NOTE: In episode 30, What Matters Most, of Family Strong With Jeffrey Dean, I mentioned that I would post chapter 17 of Raising Successful Teens on my blog to help encourage and empower your family to share their faith. Happy reading!
Every day Jesus’s life exemplified this purpose. His final charge to all Christ followers defined the purpose to which we, too, are called: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). This also is the primary call on your teen’s life: to share the good news of the Savior who gave His life for everyone.
BEGINNING A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Our ultimate goal as believers is to be like Jesus in every area of life—to carry on the ministry of Jesus Christ by sharing the gospel with others in an effort to lead them to God.
Teens who accept this challenge often are excited and confident to follow Christ’s command. However, I also meet many who feel insecure and ill-equipped. This is where you come in. You can be your teen’s coach, adviser, and encourager as he seeks to share the faith. The first part of this task depends on his making the critical decision to receive Jesus Christ as his savior. The Bible is clear that a personal relationship with Jesus is the only way to God and to heaven (see John 14:6). How reassuring it is to know that we can’t earn our way into heaven. If so, none of us would get there. Instead, we must be willing to trust our lives to Jesus for all eternity, surrendering all and believing that He will save us and change us.
Has your teen surrendered her life to Jesus? Romans 10:13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Before teens can share God with others, they must first surrender their lives to Christ. To be the parent God has made you to be starts with surrendering your life, your choices, and your parenting to Him. If you or your teen has never surrendered everything to Jesus Christ, here are four steps to take
1. Recognize God’s Plan
God loves you and has a plan for your life. We read in the Bible, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It is God’s plan that you spend eternity with Him in heaven.
2. Realize the Problem
Every human chooses to disobey God and do his or her own thing. The result is that we are separated from God because He is perfect and we are sinners. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
3. Respond to God’s Remedy
Because God loves you so much, He sent His Son to bridge the gap between you and Him. The gap exists because of your wrong choices. God’s Son, Jesus, paid the penalty for your sins when He died on the cross and rose from the grave. The Bible says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
4. Receive Christ into Your Life
By asking Christ to come into your life, you cross the bridge into God’s family. God then forgives you and offers you a relationship with Him and the privilege of spending eternity with Him. The Bible says, “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). To receive Christ as your lord, stop wherever you are and pray a prayer such as this one:
I realize I am a sinner and I need Your forgiveness. I believe that You are the Son of God and that You died for me. I want to surrender my life to You by asking You to forgive all my sins. I now invite You into my life to save me and change me and be the lord of my life. Thank You for loving me. Amen.
If your teen has prayed this prayer for the first time, congratulations! He has made a decision that will forever change his life. Write down the date because this will be a moment you and he will never forget.
BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
The next step in equipping your teen to share Jesus is encouraging her to continue building a relationship with God. In chapter 5 I mentioned three principles that will help your teen grow in her walk with God:
1. Read and meditate on Scripture.
2. See prayer as a vital daily practice that orients one’s heart to God.
3. Spend time with people who also prioritize the Word and prayer in their lives.
If you haven’t already, talk through these steps with your teen. His relationship with God will not develop on its own. He needs to exercise his spiritual muscles in order to grow.
Recently, I led a college football team in a pregame devotional. As I entered the weight room, I felt a bit like the Israelites facing giants. (In fact, the football players were giants!) But I loved my time with them, and I especially appreciated the words of their head coach: “These players hit it hard every day. I appreciate that you challenged them to hit it equally hard when it comes to growing in a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
You are your teen’s coach. I encourage you to help your whole family grow spiritually, spurring each person on in his or her relationship with God. Look for moments to stress to your teen the importance of spending time with people who are committed to prayer and God’s Word. The more she hangs out with others whose faith is central in their lives, the more a faith-centric approach will be solidified in her life.
BEING CONFIDENT IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
“I will give you an F if you don’t remove the Scripture references from your term paper!” I heard those words from my English 101 professor when I was a first-semester freshman attending a Christian college. I don’t remember everything I wrote in the paper, but I do remember that the grade I received was going to be 100 percent of my grade for the course. I also remember using Scripture references several times throughout the paper to support my thesis.
