home > Pastor’s Desk > 2022 > November 11th > THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT YEARS OF ANYONE’S LIFE

I have just completed a university degree course on sociology. Sociology is the science of how people interact with each other. It arose as a field of scientific study during the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. It was during the Industrial Revolution when there was much upheaval in the western world as families were uprooted from their farms and villages to relocate into cities to work in factories. Many previously unheard of social problems arose as a result. People, often living in crammed inner-city conditions, became disconnected with their extended families. These cities became huge drawcards not just for people to move from their rural villages and towns, but also for impoverished immigrants to leave behind their poverty in foreign countries and migrate to countries where they could not speak the language let alone understand the local customs, traditions and laws. It was a French academic, Auguste Comte (1798-1857), who noticed that after the French Revolution (which coincided with the Industrial Revolution) that “a new form of society” was forming, and that this could be scientifically studied. Comte coined the term, sociology and set about to write several books explaining how the scientific method could be applied to study of how the members of a society interacted. Those who came after Comte began to study why some people seemed to grow up to become virtuous contributors to society – who always seemed to have ever increasing opportunities for advancement – and others did not. The universal discovery of all sociologists ever since Comte was starting. The secret to the success of these high achievers, seemingly without exception, was determined by the first five years of their life! Sociologists now describe the first five years of anyone’s life as “the most important years of anyone’s life.” This is particularly important for every parent and educator to know. 

French Philosopher, Auguste Comte, who lived a tragic life and died of stomach cancer at the age of 59. He coined the term, “sociology.”

Consider my picture of the two burning candles. The caption asks, Which candle represents the adult and which candle represents the child? Which candle has been burning longest? From this point in time, which candle has the potential to burn longest?

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

 

WHAT HAPPENS TO A CHILD IN THE FIRST FIVE YEARS OF THEIR LIFE?

“Characteristics of personality that are established in the first five formative years will survive into an individual’s adulthood, directing his or her responses to various life situations.”
(Introduction To Sociology, Koichi Kitano, 2013: 57)

Sociologists have discovered that much a person’s future direction in life is largely determined by the extent to which they were socialised in their first years. Being positively socialised depends on the level of interaction a child has with his or her biological parents, the extent to which their boundaries and consequences are clear, the values enforced, their education (distinct from ‘schooling’) and their comprehension of their place in this world. Sociology Professor, Alex Thio (Society Myths and Realities, 2007:73), cites numerous examples of negative instances where these necessary formative aspects were deprived some children and the result was what he calls feral children.

Professor Thio also cites examples where these formative aspects were intentionally provided to some children with extraordinary results. I think that all Christian parents, educators, and disciplers should be aware of why the first five years of a child’s life are the most important years of their when it comes to shaping a person’s personality and character; and, how can each play a critically important role in positively contributing to each child entrusted into our influence.   

For I, too, was once my father’s son,
tenderly loved as my mother’s only child.
Proverbs 4:3 (NLT)

#1. Children need to learn love.

A newborn and growing child is designed by God to immediately experience love. This often involves being hugged and held by his or mother. As both mother and father then demonstrate and model appropriate touch and affection the child develops the psychological security that he or she is loved. This experience of love is then translated into realising that mother has been serving her son or daughter. The child comes to realise that serving is an intrinsic aspect of loving and being loved. Educators and disciplers (Kids Church/Sunday School teachers) are recognised as reinforcing this vision of love which the child’s parents have also established. In this way the growing child realises that his or her loving community extends beyond their family to their church family. The child can come to see that God is his or her loving heavenly Father, and that we love, because He first loved us (1Jn. 4:19). As the child comes to understanding that love involves sacrificial serving they develop the virtue of helpfulness and see it as an honour to help others.

#2. Children need to learn that boundaries and consequences are necessary for a virtuous life.

