How to Prepare Your Kids to Win Life’s Biggest Battles
From the series Effective Parenting in a Defective World
Our kids are facing a world that is hostile, difficult and painful. They’re in a battle for their life whether it is sex, drugs, alcohol, peer pressure or just the world system. The question is how do you help your child survive? In this message Chip shares the biblical priorities of effective parenting and how to help your kids win their toughest battles.
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About this series
Effective Parenting in a Defective World
How to Raise Kids Who Stand Out from the Crowd
Raising children is a tough challenge in today's world. Peers and pop culture exert a never-ending pressure on kids. Parents often feel helpless, as every godly principle they teach their children seems to be contradicted by the corrupt principles of this defective world. But the good news is, God has a plan for effectively raising your children and you can learn from it. Packed with practical advice, this series will give struggling parents a vision for their children's future and life-changing help for today.More from this series
Let me give you some ways to teach your children how to handle money so they will be faithful in the little things.
One, teach your children the three purposes for money, okay? And, again, since I’m going fast, there is longer material – small group. But for today, here are just thumbnail sketch.
When my children were small, there are only three purposes for money, actually, only five things you can ever do with money. But three purposes is you can give money, you can save money, you can spend money. Actually, you can invest money and you can pay taxes with money. But I think for a three to five-year-old, let’s just go with the first three.
And so we took, you know those mason jars? All my kids, on their dresser, by the time they were even about two years old, they would have a jar and printed really clearly, “giving,” jar number one. Next jar, “saving,” jar number two. “Spending,” jar number three.
And they would make their little bed and help out with this and do that and, okay, You’re a part of the family, the house is God’s, everything is God’s, we are a team together, thank you. And so here’s ten dimes. And they would put a dime in the giving, “Well, why do we do that one, Daddy?” “Because everything belongs to Him. But we, as humans, we forget that. We start thinking it’s ours. So we give the very first and the best of your ten dimes to Him, just to remind us. And then we are going to use that to help people.”
Okay. “This dime goes into savings.” “Well, why do we do that?” “Well, because you don’t know what the future holds. And so God says to always save because life goes up and down and you always need to have a back stop.”
“And we get eight of these?” “Yeah.” “Well, what is that for?” “Well, just, God loves you so much, you spend that and He loves you; enjoy it!” “Oh, okay.”
Well, then they get a little older and it’s a dollar, a dollar, and eight. And then they get a little older, it’s ten and ten and eighty. And then… Now, can you imagine what would happen to your kids, in terms of a mind, a worldview of stewardship if, from the time they were small, up through about twenty-five years old, they did that?
If you don’t suffer well, your kids won’t. If you don’t work unto the Lord, they won’t. If you don’t manage your life wisely, they won’t.” Can you imagine, I don’t know your situation, but I know the statistics.
If just, let’s say, at age fifteen to where you’re at right now, if you didn’t do anything with your financial planner except those three things, and ten percent of anything you earned, you gave to God to align your priorities; and ten percent you saved, with all the bubbles and ups and downs and layoffs, and you have lived on eighty percent and didn’t go into debt for anything other than, say, maybe the mortgage on a home, do you realize where you’d be right now? Do you realize where you’d be, financially? You’d be super well-off. It would just take a lot of time.
But, see, the world says you’ve got to have it now and the way to get it now is you put it on this credit. You do this, you do that.
And, see, when you do it like that, you don’t have much. I was pastor of a little church, we didn’t have hardly any money, but by the time my kids were thirteen, fourteen years old, I never had to put a car on time. I had saved, and even though I didn’t have a lot, you save for six, eight, nine years, I paid for the car. And then as soon as I paid for that car, I started saving and eight, nine years, I paid for the next car.
You know what happens when you don’t have any debt and no bills other than your house? You actually end up pretty well-off, financially. It’s just slow. That’s what you want for your kids – to manage their finances wisely.
The message is: Your life is a sacred stewardship. Not just your stuff. Your life is a sacred stewardship.
