A Circus, Not a Zoo
Did you ever notice the similarity between children and animals? Well, while we’re still on the topic of not rejoicing in iniquity (I Corinthians 13:6), let’s talk about it.
Some parents find amusement in the sinfulness of their young children, feeding them peanuts while they act like wild animals. Let me show you what I mean.
Johnny has just learned to feed himself. He thinks the spoon is a great invention for shooting peas across the kitchen. If Mom and Dad laugh at the little animal, they will only reinforce his bad behavior. Then, one day it won’t be funny anymore.
Wisdom thinks ahead to the end result. A wise father won’t tolerate his child’s flaws at a young age. A two year old who says “Mine!” might be cute. But when he turns ten, the same behavior is ugly. So don’t let him get into that habit while he’s young. A whiny one-year-old might sound so sweet, but at age eight, no one can stand him.
Do you feel like your home is a zoo? It’s because your kids are left to run wild. The godly home should be more like a circus, instead. “But wait,” someone asks, “don’t they have exotic animals?” Correct, but the circus trains their wild creatures, the zoo just pens them up.
God didn’t give us children for our entertainment. We have a greater responsibility than just to house and feed them. He entrusted us with their development. If we let their character flaws amuse us during their young years, their sinfulness will terrify us when they grow old. Like a savage tiger breaking out of its cage, you can only “pen up” your child’s wild side for so long. He will tear your heart out once he’s unleashed as a predator on society.
Sassy three year olds are amusing. Sassy thirteen year olds are unbearable. Dare we call sin “cute”? Let’s take time to tame our children early so they live godly their whole lives. Ever heard that cliché about something like “train up a child in the way he should go”? That’s Bible (Proverbs 22:6). That’s a command from God. And it is the key to turn your zoo into a well-trained circus.
By the way, both zoos and circuses entertain people. But circuses, which are rarer, draw much larger crowds.
The Right Choice
Misty had highlighted the verse that the preacher had read at the beginning of his sermon. In everything give thanks… she said in her mind.
At the close of the preacher’s message, he invited everyone to come up toward the front and pray. Since his message had been on thankfulness, he encouraged both the young and the old to find something to thank God for.
Misty held onto Mom’s hand and followed Dad and Rusty up to the front. They stood by the edge of the platform, surrounded by many other families. Misty thanked God for her mom and dad. She thanked Him for her dog, Wiggles. She also thanked Jesus for her clothes, her toys, her house, and many other things.
After a few minutes of people spontaneously praising the Lord and thanking Him for their blessings in life, the whole congregation joined together in a hymn, thanking God for saving their souls.
At the end, people stood around and talked for a while. Misty’s friend Tristin told her that she was thankful for her new pair of skates. She told Misty what color they were. She told her how fast they went. She told her about going skating with her cousin.
Then Misty told Tristin about her skating trip that time when she couldn’t skate because of her bad foot. Misty told her how thankful she was for Rusty playing games with her that day, when he could have been out skating with his friends.
Then Tristin told her another story. Then Ian came up and started telling about how he had gone skateboarding. Before he was done with his story, his brother Kyle came up and started telling about what he did to knock Ian off the skateboard. Ian and Kyle started pushing each other to demonstrate, until an adult told them to settle down. While Kyle was zooming and shwooping through his story of crashes and burns, Misty thought she heard someone crying.
As Kyle came close to ending his story, which probably would last as long as someone listened, Misty glanced around and saw Shoshanna’s mom praying and crying at the altar. She said to her friends, “Hey, look, they’re still praying. I want to pray with them.”
Shoshanna stood beside her mother, holding her hand. Misty walked up and put her hand on Shoshanna’s shoulder. Shoshanna looked up and smiled at Misty as if to say, “Thanks.” Misty didn’t know why Shoshanna’s mom was crying, but she prayed that Jesus would help her and answer her prayers.
The three prayed together for a while. When Shoshanna’s mom dried her eyes and quit praying, Misty stopped too. Shoshanna hugged her mom. Misty glanced around and noticed that most of the people had left. Her dad was talking to Pastor and she knew her mom had to go to the office to help with paperwork.
Misty walked back to the pew where her family had sat. She wanted to get her Bible and her purse. As she gathered her things, Pastor walked up.
“Misty, I’m proud of you.”
She looked up, surprised.
“You did a really godly thing tonight.”
Misty looked around. “What did I do?”
“You stopped talking with your friends so you could go up and pray with someone. That’s a wonderful thing to do.”
“Oh, thank you, sir. I didn’t know we’d be the last ones to leave though.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being the last ones to leave the church, Misty.”
She smiled and shrugged.
“In fact, the last ones to leave are usually the first to be blessed by God.”
“They are? How?”
“Well, did you ever hear the story about Samuel’s mom, Hannah?”
How do you know that Misty loved truth?
She circled the scriptures in her Bible. She paid attention to the preacher.
Why did Misty leave her friends to go pray up front?
What do you think Jesus thought of what she did?
What might her friends have thought of what she did?
Proverbs 13:20 says “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” How does that scripture apply to what Misty did?
A Cause for Rejoicing
I Samuel 1:1-18
Now there was a certain man of Ramatha’im-zophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite: And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.
And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb. And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb. And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?
So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD.
And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no rasor come upon his head.
And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.
And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.
Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.
And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.
What’s our memory verse? What is iniquity?
I Corinthians 13:6. Iniquity is lawlessness—a desire to do wrong even when one knows what is right.
Hannah had already been to church (the temple). Afterward her family had a picnic (so to speak). Why did she go back to church?
What did she give up so she could spend more time in prayer?
What did the preacher (Eli) think of this woman who was the last one to leave the prayer meeting?
What happened for her because she did?
God answered her prayer.
Why do you think people are quick to leave church sometimes?
Could they be missing out on God’s blessings? Like what?
The minister has asked everyone to close their eyes and pray. But your friend is trying to show you something. What do you do? Do you want to be rude? Do you want to disobey? Can you make both the minister and your friend happy at the same time?
What if someone wants to stay and pray after church, but your friends are going to a restaurant. What do you do?