A newborn and growing child is designed by God to immediately experience boundaries and consequences appropriate to their age. Some boundaries are laws, some are rules, and some are what sociologists call norms. Norms are the way we are supposed to behave even when there is no law or rule telling us we have to. Understanding that life involves learning how to get along with others, a child comes to understand that do so requires learning what the norms are for doing so. These norms are often referred to as “common courtesy” or “being polite” or “showing respect”. By experiencing their mother and father’s boundaries and consequences the young son or daughter can come to see that God has boundaries and consequences for violating them that are designed for our good, because He loves us (1Jn. 4:17-18). As the child comes to understanding that God has ordained certain boundaries with consequences for breaching them they develop the virtue of godliness and see their worship of God as an honour.

#3. Children need to learn that honesty and integrity are essential qualities of a virtuous life.

A child is born a rebel with a disposition to sin, lie, cheat, and steal (and I should know, I was one). The person who said that children are as perfect angels had obviously never had children! Prof. Thio describes a new born child as a tabula rasa (a blank slate, p. 72). But he also says that every child is born with certain “inherited” qualities. Biologists might argue that iis merely genetic but Christians know every child is born with the stain of sin on their soul (Rom. 5:12) because the first man, Adam, represented each us via a genetic connection (1Cor. 15:22). But the good news is that God has made a way for each of us to be set free from the stain of sin through repentance and confession of sins and putting our faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9). Every child needs to be taught to how to confess their sins, how to repent, and how to apologise. By witnessing their mother and father confessing their sins, repenting, and apologising, a child comes to understanding that God is good, loving, holy, and forgiving Saviour and that he or she can also develop the virtue of honesty and integrity and learn to forgive those who offend against them (Eph. 4:32).

#4. Children need to be taught to learn and educated into how to live a virtuous life.

A child requires teaching to learn how to learn and how to be educated. In a recent Pastor’s Desk I discussed the important role that parents play in educating their youngest children by simply reading to them. Parents, Kids Church workers, and Christian educators need to teach children that this world was created by God and it is His will that we learn about it. Children can be introduced good stories, how to count, how to spell, how to write, how to discover, and taken on ‘field trips’ around their neighbourhood to learn about bio-diversity and ecology (the plants and insects and animals that inhabit their neighbourhood). Every child needs to be taught to how to learn and then how to be taught so that they respect their teachers (Prov. 19:20). By witnessing their mother and father reading, studying, and learning, a child comes to understand that God is inexhaustibly magnificent and that He has made a beautiful world full of diverse wonders which reflects His artistry and unlimited intelligence (Psalm 19:1; Rom. 1:19-20).

#5. Children need to be taught how to discover that the purpose of life is to live to the glory of God.

A child must be taught that their life is a gift from God meant to be lived to God’s glory – not theirs. Happiness is a poor substitute for the true purpose of life. Ignoring God’s Word as the moral compass for our lives and fooling ourselves into thinking that we are a better moral compass than the one God has provided can only lead to inevitable pain. Every child needs to understand why the claims of the Bible are true and what the evidences are for the existence of the God of the Bible. By understanding why the Bible is trustworthy and authoritative, a child can develop their own confidence in their faith in God and His Word. The result for a child will be an understanding about how to live to the glory of God and how to see their role in society – whether they are a student, an employee, a volunteer – is to be carried out for God’s glory (1Cor. 10:31). Christian parents, Kids Church workers, and Christian school teachers play a critical role in a child’s life — especially in a child’s first five years. When a child is living to the glory of God they have discovered the meaning and purpose of life itself.

 

LET’S SEE INFANTS AND TODDLERS DIFFERENTLY

The early years of a child’s life are critically important. As a church family we can each play our part in ensuring that we together do our best to ensure that youngest members of our church family are given the best role models that we can be so that their parents are supported through this important season of a child’s life. For those of us who perhaps did not receive the benefit of intentional virtue training and discipleship, the good news is that the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit can redeem any life.

