Building Your Child’s Character From the Inside Out (Part 2)


Family Devotionals


By Don Ruhl


An assassin shot President Garfield. Some people met for prayer. One of them said, “Twenty-six years ago tonight, and at this very hour, our class [members] were on the top of Graylock to spend the Fourth of July. As we were about to lie down to sleep, Garfield took out his pocket Testament and said, ‘I am in the habit of reading a chapter every night at this time with my mother. Shall I read aloud?’ They assented, and when he had read he asked the oldest member of the class to pray. And there, in the night, and on the mountain-top, we prayed with him for whom we are now assembled to pray.” Reading with his mother meant much to President Garfield. Consider the following poem on time spent with God.

One Day to Live

Had I but this one day to live,
One day to love, one day to give,
One day to work and watch and raise
My voice to God in joyful praise,
One day to succour those in need,
Pour healing balm on hearts that bleed,
Or wipe the tears from sorrow’s face,
And hearten those in sad disgrace—
I’d spend, O God, much time with THEE
That Thou might’st plan my day for me.
Most earnestly I’d seek to know
The way that Thou would’st have me go,
For Thou alone canst see the heart—
Thou knowest man’s most inward parts.

Augustine said insightfully, “You have made us O Lord for Yourself and our heart shall find no rest till it rest in You.”

These are reasons to have daily family devotionals. These are reasons to pause and kneel with our children before God, for they shall never know the holiest of joys until they know God and hear Him and speak to Him daily.

Once parents know God has all the answers, covered in the previous chapter, parents can begin to build their child’s character from the inside out by first impressing upon them that God does have all the answers pertaining to the issues of life.

Family Devotionals Show Children the Value of Spirituality 

They see the priority placed on it when other activities cease and we give our time to the worship of God. Setting aside time to assemble for Bible reading moves children to be curious about spiritual issues and to see that manhood and womanhood are inward qualities. Family worship allows parents to develop the real person on the inside by engaging the spirit of the children in spiritual activities and by giving the children food for the soul, the word of the Holy Spirit. Children could and should pray to God and meditate upon scripture on their own, but in family devotionals parents direct what goes on.

Ephesians 6 places a duty upon parents. Children left on their own will not do what is right or what is best for them. Therefore, parents have to follow Paul’s teaching, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ep. 6:4). How are you fulfilling that passage? Having our children present in worship every week, and in both Bible classes every week goes a long way in promoting real spiritual character in our children. When parents train at home, they make a greater impression upon their children. The church supplements what the parents do, not the parents supplementing what the church does.

Deuteronomy 6 

This chapter explains the training of children. Verses 1–3 commanded the Israelites to keep the law of God and that included their children. Moses stressed urgently that families keep the commandments of God for three blessings:

  1. “that your days may be prolonged” (v. 2b).
  2. “that it may be well with you” (v. 3a).
  3. “that you may multiply greatly” (v. 3b).

When parents work diligently to build their child’s character from the inside out: Even as the days of Israel would be prolonged through its children, so the days of the church will be prolonged by children who become faithful members of the church and by children who are active Christians. It will be well with us, because rebellious children shame their parents (Pr. 17:25), but righteous children give their parents endless delight (Pr. 23:24). We will increase mightily, for that is how the early church grew (Ac. 5:42). We would grow numerically at a great rate if we were able to direct all of our children to salvation.

Children rebel for many reasons, even after parents have striven according to God’s word to form Christ within their children. Yet, some children turn their backs on Christianity, because their parents never trained them to conform themselves to the image of Jesus Christ.

Instead, some parents hope children will mature from the outside in by thinking just being here on Sunday is enough and by dictatorial answers and prohibitions from the parents self-made authority (“because I said so,” or “The preacher says so,” etc., instead of a gentle explanation of the word of God).

Parents, be disciples of Christ and follow earnestly the pleadings of Deuteronomy 6.

In verses 4–6 Moses stressed diligent teaching to keep children from forgetting God. Moses explained what would make parents want to teach their children diligently. First, verse 4 shows that when parents believe God, they will teach their children. Second, verse 5 shows that when parents love God, they will teach their children. We naturally want to engage others in that which we love. Children detect our lack of love for God or a lackadaisical love and resist our efforts to form their hearts after the heart of God. Third, verse 6 shows that when parents have God’s word in their hearts, they will teach their children. In Matthew 12, Jesus explained that what comes out of the mouth came out of the heart. We cannot teach our children God’s word, if we do not have the word in our hearts first, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt. 12:34). Therefore, if God’s word fills your heart, a family devotional is not awkward or inconvenient. Parents who already spend time in the word alone, and pray without ceasing will find family devotionals to be natural.

In verses 7–9, Moses emphasized that the teachings of God direct every aspect of the parent’s lives, subsequently the children’s behavior conforms with God’s wishes. The children see religion daily in what their parents do. Verse 7 explains that teaching happens when in the house and out of the house, from the rising of the sun till the going down of the same. Verses 8 and 9 show that God’s word guides labor, thinking, home life, and society. What will happen to children when they see and hear those things in us?

Verses 10–19 show the importance of these things to prevent children from forgetting. Family worship creates many opportunities for children to be curious about spiritual issues, such as what a verse means, why God does something, etc. As an example, in Deuteronomy 6:20–25, Moses said children will ask about the meaning of religion and why we have to do these things.

  1. He said to explain the historical background (vv. 20, 21).
  2. They were to explain the miraculous background (v. 22).
  3. They were to explain the purpose of religion (v. 23).
  4. They were to explain how it is for our good (v. 24).
  5. They were to explain that it is only by God’s way can we be righteous (v. 25).

Do you know God’s word well enough to teach your children that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that they must love God, and that they must have the word of God in the heart?

Do you know God’s word well enough to teach your children diligently when in your house, when walking outside, when lying down, and when rising up?

Do you know God’s word well enough to teach your children that it may guide the work of their hands, the thoughts of their mind, and the affairs of their home and business?

Do you know God’s word well enough to teach your children the importance of remembering God?

Do you know God’s word well enough to know how to answer your children’s questions?

Some Pointers for Family Devotionals 

Maintain a scheduled time. Start off small and simple. Be patient. Be cheerful. Investigate what others are doing. Include: Prayer (take requests), Bible reading and discussion, contribution, a song.

You can do it. Children, unintentionally, have a way of making us change our priorities. Do not resist the need to change your priorities for the spiritual welfare of your children. You will not regret training your children. Children will not become men and women of God by accident.


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