No, actually they are not my children, but I have a claim on their lives. As a retired minister I can understand the apostle John's feelings when he wrote, "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth." (III John 4) John is not talking about genetic relationships. During his long ministry in Ephesus, John had to see children, raised in the church and latching on to Jesus Christ with the same faith their parents exercised years ahead of them.
Perhaps he had in mind those who as adults first came to know our Savior under his ministry. Trials had confused many and injured the faith that many had confessed. In the early days of the church it was illegal to be a Christian. Some had moved away and John had lost track of them. John himself had been sent to exile on the island of Patmos. And what goes through the mind of a pastor who has learned to love his people so? He wonders how it is with their souls.
What a joy, then, when someone brings a good report about one of these "children" of the apostle. His circumstances were transformed by the news that one of his children was still walking with the Lord. He is walking in the truth. In spite of the bombardment of propaganda about the divinity of Caesar (not to mention the threat against those who denied it) John heard that his children were walking in the truth. This is what brought greater joy to the heart of this aged apostle than anything else.
That is the joy I recently experienced, seeing dear ones to whom I had the awesome privilege of ministering the gospel in years past. This young lady who has now finished two years of college was a precocious two year old when I first loved her. She shows every evidence that she sincerely loves Jesus, and is doing her best to walk with Him in her daily life. She has done short-term missionary service and she chooses godly Christian friends. She still delights her parents without a hint of rebellion.
Her adorable sister used to dance across the floor more often than walk. I knew her, and spoke to her even before she was born. She is making the same good friends and walking the same path with the same Lord Jesus. The brothers seem to be headed the right direction also. It brings me great joy to hear and see these things.
Her inseparable friend is another case in point. Geography finally did separate these two, but in kindred spirits they have maintained their mutually edifying friendship. This second girl's mother is another whom I would like to claim as one of my children in the Lord. Though I did not bring her to initial faith in Christ, I had the privilege of encouraging her through some hard places, and the evidence of her love for Jesus has never been more obvious in any one's life. It makes her one of the most beautiful women I have ever known. She and her daughter are walking in the truth, and I find it an emotional and spiritual high to see them again, knowing they love the same Savior.
Of course I am pleased to hear that these friends are well. It is a joy to know they are happy. But you need to know that I have no greater joy than to hear that these "children" are walking in the truth. They love Jesus, and I anticipate hearing even greater things from them and abut them.