The Apostle Paul’s description of the spiritual battle all Christians must fight is sobering. For, our conflict is not with flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12). To be honest, this description of the power of the evil forces in the world is downright frightening. All Christians, including our teens, must fight evil on three fronts. Our sinful nature seeks to overpower us, the world seeks to entice our hearts away from allegiance to Christ, and Satan, along with his cohort, deceive us into disobeying God’s Word. Here are four ways we can give strength to our children and grandchildren that will help them win more of their spiritual battles.
1. Help them know, deep in their souls, that God loves them unconditionally. Let me explain. If your teenage son, for example, has just surrendered to lust again and masturbated, he feels too dirty for a holy God to want anything to do with him. That is a lie out of the pit of hell. Satan wants to use our guilt to shame us into hiding from God by convincing us that God’s attitude towards us is disgust. May I ask, “Do you want to be with someone who finds you to be disgusting?” Of course not. Satan lies to us that God finds US repulsive (instead of our sin, which was put on Christ at the cross.) Satan shames us into isolation, and self-loathing, which weakens our soul.
In contrast to Satan, the Holy Spirit wants to use our guilt to drive us TOWARD God, to the unlimited, tireless forgiveness of our savior, producing in us a greater love for the God who loves us despite our ugly sin. As Jesus observed in the woman who washed his feet with her tears She who is forgiven much loves much (Lk 7:47). Because we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, when we turn to God after we have sinned, his arms are always, always open to us. Remember the description of the father of the prodigal son, But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him (Lk. 15:20.) Your sons and daughters need to know that every time they sin if they turn back to God, his arms of love and heart of compassion are wide open to them! This quick restoration to our closeness with the Lord is the KEY TO OUR SPIRITUAL STRENGTH. Paul commands us, Be strong IN the Lord, and in the strength of his might (Eph 6:10). Our abiding relationship with Christ gives us strength to defeat temptation.
2. The second way to provide strength for our children and grand-children’s battles is to praise them when they get it right. In Matthew 3:17, we hear the audible voice of God the Father saying to God the Son, the words that every child most wants to hear from his father, “I love you and I’m proud of you.” Matthew records, Behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Words of praise fill our emotional tank, providing fuel that energizes our hearts. Paul points to the power of words, when he commands the Ephesian believers, Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear (Eph 4:29). Words build up. They give grace. They strengthen. Simply stated, praising a child for winning a PAST spiritual battle strengthens him in his fight of the NEXT spiritual battle.
3. Help him be connected to close Christian friends who are also trying to shape their lives by Jesus’ commands. God never intended Christian teens to fight their spiritual battles alone. In Ephesian 4:15-16, Paul gives further insight into how members of the Body of Christ are strengthened. Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Talking with peer believers about how we are applying Gods Word in our lives is essential for being spiritually strengthened, i.e. growing towards spiritual maturity in Christ. We adults need to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to help our teens be an active participant in their youth group or, better yet, a guys’ or girls’ discipleship group.
4. The fourth way we can impart spiritual strength to our children is on our knees. Consider Exodus 17:8- 13. Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.
The Old Testament often presents physical events that teach spiritual realities. (For example, the slavery of Israel to the Egyptians represents spiritual slavery to sin.) In Exodus 17 we have a physical picture of a spiritual reality. In that culture, the lifting of the arms was a reference to prayer. The staff in Moses’ hands represents the power of God to defeat his enemies. When Moses interceded through prayer, those under his care in the valley prevailed. When he lowered his arms (symbolic of not praying) his loved ones started to lose the battle.
Every day, your loved ones are down in the valley fighting spiritual battles with their sinful nature, the world, and Satan. If you devote yourself to interceding for them—there are spiritual battles they will WIN If you don’t intercede for them, there are battles they will LOSE. That is the unmistakable message of this text. Intercessory prayer matters in spiritual warfare. That is why in Ephesians 6 after Paul mentions the armor for spiritual battle, he urges, Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people (18). When it comes to spiritual warfare, intercessory prayer imparts strength to our warriors!