Train Up A Child…But Remember, It’s God Who Saves Them

Moms and dads, do you feel like your children’s salvation is up to you?

I would never have said that, but when my kids were little, I kind of did. I thought that if I fulfilled Proverbs 22:6, they would automatically get saved:

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

I thought that if I just did all the right things as a parent – if I had daily devotions, if I prayed every night with them, if I lovingly disciplined them, if I took them to church, if I got a “swear box” that removed bad words from movies we watched, if I made sure they had no “bad company” to corrupt them, if I made comments on all of life as we lived it…

…in other words, if I did all the right things…

…THEN my children would AUTOMATICALLY get saved.

I mean, isn’t that what Proverbs 22 promises? Train up a child and he will not depart from it. That means salvation, right?

My Own Failures To Train Up My Children

Now if you had asked me, I would have said, “Yes, of course, it is God who saves, not me.”

But in some sense, I felt like it was up to me. If I did all the right things, my kids would get saved.

The problem was that I couldn’t perfectly train up my children in the ways of the Lord.

I made plenty of mistakes. As much as I tried to protect my kids from negative influences, as much as I tried to teach them and set a good example, I made LOTS of mistakes. I failed in LOTS of ways.

I tried to train them up in the way they should go, but God showed me again and again, that it was not my training that was going to save them.

Because only he can save.

Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to train our children in godliness and teach them about the Lord. We should.

We should share the gospel with them. We should try to impart a love for God’s word and trust in him. We should try to set the best example we possibly can. We should talk about the Lord when we rise and when we lie down so they can see how he touches every aspect our lives.

But we will sin. We will fail. We will neglect key areas of training. It’s these consistent failures that make it absolutely essential that God do the saving.

Training My Kids While Stuck In Traffic

Like the time I was supposed to speak in a church a few hours away, had the whole family in the car, was cutting it close timewise, and got stuck in some heavy traffic.


Taking advantage of the situation to train my children to trust God, I said (in my best Barney Fife voice if you know who that is), “Now kids, it’s times like this when it’s good to know about the sovereignty of God.”

Then, a few minutes later, when we hadn’t moved an inch in the traffic, I blurted out, “Oh, this is NOT GOOD!”

I’ll never forget the look on my wife Kristi’s face when she turned to me and said in a droll tone, “Whatever happened to the sovereignty of God?”

So much for my example of trusting God.

We Can Train Up A Child, Only God Can Regenerate Hearts

Parents, do all you can do to train up your children in the way they should go, but remember it is God who saves, not you.

Not our training. Not our teaching. Do all you can do to bring up your children in the fear and instruction of the Lord, but remember, HE is the one who saves.

Not you. Not your efforts.

We share the gospel with our children, but only God can open their eyes.

Just like when we share the gospel with anyone. God is the one who opens blind eyes. God is the one who gives saving faith.

There are many many promises in Scripture that God makes to parents. Promises that HE will work in their lives.

Here are a few that I regularly try to call to mind to encourage me to pray for our children and grandchildren:

All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. IS 54.13

The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you. PS 102.28

I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. PS 37.25-26

In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. PR 14:26

“And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.” IS 59.21

Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. PS 112.1-2

The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him! PR 20:7

The Peace Of Trusting God With Salvation

When we remember that it is God who saves our children and not us, he gives us peace of mind. Yes, we do all we can do out of obedience to the Lord, but leave their salvation in his hands.

Here are some other things helpful to remember:

God desires to save our children, far far more than we desire them to be saved.

God is able to save our children, even those who seem hopelessly lost. The arm of the Lord is not too short to save. No one is beyond his reach.

God has a perfect timing for when he will save our children.

God desires to save our children for his glory.

God loves our children far more than we do. He desires their good and their blessing far more than we do.

So…if your children are young, yes, teach them about Jesus. Share the gospel with them. Read the Word of God to them. As best as you can, teach them to obey God’s word.

In other words, do your best to train up a child in the ways of the Lord.

But trust the Lord. Put your children in his hands. Pray for them. Pray that God will fulfill his promises for them.

And remember, though God uses us parents – he uses our words and our example – though he uses us, HE is the one who saves. In his timing and in his way.

And when you fail, when you lose your temper or become impatient, when you temporarily forget about the sovereignty of God in that traffic, don’t quit trusting God.

He can save our children and desires to save them far far more than we do, and he is not limited by our weaknesses, sins and failures in parenting.

So do your best to train up your children, but trust in the Lord to save them.

Mark Altrogge

I’m a pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, PA. I’m married to Kristi, have 5 kids, and a growing number of grandkids. I enjoy songwriting, oil painting and coffee, not necessarily in that order.

6 comments

  • Wow, such a wonderful article. Thank you very much and stay blessed ?

  • What an on time article. You put it so clearly that God desires to save our children way more than we do. Train them with the fear and instructions of God. As parents this is our responsibility. As you said, “though he uses us, He is the one who saves. In his timing and in his way. God bless and thank you!

  • Thank you for another soothing article, though sometimes i feel parents fail their children because of their own personal sins. I mean, parents need to lead the family by example, not merely by words. If a parent, especially a father has a secret sin he is not confronting to end, it will impact on the children. Parenting is a serious responsibility. Parents must be very disciplined. Its God that saves truly- but along with us!
    A lot of children are going through needless cycles of failures due to parental double living. So its important that we parents know that our children will have to deal with the sins we fail to deal with.

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