By Dr. Patrick Johnston
Karate’s been good to Elijah this year. It has a way of toughening up a kid who otherwise has been one of the gentlest Johnstons – Elijah Hudson, now seven. He promoted to yellow belt last month, and you’d have thought he won the local Tuff Man Competition! His kicks are higher, his punches stronger, and his “Hyah” is now ear-drum-shattering! We were absolutely floored when he practically chased a more experienced and much larger orange belt opponent around the ring at the last tournament, beating him soundly!
Our karate class is a self-defense class, which means we focus on defending against an attacker on the street. In a street fight, there are no rules, no referee, no tapping out, and no trophies. One of our exercises is sparring against two opponents at the same time. How do you handle two people attacking you at the same time? It’s a helpful skill to master. Well, Grace, nine years of age, was taking on Elijah and Sensei Brad, who is our amazing black belt instructor. As is common when you’re sparring with two people, the person being attacked can easily strike or kick too hard inadvertently. Well, Grace delivered a front snap kick right in Elijah’s “breadbasket.” It knocked the breath right out of him! It was horrifying to see my seven-year-old son gasp with fear in his eyes, unable to breath for about 20 seconds. I let him rest his arms on my shoulders, and as tears streamed down his face, I reassured him that momentarily his lungs would work and he’d be just fine.
Sure enough, the spasm in his diaphragm soon eased and he was all better. “That was awesome son! You handled that like a yellow-belt!” We high-fived and then I told him, “Now, get back out there and show Sensei Brad what you’re made of!”
Part of me wanted to tell him to take a break, get some water, take some time to recuperate from that horrifying feeling that you cannot breathe and are about to die. But I knew that what was best for Elijah was to get out there and fight! Everyone watched in awe as Elijah ran back out into the ring and started throwing fists and punches again.
As parents, we are called not only to press our children on to their intellectual and physical potential, but also spiritual. Our children may get the breath knocked out of them, but don’t let them sulk or retreat. They may fall into a moral sewer, but don’t let them wallow in it. They may drop the shield of faith and get stung by one of the devil’s fiery darts, but it’s not time to take a sabbatical from the battlefield and nurse wounds. It’s not time for you to coddle them, Mom, or scold them ad nauseum, Dad, or put them in time-out until your bitterness subsides and your anger is assuaged with their misery. It is not time to lower our expectations of their performance. The best thing to do when your kid gets kicked in the gut is to press that two-edged sword back into their hand and prod them back into the ring.
Mom and Dad, don’t expect defeat from your kids – expect victory! If Job was “perfect and upright, and one who feared God and avoided evil” – and this before the cross and the resurrection – then why can’t my son be like that? With the intercession of the Son of God and with the infilling of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t my son have an edge? If the parents of John the Baptist “were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” – and that was during the Old Covenant – then why can’t my daughters be like that in the New Covenant based upon a superior atonement and better promises? If it was said of David that he “did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” – and this before Jesus’ blood was shed and the Bible was completed – then why can’t my children have such victory?
If your children experience defeat, expect repentance, forgive them fully and quickly, and help them move on toward victory over sin. Let’s have high hopes for our children. God does!
- “Oh that there was such a heart within them, that they would fear me and keep My commandments always, that it might be well with them and their children forever.” (Deut. 5:29)
- “Stand in awe and sin not.” (Psalm 4:4)
- “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee (Psalm 119:11)
- “Go and sin no more,” Jesus told the woman caught in the act of adultery. High expectations indeed! (Psalm 119:11)
- “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you,” Jesus told a lame man he healed.
- (Jn. 5:14)
- “Awake to righteousness and sin not.” (1 Cor. 15:34)
- “This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication…” (1 Thess. 4:3).
- “[Jesus] bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.” (1 Pet. 2:24-25)
- “As Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God” (I Pet. 4:4-5).
Why don’t we experience more victory? Because we don’t expect it. Because we don’t believe God for it, and we cannot rise above our faith. To expect defeat in our lives and in the lives of our children is to disbelieve God and His Word. It’s to turn back from the parted Jordan River and the Promised Land beyond for fear of giants on the other side. It is to spurn the grace that “teaches us to live godly and righteously in this present world” (Tit. 2:12). It is to wander in the desert longing for the mundane familiarity of Egyptian bondage. Pray and believe for your children to have victory over sin. If they get kicked in the gut and fall flat on their face, put their mouthpiece back in, pick up their sword and hand it back to them, and encourage them to get back onto that battlefield and start swinging for the glory of God.