“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” C.S. Lewis
Recently, I read an interesting survey of parents on how they decide what activities and commitments their family will participate in. The survey found that 54% of all parents will decide to do activities or pursue commitments if they are good for developing their children’s character. 46% of parents surveyed stated that they made the decisions based on whether it makes their kids and family happy.
It is good that most parents still believe that character development should be the top criteria for how we raise our children. But clearly, many people do not have an intentional plan for accomplishing character development in their children.
In our world, the most successful companies have a mission statement and execute their activities around that mission statement. For example, Walmart’s mission statement is: “Saving people money so they can live better.”
When you observe Walmart’s marketing strategy or visit their stores, you can clearly see they operate by that mission statement and have been quite successful in doing so over the years. I believe the same type of principle holds true when it comes to raising our children. God’s Word has provided us with a clear mission as to how to raise our kids with a goal in mind.
Proverbs 22:6 instructs us “to train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” This verse has a clear goal in mind that our children would be raised to follow and love God in such a way that it provides them a faith that would sustain them and last a lifetime.
Do we have a goal in mind when it comes to raising our children? Are we too focused on making them happy? Are we too focused on sports achievements, activities, and achieving worldly success?
As Christian parents, God is wanting us to be focused on raising our children to love, pursue, and follow God the rest of their lives. Yes, I do believe that He would have us as parents develop a mission statement for our families that reflects this pursuit of God and character development so that we do not get caught up in chasing things in this world that have no significance.
God Himself had a plan on how Jesus was to be raised and it is found in Luke 2:52. That verse says: “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” The focus for Jesus was to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God, and favor with man. That is a pretty solid plan that we could use with our children to ensure that they would be trained “in the way they should go”. I pray that all of us as parents would begin to develop an intentional plan for raising our kids to follow God with an eternal end in mind!
“If I would have given people what they wanted I would have given them a faster horse.” – Henry Ford
I remember as a kid growing up having all these things in mind that I wanted to have or to do when I became an adult. Like most kids, I wanted to be famous and have money. In fact, I wanted to be a pro football quarterback. As I got to junior high school, I decided to try and follow that dream by playing on the junior high football team. I knew that playing football was what I really wanted to do. It would satisfy my innermost longings.
In those days, I was so skinny that I had to run around in the shower to get wet and that lack of weight and strength did not bode well for me in football. Quickly into the season I realized that I did not like to get hit that much and soon thereafter I broke an arm which ended my season. At a very young age, I began to realize that I what I wanted at times was not always best for me.
This same principle holds true for us spiritually. We all have ideas of what we want out of this life and so often we are disappointed when fulfilling our wants does not satisfy our souls. Jesus offered an alternative in Matthew 6:33 for finding satisfaction and significance for our lives when He declared:
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33
This verse reminds us that if we prioritize our relationship with God above all else and seek His desires for our lives then He will satisfy our longings and bring significance to our lives. We have this idea in our minds that if we follow God then we will lose out in life on what is best.
That type of thinking runs contrary to God’s Word. Instead, God desires according to Paul in Ephesians 3:20 “to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” God wants to do so much more than we could ever imagine with our lives if we will relinquish control. I love how the late missionary Jim Elliot described this principle when he said: “God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him.”
I have seen the truth of this principle in my own life. God has given me much more than I deserved or could have imagined when I have sought Him completely. He is a good, good Father who wants to do so much for us if we will just give our lives to Him. Psalm 37:4 embodies this truth: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”
“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10
I have never been one who likes to sit still. Growing up, it was quite a challenge to get me to sit and do my work in school. Even as an adult, I have had to work at relaxing and allowing myself not to feel compelled to get up and do something. The idea of just sitting still is an issue many people struggle with in life.
This is especially true when it comes to our spiritual wellbeing. We turn to so many other things in life for answers and direction other than the Lord. When an issue in life arises, many times Christians are eager to go solve it by turning to others, ourselves, or the things of this world. Turning to these other things for answers is like putting sunscreen on a broken arm. It really does not address our deepest need.
Psalm 46:10 gives us a new approach to dealing with the issues of life. He tells us that we need to stop going to these other sources for help first and instead give our full attention deliberately to the living Lord. In his words, to sit there and be still knowing that He is God.
What does it look like to “be still and know that I am God?” I believe it means to focus on worshipping Him, meditating on Him, and pouring through His word for what He would say to us. I believe that our focus would change if we would stop and reflect on His grace, His mercy, His love, His power, and His might rather than our present circumstances.
When we are focused on life’s circumstances, it prohibits us from really seeing what the Lord would have us to see. When we focus only on our circumstances, too often we only see insurmountable obstacles rather than a God who is more powerful than any of that.
This was true in the Old Testament when the Israelite spies were sent by Moses to scout out the Promised Land. Most of the spies came back seeing only giants and an impenetrable fortress. But Caleb and Joshua had their eyes fixed on something else. They saw the promises of God, the truth of His Word, and that He could overcome all of that.
What do you see today? Are you overwhelmed by problems that seem so impossible to deal with? I hope that we would all be reminded by Psalm 46:10 to “be still and know that He is God.” Doing this would enable us to see that He is bigger than anything we are facing today.
I pray that this verse will not only encourage your heart today but also give us all the impetus to seek God first in our approach to everything we will face in this life!
“See to it that no one misses the grace of God. And that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15
The word “grace” is used a lot in Christian circles. I am afraid it is used so much that we have at times lost the significance of what it really means for our daily lives. Grace has been defined as “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” That definition sounds good but what does it look like in real life?
Grace Provides Salvation - Grace has often been described as God’s riches at Christ’s expense. In other words, Jesus gave His life on the cross as payment for our sins. It is His free and unmerited gift to us. Ephesians 2:8-9 describes it best when it says: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” I pray that we as Christians would never forget how great a gift that God has given us in salvation through His Son. When I think of the abundant life that I have been given in Christ, I want to make sure that I do all I can to make sure that others hear of His free gift. I want to, as Hebrews 12:15 says above, “see to it that no one misses grace.”
Grace Provides Power for Living - The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 tells us: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” I hope you do not miss the treasure found in these two verses. His grace is sufficient for all our needs. According to these verses, when we admit that we are weak and cannot solve the issues we are facing that is when God unleashes His grace and His power on our lives.
I know that to be true in my own life as I have personally experienced God’s grace at my weakest and most desperate moments. Paul mentions some problems we all face in insults, hardships, and persecutions in these verses but also says that he can take pleasure in them because the grace of God is sufficient for meeting all those circumstances. What a promise from God that we need to claim!
Once again, I do not want anyone to miss out on “the grace of God” that can provide real lasting power for living this life. I pray that we would all begin to admit our weaknesses to God and allow Him to be strong on our behalf. When we do not have what it takes, God is telling us that He does!
For those of you who may be discouraged today, I pray that these verses will encourage your soul and remind us all that when we need strength the only place to find it is in the arms of the Lord!