While our society seems to be doing all it can to avoid marrying early and starting a family, and even promoting so-called marriages that are biologically incapable of procreating children, if we can just encourage and train prospective parents on how to raise children to be virtuous followers of Christ, we stand a great chance that within one or two generations the majority of our society will actually know the Lord. And perhaps then, we will be one or maybe two steps closer to fulfilling the Great Commission Christ. While parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping young children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom, we can all play a supportive role in prayer, volunteering, and encouraging. Perhaps then, this Sunday, you might see some of the young children in our church family through different eyes. Hopefully you will see future doctors, future teachers, future pastors, future politicians, future business leaders, and future prime ministers. This is why I think our Kids Church and Youth Group are pivotal and key to us establishing a church than in generations to come will win their generation to the Lord!

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. LYDIA

    Quoting you Andrew:”The early years of a child’s life are critically important. As a church family we can each play our part in ensuring that we together do our best to ensure that youngest members of our church family are given the best role models that we can be so that their parents are supported through this important season (of)a child’s life. For those of us who perhaps did not receive the benefit of intentional virtue training and discipleship, the good news is that the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit can redeem any life.”
    Thank you for this Andrew. Congratulations on your uni degree course!

    One thing comes to mind amongst many others. that while our candles are continuing to burn down as we age, and we reflect on the past, as we do, that we can use those experiences of the past, for the benefit of those in the present, whose candles are much taller than ours, so that they learn the importance of the commandment of Jesus, to love as He does and be sheltered IN that love and protected and nurtured and guided with all integrity. It is SO good we have a Saviour whose birth we will celebrate in 43 days time. Without Jesus we would be up the creek without a paddle!

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A CERTAIN GOD

We can be reasonably certain about many things. In fact, without this certainty about life, none of us could function. We can be certain that tonight the sun will ‘set’. Tomorrow the sun will ‘rise’. After the February 28th it will be February 29th. This year there will be international unrest and much political instability in many parts of the world. In the coming months global warming will be identified by politicians as the source of floods and wildfires. Several high profile international celebrities will die this year. Archaeologists will make a discovery that will require some aspects of history to be rewritten. And you will certainly have one of the most memorable moments in your life in the coming days. You see, there are clearly some things we can be quite certain about. However, there are some aspects about our future that we cannot be certain about, yet in those moments we can be certain about what we should do.

LOW COST LIVING

Turn on any TV or radio news lately and there’s bound to be a story about the current “cost of living crisis”. We all feel it. Initially most people accepted the widespread price-rises were caused by 2020-21 pandemic lockdowns. But whatever the reasons for the rapid price hikes over the past two years, every time we go to the supermarket we feel it again. While governments are striving to curb the impact of this cost of living crisis, there remains a way to enjoy low cost living. The key to this is recognising that the most valuable things in life are literally priceless. The path to enjoying low-cost living is to be found in Christ, and what He taught — and it begins with treasure.

How To Know Jesus Better

It’s a scary thought to realise that the Jesus we have been told about and worship may not really be known to us at all. We can ‘know’ about someone or something, but not really know them. In Christian circles it’s often referred to as head knowledge not heart knowledge.

Knowing Christ Better

As a church, this year’s theme is coming closer to Christ by getting to know Him better. I feel that I am “the least qualified person” to tell anyone how this is done — but someone else has already claimed this distinction – the apostle Paul. After decades of hearing directly from Christ, seeing extraordinary miracles, being taken to heaven temporarily, planting churches across the Roman Empire, he could still say I would give anything to really know Christ – even if it meant suffering like He did! (Phil. 3:7-10). Therefore, I could say: If you do this or that, you will then know Christ better – but in my view, it’s not as easy as that! How we develop our relationship with Christ is shaped by several factors including our personality, our life experiences, our physical health and fitness, and our relationships with others (especially our parents and particularly our father). In fact, I believe that there is a relationship between how we have learned to build relationships with others (and notably how we have learned to relate to those who are closest to us) and how we then proceed to have a relationship with God. Even though I have expressed my lack of qualifications in telling anyone how to have a closer relationship with Christ, I still can, like one hungry beggar to another hungry beggar, offer you a few of the morsels of food that I’ve been able to find.