By the way, it got very quiet after that last point. Are you all doing okay, here? I wish you could have seen you guys, it was like, Oh, no, shut up, please! Please! You told me way too late! It’s never too late.
In fact, the last one we are going to talk about is a grace-filled life. You know how God treats people who make really stupid decisions, even selfish decisions, even sinful mistakes, and totally mess up their lives? The moment they say, “Oh, man, why did I do that? Will You please help me?” You know what God does? “Come. I long to help you. We can turn things around.” Yeah, there’s some stuff to work out of and some consequences, maybe a little restitution, but, wow, God is loving. He’s good! You want your kids to learn that.
The fourth thing you want them to learn is: teach them to make wise choices. Write this one in. Teach them to make wise choices. Now, the way you do that is by helping them learn to discern the difference between good and evil. We are living in a day where good is called evil, and evil is called good.
You want your kids to make wise decisions. Now, you understand you make a decision and my good, Marine dad would say, “Son, let me tell you something. You make a decision and then they make you.” And they do.
You make a decision, I’m going to go out with this guy and get involved in this relationship and it makes me. I make a decision about my money, I make a decision about where I’m going to go to school, I make a decision about how I’m going to respond to someone who hurt me, I make a decision about whether I’ll forgive someone or not. You make a decision, and the decisions make you.
When kids understand life is difficult, but I am going to walk with God, and suffer well; when I have learned that working isn’t bad, I’m actually going to discover what I am made to do and work; and when I begin to manage and realize God owns everything and the only pressure is just to be a good steward, and then you start making wise decisions, do you understand how this blesses them?
This is like marriages that work and relationships that work and decisions that are good. But the key behind wise decisions is a theology of holiness. A theology of holiness – God is holy. He is totally – He is separate, He is totally other, He is different. He is not like an enlarged, ideal, perfect picture of the best human you have ever known.
In heaven, at this moment, the angels are crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.” And they are doing that, covering their eyes. He is unapproachable light. He is absolutely unmitigated, pure love, and pure holiness, and just and kind and sovereign and all-knowing and all-powerful.
And words just come out of His mouth and galaxies come into being. He is awesome. You want your kids to know He is holy.
As Tozer says, the great and amazing conflict with God is that we are to fear Him, because of His greatness and His holiness, and yet not to be afraid because He is the most loving being and He invites us to be His friend.
The theology of holiness is not only is He holy, but God is absolute truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” God’s Word defines absolute truth.
He says it’s not relative, it’s not: This is right today and wrong tomorrow. It’s not what the culture says. Jesus prayed on the very last night, “Father, sanctify them, or, set them apart by Your truth; Your Word is true.” So your kids need to learn that.
God’s laws or morals are for our protection. In other words, when God says, “Don’t have sex before marriage,” when God says, “Don’t go into major debt,” when God says, “Here’s how you make a decision,” when He has rules and laws, it’s not like this angry God trying to take your fun. It’s like, “These are guardrails.” The Old Testament calls it, “The high way of holiness.”
And He says, “You know what? I long for you, I love you, I created you, My Son died for you. I want you to get the very best. So here are the guardrails. Don’t do that, because that takes you over a cliff. Don’t do that, that destroys relationships. Don’t do that, that will destroy your body. Don’t do that, that will destroy your soul.”
That’s why David would say, “His law is my delight. If Your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” David loved the law of the Lord – why? Because he knew, These are boundaries from a good God that, as I stay in between them, I get the highest and the best. And that’s what God wants for you and for your kids.
God’s ultimate aim is to make us holy. But don’t think holy as in some of those pictures in our mind like holy is big, black robes; there’s a candle over here; people wear hoods and sing funny songs, “Holy, holy.” Or it’s “holy” is a very big, black Bible, a “Praise the Lord!” sticker, and a self-righteous attitude. That’s not holy, that’s stupid.
