All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Because of the stipulation that I ‘should not read - or “throw” - too many Bible verses at them’ I suddenly was impressed with an almost overpowering urge to talk about the importance of Scripture and the fact that we should highly esteem it and appreciate the precious gift of being able to hold the very Word of God in our hands.
I understood the reasoning behind the suggestion to keep the Bible verses to a minimum (the kids – being between 9 and 16 – may get lost, confused, disinterested, etc.) And I also can understand the accompanying suggestion to ‘tell stories’ or ‘tie a visual knot’ around what Scripture I did quote. (Obviously some people – especially children – learn more easily with a tangible or relatable example.)
What gets at me when I hear people saying that these methods are more important then reading uninterrupted lengths of Scripture to kids, is the implication that we are running under one of two assumptions (or both at the same time): 1- that kids cannot understand the Word of God unless it is given to them in tiny bites or entertaining forms, or 2- that kids would become disinterested or confused if you do not follow the assumption of number 1.
Again, I don’t think that it is ‘wrong’ to simplify Bible stories and Biblical concepts for children (I happen to know people who do a very good job sharing the truths of the Bible in that manner). But what I do want, is to encourage all of us to expect more from the children around us. They are capable of understanding a lot more than we give them credit for. And I especially believe that we can trust God to guide them even when we only give them His Word – without using things that we think will make it more ‘fun’ or ‘relatable’ (or, without pandering to the “I don’t want to put brain-power into learning something that doesn’t entertain me” mindset)…
I’m not very good at ‘constructive criticism’ – which is why I struggled with this for a while. Nevertheless, I wanted to be able to speak to the kids in an encouraging way and exhort them to be excited and more appreciative of God’s Word. But I found myself unable to look at it from any other angle than “there is something wrong with us if we don’t like reading the Bible because it’s ‘boring.’”
Needless to say, I was not feeling too good about the talk . . . And then God finally showed me what I was doing and understanding wrong.
1- I had not been praying for myself with the proper mindset.
2- I had not been praying for the kids I wanted to encourage.
3- Despite the fact that I was going through the motions of prayer, I was not relying on God to give me the answer to my ‘problem.’
My LORD is so kind and gentle that He showed me all of these slowly and gently until He finally just gave me the answer to how and what I should say, the night before I was to say it.
I had been talking to a friend of mine, trying to convey my difficulty, when they said (paraphrasing – because I can’t remember exact words :P ;): ‘give examples and draw them in; find one thing that you can relate to how important the Bible is’ – and then my friend wrote these simple words in my notebook:
- Communication (texting, email, facebook, etc.)
--getting to know/enjoy friendships
- Communicating with God
--through His Word + prayer
- Boring? Uninteresting? – that’s okay, HOWEVER, the more you read God’s Word and get to know Him, the more exciting and meaningful you will find it!
I was struck dumb by the sudden sense that – through my friend – God had not only given me plenty to use for my talk, but He had also handed me a rebuke for my lack of trust in Him for ways to communicate an idea.
Though I may not like the fact that there is a problem of viewing the Bible sometimes as ‘boring’ or ‘uninteresting’ – or all the social media and different things our culture so often regards with greater enthusiasm than is truly edifying (and my friend and I talked about these things), they are a reality in our culture. While it is right to want to constructively correct the first, it is not right to incessantly attack/criticize the second…
Anyway, I’ve gotten onto rambling, so I’ll just wrap this up.
I used the examples my friend gave me and encouraged the kids to think about the Scriptures in the context of our love for God and His perfect Love for us – how His Word can strengthen that bond on our side, and help us to appreciate, love and obey Him so much better than we already do…
I read the passage from 2 Timothy quoted above and pointed out how it shows us (in a simple statement) that the Bible teaches so many things that affect every single area of our lives. I didn’t elaborate too far on that, as I wanted to stress God’s worthiness of our love and appreciation, and our allowing that to manifest in part through loving His Word and through offering prayer and praises to Him.
I also thought to mention Jesus’ statement, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) and tied it to the simple fact that, if loving His commandments is a way we can love God Himself, how can we do that without knowing those commandments?
So, in the end, I only talked for a little bit and prayed for the kids, leaving things to God’s perfect plan and loving hands. I hope and pray that, in the future, as I continue to grow and interact with more children (as is inevitable in my line of work), the LORD will continue to humble me and increase my love for and pleasure in Him, so that His work in me will manifest itself in greater love and compassion for those around me…
~ J D White