SOME PEOPLE HAVE AMAZING BUTS

I know of several people with amazing buts. There’s Jo’, Mo’, Sam, Esther, Jerry, and others. Each of these people were gifted by God with an amazing but that changed there life and the course of human history. Sometimes these gifts came with a …then, or …God, or …the LORD. When it comes to the size of things, a but is a relatively small thing (in Greek it can be just two letters: de) but it can have huge implications and enormously great blessings for multitudes. I hope to show you how this was the case with each of the people I have chosen as samples, and then show you how God is your God of buts.

OPEN

What does the word ‘open’ mean to you? Like language itself, it is like any word in which the meaning only comes from the context in which it is used. I can think of at least 12 different understandings of this word, some of which I will point out, most I will not, and one that I focus on because it is prophetically important for where we are at as a church at this crucial time.

ONE THING I HAVE TO SAY

​I’m always amazed at the really cool events I’d organised for my kids to experience, so that they might have happy memories – but now they don’t remember it except the random comment someone made in the car trip on the way there or what snack was eaten. Conversely, if you make a mistake, well that one is remembered! Once I drove Andrew’s car and just lightly hit something so it ended up with an annoying 2cm scratch. The mistake is (still) there in full view to anyone who looks. Is Andrew going to remember this above the years of my devotion to him? (Not likely, but some people do remember the wrong for way too long!) If you had the choice, what one thing would you want to be remembered for? What one thing would you want your family to remember? It’s not often going to be the thing you have in mind.

‘Famous last words’ comes from the hope that you’ll be remembered for them. If you were given the privilege of being able to articulate as the important thing to say, to be remembered by all, what would it be? Would it be a reflection on your love toward someone? Would it be a directive on how to have the best life? Would it be that you wished you had done something? Someone once mused, ‘would your dying words be that you’d wished you’d spent just one more day in the office’? (Not likely.)

AT THE END OF THIS YEAR I WILL RECOUNT 12 WONDERFUL THINGS (An Explication of Psalm 9)

This is my last end-of-year Pastor’s Desk post. When the head of our Live-stream ministry, Sari, asked me what I was thankful for this year, my immediate answer was obvious and predictable. But since then, I have considered that I also have eleven other things for which I am grateful to GOD for. In this last ever end-of-year Pastor’s Desk please indulge as I share my heartfelt thanks to God and for those God has used to bless me this year.

HE WAS BORN A KING

The king who reigned over Judea when Jesus was born was Herod the Great. Herod had no legitimate claim to the throne of Israel. He was from an Idumean noble family who supported the Roman occupation of Palestine. As a reward he was appointed by the Roman Senate as the King of Judea. Despite his attempts to curry favour with the Jews, including several major public works programs (including completing the temple reconstruction) he was still largely unpopular among the Jews. Little wonder then that when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem with their large retinue and requested to view the birth of the prophesied King of the Jews, Herod was emotionally threatened by this revelation. Herod immediately ordered an enquiry from the chief priests and religious scribes.

THE SHEPHERD IS THE LORD

Of all the 150 Psalms, Psalm 23 is probably the most loved. As we read it we can easily imagine its author, the young shepherd-boy David, making the trek through a ravine where bandits, bears, and predators lurked as he led his small flock of sheep through to fresh water and green pastures. As he reflected on how he led and cared for his flock he must have pondered of how the LORD was like a shepherd to him. As easy as it is for us to imagine teenage David composing this beautiful Psalm, it is also easy to imagine how the God he describes as his shepherd in this Psalm is also a shepherd to us. God, as a shepherd, provides what we need (vs 1), restores our soul (vs 3), when we are unsure He leads on the right path (vs 3), He protects us from evil (vs 4), comforts us in times of distress (vs 4), strengthens us in our moments of weakness (vs 5), He gives us honour when our opponents attempt to bring us shame (vs 5), and He provides a place of belonging for us (vs 6). This is what a shepherd does, David tells us, and it is ultimately only found in the True Shepherd, the Lord Immanuel.