Parents celebrate all kinds of things in the lives of their children: academic accomplishment, athletic ability, civic recognition, etc. Further, our children are most inclined to pursue the things which we celebrate. If we celebrate their athletic ability, they will strive to be better athletes. If we celebrate their academic accomplishments, they will pursue academic excellence. These accomplishments, in and of themselves, are not bad. As Christian parents, however, our responsibility is not only to celebrate our children’s accomplishments, but also to help them understand what is really important in life and to direct their pursuits accordingly.
The most important thing we can model, and encourage our children to pursue, is living our lives for God’s glory by loving Him supremely and serving Him faithfully. We model this by telling our children of our love for God and showing that love for Him by living our lives for His mission. In other words, our children see us living not for time, but for eternity; not pursuing things the world says are important, but pursuing God’s mission and what He says is important. We encourage our children to live this way as we equip them to know and love God and celebrate their progress in serving Him.
We had the opportunity to celebrate such an occurrence in the life of our oldest son this week. There were many things we could have celebrated. He decided that, rather than playing football, he would rather focus on school work and spending more time with family, including extended family in Alabama. He is growing in personal responsibility as well. He recently got his driver’s permit. And, he just flew to Alabama by himself, including having to make a connection in the Atlanta airport. All of those accomplishments are worthy of celebrating.
The thing that brought the greatest joy to my heart, however, was the text message I received when he landed in Alabama. It read, “. . . [I] witnessed to a guy this past flight. :)” I promptly sent back a message saying I wanted to hear about it. Today, I heard the story. He told me about his conversation with his seating companion, a man in his late 50s who was travelling to Alabama for his business. The conversation started by Josh describing the difference in flying time to Alabama, versus flying to El Salvador. This allowed Josh to share not only about El Salvador, but about his purpose for going there, sharing Christ with those who do not know Him.
In this conversation, Josh was gracious but thorough. When Josh asked the man if he had surrendered his life to Christ, the man shared with him about being baptized as a child. Josh responded, “you do understand that baptism does not save you, right?” The conversation continued amiably, concluding with the man indicating that he had a relationship with Christ and Josh admonishing him to spend time daily in God’s Word and in regular fellowship with other believers in a local church. When they got off the plane, the man left thanking Josh for sharing with him in this way.
Needless to say, I was more proud of my son than words could express. I celebrated his faithfulness to live as a follower of Christ and encouraged him to continue allowing God to use his life for God’s glory. The point of writing this post is not to say that Melanie and I are perfect examples of Christian parents. We are not. We often blow it. Just ask our kids. My point is not to say that Josh is the perfect example of a Christian teenager. He doesn’t always get it right either. My point is simply this. We are normal parents with a normal son who are seeking together to glorify, trust and serve a great God who is faithful to do what He says He will do when we simply walk in obedience to Him.
For those of you who have kids, I would encourage you to do the following:
1) Let your children see you glorifying God with your life by loving God supremely and serving Him faithfully.
2) Encourage your children to live their lives for God’s glory in all things (including academics, sports, etc.), rather than simply pursuing temporal accomplishments. Let them see you pursuing this priority in your life as well.
3) Pursue spiritual growth together as a family, hearing from each other and praying for each other’s areas of growth and areas of struggle.
4) Celebrate spiritual successes. And, with the same fervency, hold one another accountable and encourage one another in the midst of spiritual shortcomings.
As parents, we have no greater responsibility than leading our children to know, love, obey and glorify God with all of their lives. At the same time, we have no greater joy than celebrating the obvious progress we see them making toward that end.