There are few things I pray for with greater frequency or intensity than the salvation of my children. I long for them to be saved, and long to be able to be able to call them not only my son and daughters, but my brother and sisters. I long for them to profess faith, and for those professions to be proven true.
I don’t only pray it and long for it. I believe it. I believe God will save them. I believe he will save them because that is what he does–he saves. I believe he will save them because that is who he is–he loves to save. I believe he will save them because from their infancy they have been exposed again and again to the powerful gospel of grace, and that gospel is too good and too powerful to do nothing.
I believe it, but sometimes find myself trying to hedge my bets just a little bit. Sometimes I edge away from the gospel of God’s free grace and begin to trust in works—not their works, but mine. Sometimes I try to bring my works before the Lord, adding a little of my merit to their account.
I can find myself putting my trust in worldview training, believing that if I can only get them to think right, they will turn to Christ. Or I can find myself putting my trust in Bible training, convinced that if I can only get them to know enough facts about the Bible, they will believe in the God of the Bible. And for a time I can feel confident, at least until I remember all the kids I grew up with who knew their Bible and their worldview and their catechism, and who jettisoned it all the moment they got out from under their parent’s authority. Or until I meet other kids who appear so much more advanced than my own. And then, in despair, I have to admit what a shaky edifice I’ve constructed.
In those moments I have to remind myself to be careful what I wish for. I need to be careful what I hope for, or what I hope in. I can go before the Lord and plead all the things I’ve done right for my kids, but if I do that, I also need to go before him to admit all the things I’ve done wrong. And he, better than anyone, knows how much I’ve done wrong. Do I really want to take this accounting before him? The math is simple: If all the good things I do count toward their salvation, then all the bad things must count toward their perdition. And if that is the case, I, of all fathers, am most to be pitied.
So instead I entrust their souls to him. I put my confidence in him, and in his character, and in his Word. This is an act of the will–I have to push myself to believe it, and stretch my faith to hold firm to it. And then, in confidence, I do what is right before my children as God opens my eyes to see the right: I teach them the Bible, I help them construct a Christian worldview, I tell them all about Jesus, and I involve them in a Christian community. Mostly I just plain love them in a way that reflects God’s love for me. I don’t do all this in order to accrue favor, but because these are the means God uses to save his people, to expose them as sinners and to reveal the Savior.
I do what is right and trust his grace, pleading not my own merit, but the merit of Christ, trusting not in my own works, but in the work of Christ. And I pray–I pray that the God who graciously extended favor to undeserving me, would extend it to my undeserving children as well.