Mrs. Miersma is the wife of Rev. Thomas Miersma, missionary in Spokane, WA.
hat joy we experience as God’s people when we welcome a new child into our home! Whether it be the first or the ninth, when the long time of waiting is over and the baby arrives safely, our hearts, filled with gratitude to God, rejoice. Very soon, as the calling to care for and to train the child confronts us, we are struck by our absolute dependence on our faithful covenant God. When a new season of instruction of covenant children in home, church, and school begins, there is a renewal of that anticipation and rejoicing, a renewal of our commitment to faithfulness in the nurture and instruction of covenant children, and a renewal of our sense of dependence on our sovereign God. To us as new parents, as parents of many children, and as pastors and teachers, these children are precious and unique.
But whose children are they? In a sense, they are our children, but only in a limited sense. God places in our homes His own children, children who belong to the heavenly King. We are but stewards, to whom the great and heavenly King entrusts the care and training of His own children, children who have a royal calling and for whom a royal inheritance is prepared.
God shows to us in the Scriptures the heart of our life as His people, which is living in covenant relationship with Him, by means of various earthly relationships, relationships that God created with a view to manifesting His covenant to us. Although they reveal different aspects of God’s covenant to us, friendship and communion of life stand on the foreground of these relationships, which include the father-child relationship, the lord-servant relationship, the king-subject or citizen relationship, and, as church, the bridegroom-bride relationship. This friendship and communion of life are set in the framework of a relationship of sovereign salvation and protection and humble gratitude; sovereign authority and joyful submission; and faithful care and childlike dependence. Uniting a number of these ideas, we may also say that, since our Father is the great King, we, with our children, as His children, are not only citizens and servants in His heavenly kingdom, but children and heirs of the King. This inheritance of royal sonship will be fully realized when we reign with Christ over all things in a new heavens and new earth.
The King wants us to know the origin of these royal children entrusted to our care. Although not born of royal seed according to their earthly, fleshly birth, born, in fact, hating the King, yet they are rescued from their birthplace in the filthy slums of sin. The great Captain of our salvation Jesus Christ enters into that place of misery to release them from the very camp of the King’s enemies. An analogy to the adoption of a wretched and miserable orphan has frequently been drawn and helps us to understand what God does in our lives and the lives of our children. Yet the analogy to an earthly parent is limited. Although a man may adopt a desolate orphan and give that orphan everything he possesses as his heir, he can never make that orphan a child of his own flesh. When God adopts and regenerates us, however, by the wonder of our union with Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, He makes us “partakers of the divine nature” (II Pet. 1:4)—royal children indeed.
Still, to our sorrow, we must be aware that as long as we and our children live in the flesh, our miserable origin will have its effects. Satan and the world of sin, the enemy without, and our own sinful natures, the enemy within, beckon the former orphans back to those prison-camp slums. Sadly too, there are children of the enemy, whose identity is hidden from us, mixed in with the body of royal children, a sort of fifth column of enemy sympathizers and supporters seeking to undermine the royal children. Nevertheless, God calls our children His children; He has given them a new, heavenly birth; Christ calls them His lambs. As royal children, then, we will view them, as royal children we will train them, and as royal children we will hope for them. We see them in the light of what God calls them to be, now and future priest-kings, children of a heavenly King.
Will this lead to pride? Surely not, for it is only when we view ourselves and our children in the light both of their miserable origin and of the new birth out of which God calls them to live, that we begin to see how far we fall short of His glory.
What a privilege and responsibility then is ours—to bring forth and train the children of our heavenly King, to be the means by His appointment to nurture and instruct those who will one day reign with Christ, the King of kings, but who even now, as child-citizens, have the calling to fight the battle of faith in a world under enemy occupation, consecrating all to the service of their Father-King. If this consciousness does not live in our hearts and minds, we will quickly lose the focus that alone can strengthen and equip us for this awesome calling. We will fall into a habit of living merely reactively, with a crisis-oriented mindset. “What are they into now?” or “How am I going to get all this work done?” or “How can I provide for this financial need or emergency?” These thoughts often arise, and must arise, but that cannot be the whole of our lives. Then we become, like Martha, “cumbered about with much serving.” Then we need to hear our Savior’s instruction, “Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42). Time must be allotted for daily meditation and prayer, preferably more time, but at least some time. Without this, our labors lose their meaning, their focus.