Holy is pure, blameless, winsome, kind, patient, sexually pure, pure in your thoughts, motives that aren’t manipulative. Holy, write this in there, is Christlikeness. He is working every circumstance, every relationship, every issue, every school, every heartbreak for the good of them who love Him, in order to conform your son, your daughter, me, and you to the image of Christ. That’s God’s agenda.
The Old Testament roots we find Moses. And there’s a bush that is burning, but it’s not consumed. And out of curiosity, he gets close. And do you remember what God says out of the bush? “Moses, you’re on holy ground; take off your shoes.” And he bows down. And he gives His personal name, “I AM THAT I AM.” He reveals Himself.
You want your kids to understand the fear of the Lord without being afraid. New Testament-wise, 1 Peter would say to a group that had been through all kinds of, the world that they lived in was so immoral, it was just so crass, so corrupt in the Roman Empire. And they were being persecuted.
And he would write in 1 Peter, “As obedient children, do not be conformed any longer to the former lusts that were yours in your ignorance, but like the holy One who called you, be holy in all your behavior” – why? “Be holy for I am holy.”
Now here’s the application I want you to get; this is so encouraging for me. Is that, you want your child to learn to think biblically and critically to develop personal convictions and character. You want them to make great decisions, but you want them to watch TV and watch a movie and watch a situation and friends who are going through a difficult time – you want them to learn to think biblically, to discern evil from good. What is right? What is best?
And what you really want, you want them to build convictions. As a parent, the issue is not, Well, I got them to go to youth group every week and I made them do this and I made them do that. What you want is you want, from the inside out, you want them to catch a heart for God because they see it in you. And then you want them to see it’s not like, “Oh, gosh, what a prudish God. No sex before marriage and all my friends are having it?” “Well, yeah, honey, but here’s what you need to understand. This is what happens to them.”
“And all my friends are living together, why can’t I?” “Well, this is what happens to them. God loves you so much, this is what He wants for you.” And, by the way, we now have the research, empirically, from secular sources that basically says, “God’s way.” God’s way in all those areas is what works.
Let me give you a couple ways to maybe develop this. One is, start when they are little. Give them a really high view of God. Get on your knees when you pray with your little kids. Read to them. Read Bible stories early, read the Chronicles of Narnia, just introduce great, rich literature.
All the bombardment that they get, we have kids living in a video culture. More and more kids are ADD now because the brain actually gets changed when all they get are video images.
The third thing you need to do is monitor what goes into their mind, monitor how much time on the screens, monitor the movies, monitor their friends. What goes into their minds and the people they hang out with will be the biggest factors of how they are going to live and the decisions they are going to make.
And so they need to see your example, God’s Word, great things in their minds. And, by the way, when I say, “monitor,” this isn’t like, Oh, I’ll never expose them to anything! There are times where you need to sit down and watch things together. “What’s wrong with this?”
Don’t be afraid of the world. Empower your son or your daughter to make a difference in the world and help them to see through it. Help them to see, They are just trying to sucker you into this. That’s not true. Does that work?
But do you know what all this takes? It takes intentionality, it takes focus. And it’s easy to say, “Oh, I’m going to put my kid in this and I’ll put him in school here and someone else will learn here and we’re really busy and we can’t eat together and we don’t have time to really pray together and I’d really like to and I want to, but I hope everything will be okay.
And then they get involved in a relationship and, “Oh, I hope it’s just a phase.” You know what all that’s called? Denial, denial, denial, denial, denial. The hardest job you will ever get, the most important job you’ll ever have is being a mom or a dad!
So you think it’s going to be easy? And, by the way, if you do “everything right,” here’s the deal, there are still no guarantees. They have these little things inside their souls called “choosers,” right? Right? So they get to be fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, sixteen, eighteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-nine and you can say, “We created this, we modeled this, we did this, we did this, we did this.” You know what they say? “Great.”
But guess what, you’re not held responsible for the outcomes. You’re held responsible for, Did I model for my kids what I wanted them to become? And did I do what I knew to create this kind of environment?
