By Paul Gualtieri
We watched our two middle sons sitting in our living room holding their babies.
It was hard to fathom that we were actually at this place in life.
My wife and I met in church, had our children in church, and raised them in a godly home.
I wish I could honestly say it was always easy, and that there were never any challenges along the way.
But by the grace of God – and did we ever need His grace! – we have six wonderful children and five grandchildren (and another one on the way).
I came into The Door in Tucson thirty years ago, a twisted and very confused young man.
At the age of 21, I was tired of my life and ready for a change.
It was April 27, 1987 when I gave my life to Jesus, and it was just six months later that my wife came into church, a single mom pregnant with her second child.
Growing up an only child raised by my mom, I would see families playing in the local park – mom and dad and kids and family pet – and inside I would yearn to have that life.
So when I gave my life to Jesus and saw all the great families in church, I was excited by the thought that at last I, too, would find a wife, have children (and maybe a dog) and we would all serve God together (except maybe for the dog).
This, along with my desire to preach the gospel, defined who I was, and it still does today.
Several years ago while we were out of town, I had a report by phone that one of my children was doing something in our home that we would not approve of.
This shattered my dream of our flawless life serving God together.
On our return, we waited it out in the hopes of seeing repentance in our child.
I remember that day like it was yesterday – and not because one of my kids did something wrong, but because I had what I call a failure of faith.
For years my wife and I served God and made sure that we were to faithful and stayed involved.
We did it all for two reasons: one, to be busy for God; and two, so that our children would see that Mom and Dad served God in the local church, that this was our life.
We felt this was a great way to lay down a spiritual foundation for our children.
But on that day it seemed like all of that did not matter.
I started to question God.
I started to question why we did what we did.
Memories flashed before me of the times I did not want to be involved and just wanted to quit – but I didn't because I knew my kids were watching.
It seemed like all the hard work of pushing forward did not even matter.
This mindset was my failure of faith.
I can say this now, especially because I see all of my children except one (Gianna- 12, still at home) living as productive adults.
They all have jobs, some are married and raising a family of their own, most are serving God and going to church.
The truth of the matter is that not all of our children all of the time will serve God the way we want them to.
I think as parents we forget that our job is to lay the foundation, and that our children will build on it. That foundation that we have laid equips our children to have the best possible lives in God that they could have, but it's not a guarantee that along the way that they won't trip and stumble.
If a parent is not careful, facing the fact that their child has chosen to leave God and all they have been raised in could be that parent's undoing.
Every parent wants the very best for their children, and we know and understand beyond all doubt that a life built on anything other than Jesus is not the best life for our child.
But when we are faced with our own children's failures, we have to remind ourselves that all we do and have done does matter.
Being steadfast in your faith is the greatest thing you can do for children. Webster's defines steadfast as “firmly fixed in place; immovable.”
Parent, this needs to be who you are: you are immovable in your faith and your commitment to the things of God.
Those around you may not be, but you are. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. It not only builds them up when they are young, but it gives them a sense of security even when they are older.
Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The great thing about this promise is that they really do come around.
What old means in this verse has been the subject of much speculation — but whether that means when they are 25-30 or even 40-plus, a child who sees a parent still manning their post sees the greatest testimony of all.
So on that day of my spiritual demise, I had to take inventory of how I parented my children.
At that time, we had been serving God for eighteen years.
We always made sure our kids were in church, and we regularly talked about the things of God in our home.
It was important to remember this because I started to blame myself, wondering where I had failed, and I had to quickly get out of that mode and remind myself that I had done all that I knew how to do.
I also had to remind myself that my children were given the same free will as I was given, and like everyone else they had to make good decisions and their own choice to serve God and live right.
Evaluating who I was in Jesus helped me to regain confidence as a father.
As godly parents, there are so many things that work against us in our society, but maintaining your confidence in Jesus and His Word will help you to continue to man your post.
There were also some important things I did in order to reassure myself and rescue my faith.
The first one was inspired by Pastor Fred Gonzalez, Sr.
I remember talking to him about what I was going through, and he reminded me that during all my children's years in church, it was us – Mom and Dad – that instilled the Word of God in their lives.
So the first thing you should remind yourself of is that you have kept the Word of God a central part of your home, and that God tells us in Isaiah 55:11: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
God's Word has unbounded influence.
It will accomplish what God intends for it to accomplish.
This is a promise from God.
Our job is to keep the Word of God in our home, and wait to see God’s handiwork.
The second thing that we did was to maintain our spiritual involvement in the church.
This is very important, because although we may not see it, our children watch what we do during these difficult times.
This teaches them that no matter how difficult life can get, in and outside of church, a commitment to God and His house is non-negotiable.
The final thing (that should go without saying) is to continue to pray for your children.
My wife and I both can testify that there was someone always praying for our salvation, and today we are saved because of those prayers.
A parent can never give up praying for their children.
Moms and dads always need to pray for their children, whether they are living for God or not.
As a pioneer pastor this is the one thing I have learned: Prayer is powerful.
Whether for people in your church or in your home, prayer keeps us connected to our God and also connected to those we are praying for.
While it may be difficult to see your kids not serving God, or to see them not at the place in God where they should be, one thing that is healthy to remember is that God is committed to them.
It's a fact that has given us much comfort.
Just like God is committed to you and me, He is committed to our children and wants to see them saved more than we ever could imagine.
A week does not go by that I don't get a call from one of my children asking some question either about parenting or about the Word of God.
Parent, don't give up. The reward will come.
If you throw in the towel, you not only rob yourself of all that God wants to do in your life, but you will miss out on all that God will do in your children's lives as well.