But my professor was adamant that quotes from God’s Word had no validity in her class. I knew that college would test my beliefs, but I never expected it to happen so soon. I didn’t want to begin my college career with an F. I also knew I would be disappointed in myself if I didn’t write what I believed and stand by it. I chose to keep the Bible quotes in the paper. My professor gave me a D. I wish I could tell you it was the only D I received in college (it wasn’t), but it’s the one I’m most proud of.
I tell teens that their beliefs will be tested. When these times come, you want your teen to be ready for the challenge. In many ways your role as a parent is all about preparing your child for such moments.
As teens choose to stand for what is right, especially their belief in who God is and what He has done for them, they need to know they will encounter pushback. Jesus warned of this in John 15:18–21:
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.
I believe that the more I stand for what is right, the more confident I become. What really jumps out at me in these verses is that the world will hate us due to our relationship with Him. Jesus went on to say, “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God” (16:2). After telling us the world will hate us and just might kill us, Jesus ended His eye-opening challenge with these words: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (16:33).
Jesus warned us in advance about opposition in order to give us confidence. You are tasked with the same responsibility to speak such truth into the life of your teen—not to impart fear but to empower him with confidence to go to a world desperate to know the truth of who Jesus Christ is and be willing to stand firm no matter what.
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE TO GO PUBLIC
At the beginning of my senior year of high school, I committed to going public with God, but my first assignment didn’t turn out as I’d planned. A classmate of mine and I had been enemies since junior high. I often wondered why this person didn’t like me. One day he told me straight out it was because I was a Christian. So when God later told me to talk to him about what it means to be a Christian and to share my faith with him, I called him and gave the speech of my life. At the end of the call, just after giving myself a high five for a job well done, I asked my classmate if he would like to pray and receive Jesus into his life. He politely said no and then hung up. It wasn’t supposed to work that way. I felt as though I had done what God asked me to, but He hadn’t come through for me. I was mad at God.
I learned a lot through that experience. In particular, I learned that sharing my faith isn’t just about the outcome. Regardless of how others respond, I have a responsibility to go public with God. Talking to another person about Jesus is serious stuff. As your teen commits to getting serious about living for Christ, get ready. Along with this commitment comes the responsibility to share Christ with others. The outcome, though, is always up to the Holy Spirit.
READY TO SHARE
First Peter 3:15 says, “Always be ready to tell everyone who asks you why you believe as you do” (NLV). Let’s say your teen is ready to go public with Christ. How can you help? In addition to sharing insights from your own experiences, here are a few steps you can take.
Help your teen write out her story of faith. A personal testimony answers these questions: Who is God to you? What did God do for you? How has God changed you? Teens don’t need to have dramatic stories of turning back to God. Their stories are incredible simply because they were destined for hell and now are promised heaven.
Suggest that your teen make a list of people with whom he desires to share Jesus. Your family can then start praying for God to provide opportunities to share Jesus with these people. What a great family prayer focus!
Help your teen prepare what she is going to say. Questions can be an excellent way to begin a conversation about God, such as “What do you believe about God?” and “What confuses you the most about God?” Remind her that while one conversation might be all it takes to bring a friend to Jesus, usually it calls for patience and times of extended prayer.
Pray that God will create an opportunity and that He will give your teen boldness and the right words to say. God will bring honor to Himself no matter the outcome.
KILLING THE FEAR
I know teens who have no fear when given the opportunity to take the stage and morph into a rock star. Other teens are fearless on an athletic field. So why is it that many teens resist sharing Jesus with others?
I think it’s because many are not consistently encouraged to share their faith. Also, some teens don’t realize that going public is not about carrying a Bible around or quoting Scripture. It’s about a life of daily surrender to Christ. It’s about embracing God’s ways over the world’s. It’s about staring the Enemy in the face with the same intensity they take into every sports competition.
One teen said to me, “But what if someone asks me a question about God or the Bible that I don’t know how to answer? Shouldn’t I hold off on talking to others until I know everything about the Bible?” Satan instills fear in teens about what they don’t know about God and Scripture. Encourage your teen to be honest and tell the friend that he will find an answer. Let your child know that you always will help him get the needed answers.