When this consciousness lives in us, we will not, like many in the world about us, see our children as our possessions, as something we acquire by our own efforts or decision, as we would a house or a car. Nor will we desire children for our own pleasure, though they do afford us tremendous joy and pleasure. “Surely, we would never do that,” you say. Yet, if the attitude of the world rubs off on us, as it so easily does in this age of media bombardment, we might be tempted to say, “Now we are ready for children,” or “We can’t afford another child,” or “I was hoping for a boy (or girl),” or “We decided to have another baby.” Rather, in humility we say, “The fruit of the womb is His reward.” Royal children are privileges then, not possessions.
What is to be the goal in training the children of our heavenly King? Certainly, we have earthly goals for educational achievement or practical accomplishments for our children—all the way from weaning and toilet training to driver training. These are all necessary and have their proper place, which is in subordination to the goal, and that goal is nothing less than that Christ be formed in these children. As God’s great King, the great Captain of our salvation Jesus Christ is the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29), and in Galatians 4:19 the apostle Paul writes, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you….” If the apostle spoke this concerning the believers with whom he labored in the churches of Galatia, we may also take this as our goal, and labor with the same intensity in training the King’s children.
The analogy to childbirth is striking. We do not create or shape our children in the womb. That is the almighty, creative work of God. Nor do we form or fashion spiritual life in our children. Again, this is the almighty, creative work of God. Yet, when the time of birth comes, the mother, with the father upholding and strengthening her, must labor with all her might to bring forth the child. It is an all-consuming, completely goal-oriented event. Never for a moment can that goal be forgotten. Just as the earthly pilgrimage of our children begins with such labor, so do we labor continually in an all-consuming travail in the spiritual birth of our children, longing that Christ be formed in them.
Let us not then view this spiritual ideal that God sets before us as a burdensome task, but rather as a glorious privilege of our salvation. Truly it is a humbling thought that the King of kings would entrust the training of His own beloved children to the care and wisdom of such miserable wretches as we are. Do we deserve this? How could we? To be given such a place of responsibility in the heavenly kingdom surpasses anything we have a right to expect. Idealistic? Yes. Impossible of perfect attainment in this life? Yes. Yet we strive toward the ideal, knowing that it is God Himself who sets that ideal before us and that “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (I Thess. 5:24).
Still more marvelous, it is through this very means that God reveals to us and our children the secrets of His covenant. First, by giving us this responsibility and privilege, He causes our own relationship with Him to grow. He opens our eyes to sins and weaknesses we had never imagined in ourselves and sends us fleeing to the cross as the only foundation of our life with Him. He works in us a consciousness of our complete dependence on Him and His wisdom. Secondly, by setting us in family life (as a rule, at least for some portion of our lives), God gives us to experience in a creaturely way the picture of the divine communion of love and life within Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that very life into which He takes us in our new birth from above. Day by day, as we live the life of God’s covenant in our homes, He shows us, too, through the eyeglasses of His Word, what it is that He loves us with a father’s love, how as a father pitieth his children, He pities us (Ps. 103:13), how “as one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you” (Is. 66:13), how He chastens us, rebukes us, and receives us (Heb. 12:5ff.).
How sad that among Christians there are those who would willfully cut themselves off from this blessed privilege by refusing to have children, refusing this God-appointed way of knowing God’s covenant of love and friendship. There are those in God’s church who will never have the privilege and joy directly of bringing forth and rearing the royal seed, by God’s own appointment and in His wisdom, but He will bless them in the way of their longings and desires for a place in His covenant, promising them, “in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off” (Is. 56:5).
I will endeavor, the Lord willing, to return to more particular aspects of our calling to train the royal children in future articles.