In our Mama Heart Like Jesus series we are studying how Jesus discipled His followers as a model for discipling our own children.
Then we focused on Jesus’ approach to protecting His disciples from evil, teaching them to be in the world but not of the world, and we discussed protecting our kids from the lies of the enemy.
This month we discussed how Jesus taught his disciples to be like Him in character through obedience and respect.
Today Beth Meverden will share how to encourage our kids to be flexible and attentive.
Guest Blog: By Beth Meverden
I would like to introduce Beth Meverden: author, ministry leader, and expert in parenting. She writes for numerous ministries and provides free resources at bethmeverden.com. For more information on Beth and her wonderful resources, check out her full bio at the bottom of this post.
Imagine with me that you and your kids have been planning all month to go to the zoo during Spring Break. Your children used the zoo map to create a well-planned tour through the zoo, making sure not to miss any of their favorite animals. The morning of your zoo trip, you wake to pouring rain. What now?
You know your zoo has a rain-or-shine policy and you won’t get your money back. You don’t have a poncho that will fit your youngest child and you don’t want your stroller to get soaked. What are your options?
Your children run into your room beyond excited for the zoo, dressed in their favorite animal shirts.
You could go to the zoo, drop by the dollar store beforehand to pick up some ponchos and put a garbage bag over your stroller. You could also try to call and postpone your tickets with the zoo and play some zoo games at home.
No matter what you decide to do, your children will need to pivot and be flexible with their expectations. This situation, and others like it, presents an awesome opportunity to train your children to be flexible.
Jesus taught His disciples to be flexible and attentive.
Let’s look at all the lessons Jesus taught His disciples about flexibility in a short period of time from Matthew 6.
Sandals-on-the-Ground Flexibility Training
Jesus sent His disciples out two by two to do ministry in His Name (Matthew 6:6a-11). He told them not to take anything with them besides a walking stick (no food, clothes, or money… talk about packing light)!
When I leave the door even for a short errand with my kids, my “mom-bag” overflows with band-aids, water bottles, and just-in-case-medicine. I tend to overpack and over-plan. This would be a tough mission for me. I wonder which of the disciples struggled with it like I would? This mission challenged them to shift their faith in Jesus into practical obedience.
The first lesson we learn from Jesus’ training is…
1. Flexibility = trusting in God’s provision and providence
“So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.” Matthew 6:12-13 (NLT)
There’s no mention here of complaining, questioning or doubting. Just obedience and faith. Amazing. Unexpected responses can come from opportunities to express faith in God’s divine timing.
They worked hard and then they came back to report.
“The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and His apostles didn’t even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone.” Matthew 6:30-32 (NLT)
Jesus set a plan in motion to help the disciples debrief and recharge. Everyone needed a snack and a nap!
The second lesson we learn from Jesus’ training His disciples is…
2. Flexibility = obeying Jesus’ commands and following His lead
The disciples followed Jesus’ lead and planned a little getaway to rest and prepare for more ministry. Then life happened.
“But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them. Jesus saw the huge crowd as He stepped from the boat, and He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.” Matthew 6:33, 34 (NLT)
Sometimes life railroads our plans. It rains on zoo day or our neighbors’ pipes break and we need to help when our kids should be going down for a nap. Jesus saw the need and met it. He didn’t ignore those who needed Him… including the disciples. They got a small rest on the boat. He didn’t change His mind about meeting their needs, He changed the timing. Unexpected, yet, divinely orchestrated timing.
The third lesson we learn from this part of Jesus’ time with His disciples is…
3. Flexibility = being attentive to serving when needed and having compassion like Jesus
“Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.”
But Jesus said, “You feed them.”
“With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!”
“How much bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and find out.”
They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.”
Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.
Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed.” Matthew 6:35-44
When Jesus had compassion on the people, He wasn’t short-sighted. Jesus knew what teaching, healing, and ministering to people would mean long-term. He also knew what His disciples needed. He provided what everyone needed when they needed it.
The crowd needed His truth and food in their bellies. They needed His provision. His disciples needed to see and be active participants in Him providing in the miraculous way only He could. Remember how the disciples needed a snack? They got one. So did everyone else. Unexpected, yet, divinely provided timing.
We can learn from this on-the-job flexibility training that…
4. Flexibility = trusting in God’s timing to give everyone what they need when they need it
Jesus filled everyone and sent His disciples across the lake to rest. He went into the hills to pray and get filled up, too. The disciples got the rest they needed until the next unexpected moment arose via a storm. Right when they needed Him, Jesus joined them walking on the water to calm the storm around and inside them. Unexpected, yet, divinely planned timing.
Sometimes it rains on zoo day, making space to trust God with a new plan.
Sometimes a close friend moves away, making space to lead a new friend to the Lord.
Sometimes your child breaks their wrist before a family trip to the ocean, making space for extra cuddle time with Grandma.
Every unexpected situation presents an opportunity for us to trust, obey, and flex with God’s plans. What a gift we give our children when we train them how to flex early in life. This paves the way for them to trust God and flex when they face harder things as adults. They’re building invisible faith muscles, making them strong and able to pivot no matter what’s going on around them.
About the author: Beth Meverden loves serving Jesus alongside her husband of 23 years and their three amazing children. Since getting her Bachelors of Arts in Youth Ministry (over 20 years ago), she’s been ministering to teens, children, and their parents in various church ministries and groups in her home and community. You can learn about her weekly devotional blog and other resources which empower parents to train their children to know, love, and share Jesus on her website (BethMeverden.com).
Beth writes regular devotional blog posts and training materials for parents for Family Time Training. She also writes curriculum and articles for the All Life League. You can find some of her resources for youth leaders at DownloadYouthMinistry.com and parents at 1for50.net. She’s also published articles for Focus on the Family magazine and Guide Magazine.
Beth enjoys empowering parents as their children’s primary evangelists and disciple-makers in large groups, small groups, and with moms one-on-one.