“Wasn’t David the shepherd boy brave? If we learn to trust God even when we’re scared, we can be brave like David too!”
“Noah was a righteous man who followed God even when those around him didn’t. Noah teaches us how to stand alone in a crowd even when it’s hard!”
“Joseph forgave his brothers after they sold him into slavery. Let’s learn from Joseph how to be forgiving of others when they hurt us.”
If you’ve been around a typical Evangelical church or Sunday School over the past few decades, it’s quite likely you’ve heard these Bible stories “summarized” in the ways listed above. I know I have—and I’ve even passed these ideas on to my children through some of their children’s story Bibles and other sources.
While these sentiments are not wrong, and we certainly can learn from the examples of God’s people (good and bad), I am encouraged by a relatively newer trend I’ve observed lately in some of our churches and Christian publishing companies. The trend I’m referring to is simply a return to an emphasis on God Himself as the main character of the Bible. Rather than seeing each story as an opportunity to teach a character quality we’d like to emulate (or see our children grow in), we can show them the Big Picture of God’s story throughout the ages.
Our pastor taught a sermon series last year entitled, “The Story of the Bible,” which he defined as, “God’s promise to become famous among all nations, for His glory and our salvation.” He walked us through some major points in Scripture, week by week enabling us to see that these are not a random collection of unrelated stories about mankind trying to please God, (some more successfully than others,) but rather, a very intentional sequence of events that all reveal a holy, loving, all-knowing and all-powerful God Who wants to be known, loved, and worshipped—for His glory and our good. In that order.
Maybe you already know this and have been teaching your children in this way. If so, keep it up! I just know there are some very low views of God (and consequently high views of man) that have infiltrated our churches in recent history. We would all do well to begin to rethink the impression we might be giving our children—or anyone else in our sphere of influence—when we simply say, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Not that this statement is untrue; it’s just incomplete and communicates the wrong priority.
This is one reason I appreciate Betsy’s teaching in Entrusted with a Child’s Heart. She has encouraged parents to rightly train children to fear and to love the Lord—not just because it is in their best interest—but because He is worthy.
If your children are still at the preschool stage, this proper view of God can be found in many of the newer children’s Bibles, such as The Jesus Storybook Bible and The Big Picture Story Bible. If you feel as if you, the parent, need to be reoriented in this way, there is much help to be found from ministries like Desiring God, the Gospel Coalition, and Grace to You. Browse their resources, many of which are free and saturate your own mind with the truth that it is all about Him. And as you read your Bible, rather than ask how a story impacts your behavior, try asking what it reveals about our great God or where we might see Jesus in the passage.
When we have God at the center of our theology, we grow to know more about Him and in turn, our hearts are appropriately stirred to love and worship Him. Consequently, all of our thoughts about our world, our churches, marriages, families, the way we train and discipline our children, all of life is ordered by the desire to bring glory to our great God.
There is no greater gift we can give our children or ourselves. As the Westminster catechism’s first question states: What is the chief end of man? And the answer is…to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Why would we want to live any other way?