children and the youth come to Him with the same confidence with which they go to their parents.
“Fight the battle, children; remember every victory places you above the enemy.”
Give us some specific insight on our children’s prayer lives; how should they pray?
“Children should pray for grace to resist the temptations which will come to them—temptations to have their own way and to do their own selfish pleasure. As they ask Christ to help them in their life service to be truthful, kind, obedient, and to bear their responsibilities in the family circle, He will hear their simple prayer.”
“Jesus would have the children and the youth come to Him with the same confidence with which they go to their parents. As a child asks his mother or father for bread when he is hungry, so the Lord would have you ask Him for the things which you need. . . .
“Let the children shut out the world and everything that would attract the thoughts from God; and let them feel that they are alone with God, that His eye looks into the inmost heart and reads the desire of the soul, and that they may talk with God. . . .
“Then, children, ask God to do for you those things that you cannot do for yourselves. Tell Jesus everything. Lay open before Him the secrets of your heart; for His eye searches the inmost recesses of the soul, and He reads your thoughts as an open book. When you have asked for the things that are necessary for your soul’s good, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.”
How can children manifest faithfulness in the home?
“Children and youth should be missionaries at home by doing those things that need to be done and that someone must do. . . . You can prove by faithful performance of the little things that seem to you unimportant that you have a true missionary spirit. It is the willingness to do the duties that lie in your path . . . that will prove you worthy of being entrusted with larger responsibilities. You do not think that washing dishes is pleasant work, yet you would not like to be denied the privilege of eating food that has been placed on those dishes. . . . There is sweeping to be done, there are rugs to take up and shake, and the rooms are to be put in order; and while you are neglecting to do these things, is it consistent for you to desire larger responsibilities?”
“Many children go about their home duties as though they were disagreeable tasks, and their faces plainly show the disagreeable. They find fault and murmur, and nothing is done willingly. This is not Christlike; it is the spirit of Satan, and if you cherish it, you will be like him. You will be miserable yourselves and will make all about you miserable. Do not complain of how much you have to do and how little time you have for amusement, but be thoughtful and care-taking.
“By employing your time in some useful work, you will be closing a door against Satan’s temptations. Remember that Jesus lived not to please Himself, and you must be like Him. Make this matter one of religious principle, and ask Jesus to help you. By exercising your mind in this direction, you will be preparing to become burden bearers in the cause of God as you have been caretakers in the home circle. You will have a good influence upon others and may win them to the service of Christ.”
These excerpts were taken from The Adventist Home (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1952), pages 297-301. Seventh-day Adventists believe that Ellen G. White (1827-1915) exercised the biblical gift of prophecy during more than 70 years of public ministry.