I love seeing children in my church and ministry come to know Christ. There is no greater joy than to sit down with them and hear their hearts. Many of them are truly broken over their sins and want Christ’s forgiveness.
Unfortunately, I am afraid that many times it stops there. Afterwards, they attend Sunday school and church services regularly, but they are not discipled to walk with the Lord daily or to have a deeper walk Christ. I have known kids who memorized hundreds of verses and took part in most of our events, but I didn’t see true change in their lives until they humbled themselves before the Lord in surrender.
You see, the Gospel comes at a cost to every believer/follower of Christ. The cost is surrender and total abandonment of our wishes and desires to follow Him. Jesus tells us, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25). That cost is the surrender all of our rights to the Savior.
For some of us, this is a very difficult discussion; even for myself, it was hard to give up and let the Lord have full control of my life. When I did, the light came on, and I have never been the same since. The same is true for our children—until they surrender to His Lordship, they will not experience all that Christ has planned for them.
Several Sunday’s ago, my pastor said something that really struck a nerve with me. He said, “At new birth, the Holy Spirit gives you everything, but in order to experience all that God has to offer us, we must give Him everything in return.” The call of the cross costs everything for the believer, but in return, we experience the abundant life that Christ has to offer us (John 10:10).
Let me tell you, children are ready and willing to lay down their lives before the Lord! We just have to show them that this is part of God’s plan for their lives.
We were heading on a retreat with our preteens several years ago. I felt led of the Lord to take along hula hoops. In my heart, I wanted to teach them a lesson on surrender. It became clear what the Lord’s desire was as we approached our evening worship time. It was a beautiful evening. I read Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” I shared with them that the Lord wants all of us, not part or half, but all.
I told them the following story: “In a small church in a little town in Mexico, the Sunday service always ended with the offering. The pastor would invite church members to come to the front of the church and put their offerings in the basket in front of the church. As he watched, they came forward one-by-one and put their offering in the basket. It was a very poor town, so it might be a loaf of bread, some fruit or vegetables, or sometimes even a chicken. People gave what they had. The pastor looked to the back of the worship center that day and saw an elderly gentleman stand and start walking toward the front of the building. As he got closer and closer, the pastor didn’t see anything in his hands. As the gentleman walked up to the basket, to the pastor’s surprise, the man stepped right into the basket. The pastor was shocked and asked the man, “What are you doing? Why did you step into the basket?” The older man replied, “I did not have anything to give except my life.”
I reminded the kids that the Lord calls us to surrender all of our lives to him. “You accepted Him as Savior from your sins, and now you can give Him something of great value in return—your lives. You will never experience all that He has for your life until you lay your life down to Him.”
The Lord put on my heart a perfect object lesson. I told the kids that if they were truly serious about fully surrendering to Christ, then take a hula hoop outside the cabin and find a place to set the hula hoop down. When they were ready, they could step into the circle as an act of surrender to the Lord and pray, “Lord, I surrender. I give my life to You. I am Yours. I will follow You the rest of my life.”
It was dead silent outside that evening. As I walked outside shortly afterwards, many of them were on their knees crying out to the Lord. It was a powerful, holy moment. You could sense the presence of the Lord in a powerful way.
The atmosphere of our preteen ministry totally changed after that. Every year, I made it a point to teach kids what it meant to surrender and gave them an invitation to respond. Surrender became for many of them a daily act of worship.
A while back, I received an email from a parent from one our churches that we are working with. They recently started using our preteen discipleship materials. This mom told me that her son had been faithfully going to church from a young age with their family. When he hit 6th grade, he didn’t want to go to church any more. He faithfully memorized Scripture through their Wednesday evening program, and he had grown tired of the rote memory. He knew the Lord from a young age, but church had become boring to him. She shared, “When he went through the lesson on surrender, it was as if the lightbulb turned on in his heart. He is completely different. He is excited about spending time with the Lord daily.”
You see, counting the cost is nothing in comparison with what the Lord has in store for every believer. It isn’t just about praying the simple prayer to receive and following Him. It is about laying down our life in complete surrender and taking up our new life in Christ and living in obedience to His Word. Then, and only then, do we discover all that God has for our lives. This goes for our children as well.
Dr. Clint May
President, L.I.T. Ministries