Have you ever heard the song “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow”? In the study of childhood developmental disabilities, it is said there are three areas to watch for warning signs regarding a child’s growth – behavioral, language, and physical. These are the core areas in which a child develops as they grow into an adult. These three areas can also be important in the spiritual growth of a child.
Behavior is the action or reaction of something (as a machine or substance) under specified circumstances; the way a person behaves towards others; or the manner or act of controlling oneself. Children have good and bad behaviors or reactions to the circumstances around them. Behavior was intended by God to be directed from a person’s spirit, which is the part of man that communicates with God. When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, man ceased to take direction from his spirit through the Spirit of God and, instead, took direction from the outside physical circumstances. Since that time, we are born in Adam’s likeness. Therefore, children are naturally born this way. To begin developing a child spiritually, they must first come to an understanding of who God is and how God can begin to change the direction of their life through salvation.However, if you try to modify a child’s behavior through a list of rules, the child will eventually rebel. Without Christ, we cannot modify our behavior. In Tall Law, Steve Curington wrote, “God did not intend to leave man dependent on the frustration of trying to keep the Law in order to modify his behavior. Accordingly He sent a second Adam.”
(Note: There are some children with medical or neurological issues or disorders that manifest in behavioral issues. However, that is NOT what this article is about. This article is focused on a child’s relationship to God. Without this relationship, there is no spiritual growth. And God is interested in having a relationship with every child!)
Language is the human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication. A lot can be known about a person or child by the things they say. Kids do have a tendency to talk unless they are shy. How often do they mention God? Is Christ a part of their conversation? Perhaps you may be thinking, “Well, they are just children…their interests really don’t include God. They are immature.”Though it is true at such a young maturity level children are not as inclined to be talking about theology on a regular basis, I do know that children can express in their conversation a love for God! Children express whatever it is they are thinking! When a child who is saved does not exhibit a love for the things of God in their conversation, then it’s a sure sign of spiritual developmental delay.We need to understand the soul to solve this issue. “The soul is the part of man that God intended to take direction from the spirit. For man to fulfill God’s purpose, he needed strong desires, proper thinking, and balanced feelings. The soul is a gift from God—the ability to think, to want, and to feel make up our personality, and are good things that allow us to properly discern the best way to carry out the directives we receive in our spirit from the Spirit of God.” – Steve Curington | Tall Law
Everything you say begins in your thinking. So to say good things and to have our conversation filled with the things of God, we need to be thinking about the things of God. Children can be taught to read their Bibles and to memorize and meditate on verses that will help them later when they are on the playground with friends to understand right from wrong and redirect the conversations back to good things and the things of God.
Is God a part of your family’s conversation in your home? Is Christ mentioned at your dinner table? Remember, children learn from our example.
The physical part of a child’s development has to do with their body. Our body is the part of us that carries out the orders of the spirit and soul. Children often do not understand the concept of physical consequences. When I was a child, my parents warned me time and time again not to put my finger in a power outlet. They even put child safety covers on unused sockets. But my spirit was in rebellion, and my soul said to do it. And my body did the deed. Boy, did I get the shock of my life! My behavior around power outlets was quickly modified!When a child’s spirit is brought into good communication with the Holy Spirit through salvation and they yield their “wants” to His “wants” (or their soul to His Spirit,) their thinking processes cause their behavior and conversation to be right. They begin to understand that rules are not to keep them down, but to build them up and to protect them. Then and only then does a child’s spiritual growth begin to blossom.