I start with a question today: do people become more religious with age?
I ask this because many times it seems that older people are the ones who are interested in religion and younger ones have little time for spiritual things.
Two doctors at Duke University studied this phenomenon by surveying a group of older people over a twenty year period to see if they had become more religious with time. What they found out was that for these older people, their faith remained the same as they grew older.
Some activities dropped off because of illness, etc., but their attitude towards religion stayed the same as they grew older (same at 60 as at 80).
As they reviewed their findings they came to some surprising conclusions.
- The first thing they found was that the faith of these older people did not change as they grew older. There was no relationship between increased/decreased faith and age.
- They learned that if a person was religious in early life he/she would also likely be later on. Conversely, if there was no interest in religion early on, increased age was not the factor that sparked interest as a person grew older. Getting older does not automatically make one interested in spiritual things.
The general conclusion of the study was that habits learned when young are not easily forgotten and habits not learned when young are difficult to acquire when old.
These studies confirm what Solomon wrote long ago:
Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
- Proverbs 22:6
Many parents seem to think that this passage means: if you teach them about Christ and religious things when young, they will never depart from it.
Of course when they do we end up being discouraged and wondering if the Holy Spirit meant that this was true for everybody else's kid except yours.
I think that this study is a little closer to the truth: if you train the child the right way (and if he sticks to it, the part understood but not spoken) then when he is old, he will not lose his way.
This is an exhortation to parents not to neglect teaching their children from a young age about the faith because that seed of faith sewn at youth will still be blooming in old age. King David, Solomon's father said:
12The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,
He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13Planted in the house of the Lord,
They will flourish in the courts of our God.
14They will still yield fruit in old age;
They shall be full of sap and very green,
15To declare that the Lord is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
- Psalms 92:12-15
Does this mean that it is too late for old people to hear the gospel? No, the gospel can breathe life into anyone willing to hear. The point of this lesson is that we should take care to teach our people while they are young and receptive because both the Bible and modern research confirm that what we teach at youth remains for a lifetime, good or bad.
If we neglect to teach while young, it will be a much greater task to teach the very same people at full maturity.
Walking by faith is like riding a bike, you never really forget how to do it once you learn, and you feel very awkward and suffer great difficulty if you have to learn as an adult.
A couple of practical points for parents to remember:
- Let us teach our children now while they are flexible and eager, what we give them now will last a lifetime and beyond.
- Let us teach by example. You cannot teach to read the Bible if they never see you reading your Bible. You cannot teach them to obey all things if they do not see you trying to obey all things. You cannot teach faithfulness: it can only be demonstrated. When it comes to faith, everything you do or do not do is a message to your child about the relationship that you yourself have with the Lord. Make sure that they can see you in Him and see Him in you.
- Let us not be too hard on ourselves when we teach and provide an example but our child wanders away.
The Bible says that if they remain faithful they will enjoy the faith and not depart from it when old. God was perfect and created a perfect man but he disobeyed God, yet God did not blame Himself. Can we imperfect people producing imperfect sons and daughters guarantee success? What makes us think that we should succeed more perfectly than God?
Let us stop blaming ourselves for the failures of our children. God is not! My prayer is for the peace of Christ to enter and remain in your homes and bless your families. Take care. See you next week, Lord willing.
- What was the first type of religious training you received and have you followed this into adulthood? Why or why not?
- Who was your religious mentor? What made him/her effective in teaching you?
- Have you been able to pass on your faith? What was the most important factor in this process?