And then if you’re starting to feel, Oh my, I didn’t do it perfectly. No one has! Ever! See, part of what you model is, What do you do when you mess up? so they understand they can be forgiven like you.
Love covers a multitude of sins. And so, finally, the life message is: Obedience is the only way to get God’s best. Obedience is the only way to get God’s best. You want them to make decisions and as they get older, here’s the question as they get older and older, “What do you think God wants you to do? What do you think God wants you to do?”
Don’t make it all a power play. Force them to process where they start making decisions on their own while they are with you.
Final one, and I think it’s the most encouraging, because I don’t know about you, those first four are hard to pull off.
Stone number five is: Teach them to live grace-filled lives. A theology of grace. Grace is one of those words that is slippery. Grace. It’s a nice girl’s name. Hi, Grace. But what does it really mean? Let me give you a quick theology of grace.
Grace is the unmerited, unconditional love of God toward us. Unmerited, you can’t earn it. Unconditional, God doesn’t love you or your child if they do this or because they did that. Grace is the opposite of performance mentality. It’s the opposite of earning.
Second, grace is free to us, but costly to God. The Scripture clearly says, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells within you, that you have been bought with a price?” Christ’s blood is the cost for your salvation and your children’s.
The cross is God’s greatest act of grace. When you look at the cross, God says that, “God demonstrated” or, “proved His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” or in our place.
Salvation is a free gift from God. Scripture says it’s, “…not by works of righteousness, what we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” It’s free. It’s grace. But it needs to be received by faith.
If you have ever watched an NFL game, what is in the back of the end zone? John 3:16. “For God so loved the world He gave,” grace, “that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.”
God the Son lived a perfect life, He died upon a cross to pay for the sins of all people of all time. It’s like everyone’s ticket is paid, for a relationship with a Holy God through what Christ has done. And God says, “I invite you to be My son or My daughter. But I won’t force you. If you want to stiff-arm Me, if you want to be the captain of your own ship, if you want to say, ‘I don’t want the Creator or God or anybody else telling me what to do,’” God says to you, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “Well, thy will be done.”
God doesn’t force, how can there be love if He just dictated, “You must love Me.” But what He says is, “I have provided a way that whosoever would come and humble yourself, turn from your sin, and with the empty hands of faith say, ‘Will You forgive me for all that I have done? And would You come into my life? Make me Your son, make me Your daughter. I want to follow You.’”
One hundred percent of the time, He promises to answer that prayer and forgive you. Not if. Not because. But because of what Christ has done. Every “ism,” every religion can be two letters: Do, do, do. You name the religion, you need to do, do, do. Different religion: do, do, do. “Ism:” do, do, do. Do, do, do, pray, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do. Christianity isn’t even a religion. It’s four letters. Done. D-O-N-E.
God has done for you what I can’t, you can’t do for yourself. Your sins are forgiven. And the moment you turn to Christ, you receive Him, His Spirit comes to live inside of you, and it’s a relationship. And His Spirit will then take His Word in the context of this community and He will create the very love and life of Christ and His presence within you.
That’s what it means to be a follower or a Christ-one. And it’s grace. Grace produces gratitude toward God and love toward others. It’s just not some ooey-gooey feeling. When you have that inside of you, I will tell you what, you will start acting the way Jesus acted toward people. You will be thankful; you will love them.
The Old Testament roots are Genesis chapter 3, when the first sin occurred, a free gift, blood was shed, prefiguring Jesus, skins covered our first parents. The word is they atoned for.
In the New Testament, it’s Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “For by grace you are saved through faith and this is not of yourselves,” it’s not a result of your works or performance, “it’s the gift of God, lest any man should boast.” It’s powerful. It’s amazing.
