The fly circles the flypaper, drawn to its slightly sweet smell. As soon as it touches down, the fly’s feet stick fast. It begins to struggle, exerting more and more effort, but the fly paper is too sticky. The fly tries to fly away, but doing so causes a wing to touch the sticky paper. It flips over on its back and sticks fast. The fly is a goner.
This little insect paid its life to learn a lesson that our children need to know. Not every sweet thing is good for them. Some will lead them to their death, physical or spiritual. As a parent, teaching my children about the nature of temptation and how to resist it the power of the Holy Spirit is one of my essential duties.
Your kids don’t understand this… yet.
Children experience temptation just like adults do, but because of their youth and inexperience, they don’t realize that they are being tempted. They won’t understand what is going on in their thoughts and emotions by just muddling through it. They need us to help them to interpret and understand what’s going on in their minds and hearts.
I remember the great freedom that I felt when I discovered as an adult that not all of my thoughts are mine. I now know that the devil can whisper directly into my thoughts, and what he says is never good. For instance, if I ever notice thoughts in my head that use foul language, I know that it’s a demonic temptation. I just don’t think that way any more, nor do I speak that way any more. I am able to immediately command the demon to flee in the name of Jesus. The vulgar thoughts stop immediately.
Teach them to recognize the danger.
Our children need to know how the devil might tempt them. And no one but you can teach your children about the devil. First off, all temptation seeks to lead us into sin, so that’s one of the first clues. This is one of the reasons that teaching children the difference between good and evil is so important.
But the devil has more than one way of leading us into sin. Here are some of the ways that the devil can tempt us:
- Demons whisper negative thoughts into our minds. For example, thoughts like, “I hate so and so,” “Jesus doesn’t love me,” or “Nobody will notice if I take that thing that doesn’t belong to me,” might actually be temptations from demons of hate, despair, and theft.
- Demons stir up negative images in our imaginations. These might be images of a violent or sexual act, or of something scary. These images might be stirred up by demons of violence, lust, or fear.
- Demons can act directly on our desires, causing them to both flare up dramatically, or die down inappropriately. For instance, a demon might cause a child to desire to be anywhere but the church pew where their parents want to sit. This might come from a spirit of impiety.
- Demons can bring up past sins by attacking our memory. They do this to convince us that our sin is what defines us and cause us to despair.
- Demons can even attack us physically, causing exhaustion or arousal at exactly the wrong time. These can be attacks by spirits of sloth and lust.
You’ll notice that in most of these cases, I said that it might be demonic. This is because these interior experiences of temptation are not always demonic in origin. We can also experience temptation as a result of a habitual sin, the actions of other people, or our physical environment. The world, the flesh, and the devil ALL try to lead us into sin. Demonic temptation is not rare, but your child might be getting attacked by more than one of that unholy triad.
Lay their foundation on a rock.
Recognizing temptation is only the beginning, but it’s a strong beginning. Something changes when I realize that a particular thought or feeling is actually a temptation from the evil one. Suddenly the sweetness doesn’t seem so sweet. I’m able to call to mind the consequences of the sin and choose not to act. The fly doesn’t have a choice because it acts on instinct. But as a human being, I can CHOOSE not to do something that is both evil and self-destructive, as is all sin.
Once our children begin to recognize temptations, we can also teach them to pray for the opposite virtue. If they are struggling with sexual temptation, ask Jesus to give purity of heart. When tempted to anger, pray for meekness and self-control. If laziness and sloth is the weakness, pray for the gift of fortitude. God happily supplies these virtues if we ask Him. The devil grits his teeth when he sees that his attempts to lead us astray have instead revealed our weaknesses and inspired us to pray to God for strength.
God uses the devil’s attempts to do evil and turns them to good. Praise the Lord. We go from glory to glory, growing in holiness and virtue.
To read my story of how Jesus Christ snatched me from the snares of the devil, get my new book Demoniac on Amazon.com.
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