Help your children realize that failure is never final with God. Can I say that again? Help your child realize failure is never final with God. The world is telling them, when they fail, they are done. It is final. You’re a loser. There is no hope. You didn’t even make the traveling team! You messed up at the recital. You can’t dance worth a flip. You can’t get in college. Your SAT scores didn’t measure up. You got yourself pregnant. I don’t want to have anything to do with you.
Son of mine, what are you doing logging on that Internet stuff? Okay? You wanted to marry that non-Christian? You go ahead and marry them. And now your life is messed up, two and a half years he leaves you? Well good luck.
That’s what the world tells them. You screwed up? You live with it. God says, “You mess up and you find yourself in a ten-foot hole, there is an eleven-foot rope coming down if you repent and say, ‘I need help; will You forgive me?’”
And there’s a little loop at the bottom of the rope and you put your little foot in the loop and then you hang on and He will pull you up. If you have a hundred-foot hole, because you think, Oh, man, ten foot. I’ve got two abortions, two marriages, I haven’t quite killed someone, but I tried. Man, I’m in a hundred-foot hole. There’s no hope for me.
Oh, no, no, no. You’ve got to understand. Here’s grace. A hundred-and-one-foot rope goes down. It has a loop on it. You stick your foot in and He brings you up. Are there consequences? Of course. Is there stuff to deal with? Yes. Maybe restitution. But He will heal you. He will change you.
And you say, A hundred feet? That’s not even close. You have no idea. I can’t even believe why I’m even here. I have blasphemed God. I have said things about Christians. I am so far away from God. There is absolutely no way. I’m in a thousand-foot hole!
A rope is going to be lowered that will be one thousand and… Your kids need to know that. And you know how they learn it? They learn it by getting grace from you. They learn that not just with your word, saying the right things, you say, “Oh, that’s okay, son.” And the body language is, My lands, you couldn’t hit a ball if I stuck it on a stool.
“Oh, yeah, that’s okay, honey.” I mean, for a loser, non-academic like you. We send a lot of messages that are non-verbal that say to our kids, You don’t measure up. And then they perform pretty well and it’s, “Oh! Oh my lands!” And then we tell all of our friends and, “Here’s their scores,” and here’s this and here’s that and here’s that.
And you know what the kid says? Oh, I’m loved when I do good. But I’m not loved when I don’t measure up. That’s called “non-grace.” You want your kids to understand their behavior is one thing, their value is something else, and nothing changes the value. Nothing changes the value. You love them no matter what. And not just with your words, but with your action.
How to do that: Be a safe place for your kids where they can come for help. Let them know, verbalize it early on and then model it the best you can. And when you don’t, own it, make it right.
When my son was a senior in high school, I mean, sometimes you hear me saying these things and by God’s amazing grace, I have four grown kids that, despite ups and downs, rebellion here and problems there, they all walk with God. And you talk about wealth, the greatest wealth I have on the earth. Not even close.
But you hear someone talk and sort of this, Oh yeah, you’re a pastor. It probably was pretty easy. You never really messed up. Pfff. Senior in high school, third son, he – something pops up on the Internet. He has a year-long private, secret addiction to pornography. I find out about it. Pastor in the church. My son is hooked on pornography. He’s leading worship on Sunday morning in the high school group. He has led four of his volleyball players to Christ. He has a Bible study in my house every Wednesday night and he’s hooked on pornography.
And he denied it for about twelve seconds. And then he fell into tears in repentance, “God, Dad, I’m so sorry. I’m so glad you finally found out. I have been a prisoner.”
And we were preparing, he’s a pastor now and he was helping a group of young people deal with this issue. And I heard him say something that, as a dad, I’m – most of us – we’re probably a little hard on ourselves. I’m pretty hard on me.
But now and then you hear a little window of, “You know, I think I did something right, yay!” And I heard him share with a group. He said, “You know what? The reason I was able to break the pattern when I got confronted was since the time I was a little boy, I remember my dad saying, ‘No matter what you do, it can’t change my love for you.’” And he said, “I messed up as a little boy lots of times and there were consequences, but I knew my dad loved me. And when that big thing happened, I knew it was safe.” And we went through it together. Do your kids know that?
Are you a safe place to come to when they really fail? When there is an addiction, when they went through rehab and they have relapsed, when they have run off and done something that just breaks your heart?
Now, does it mean there are not boundaries and consequences? No. But it means that they know you love them and nothing can change that.
One of the ways they learn that is they need to see you repent, right? How do people learn to get forgiveness from God? They need to see you get forgiveness from God.
And I remember when, actually, the same son was very, very small. And we were visiting my parents. And my dad – a great, great guy – but he was a Marine’s Marine. You know?
And so my son did something and it was really trite and I blew up and yelled, “Ryan! What are you doing?” Like that. And I started to walk away. And have you ever, as a parent, just realized the person who needs help is me, not my kid?
And the Spirit convicted me. And I thought, Oh that was, man, that’s about the worst dad. And so I went over and he’s four years old or something. And I said, “Come here, Ryan.” I said, “I’m sorry, son. And that was wrong. Okay? I don’t have any excuse. Will you forgive me?”
My little son puts his, “Sure, Dad.” He runs off, right? My dad, the Marine, “What in the heck are you doing?” I said, “Well, what do you mean?” “You’re the parent! You don’t ask your kids for forgiveness! Where did you learn that stuff?”
And I said, “Well, Dad, I want my kids to understand that when they mess up, when your heart is broken over it, and you come to your heavenly Father, you get forgiven. And I figured they will never know how to do that unless they see me do it.”
And I appreciate him, he kind of looked at me and he goes, he was a pretty young Christian then, “Hmm. All right.”
Could I ask you something? Can you impart grace because you have received it? Is there something in your life that you just, it’s like, Wow, man, it’s, whoo. I hope nobody finds out, but you just need to come to God this morning and say, I can’t be a gracious parent, because so much of my value is how my kids do this or that, I just need forgiveness so that I could give it.
And I just wouldn’t be at all surprised if there was not at least a handful or more of people who, the fact is, you came for whatever reason and you realize, I have never received grace for the first time. I’m not a follower of Jesus. This is kind of new to me. But if there is a place to be forgiven and have new life and eternal life, I really want it, but I’m not sure how. Then I would tell you that the offer is, if you will believe, if you will turn from your sin and raise the empty hands of faith, the God who made all that there is will forgive you and cleanse you, His Spirit will come inside your life, and He will give you a new beginning.
And, by the way, it won’t all be roses. You probably won’t get a Mercedes or a Cadillac in the mail tomorrow. Everything is not going to…
But you’ll never be alone. You will be certainly on your way to heaven. And the very power of the living God will live inside of you in the Person of Jesus, and He will make you like Him. And I cannot think of anything your kids need more than a mom or a dad who is a lot like Jesus.
As I talk to kids, parents, and grandparents – they have one thing in common. Fear. Think about what it’s like to grow up today and just, from the mouth of kids saying, “I’m really afraid I might make some really bad decisions or get involved in a relationship that is going to bring destruction later,” or I love the one perspective, “I’m really afraid that I will live in a way that is really not following Christ at all, and I won’t even know it.” That’s a pretty perceptive way to look at life.
Your kids are in a battle. I think it’s the hardest time, that I’m aware of, at least in recent history, to raise kids. And what I want to talk about today is how do you, as a parent or grandparent, help your kids win life’s biggest battles.
I want you to open your notes, if you will, and as you do, this is a message that is not so much, Here are three or four little practices. I remember reading a passage many, many years ago where God used a teenager to turn an entire country around.
There were a lot of smart people and powerful people, but they were paralyzed by fear. And there was this huge giant, nine feet tall. And there was a teenager named David and he watched all the people that ought to be doing something to make it happen and it was like, “Hey, I don’t get this.” Because he was naïve enough to realize, You know what? There may be a really big giant, but don’t these people understand who God is? He is blaspheming the living God.
And do you remember what he did? Some of you know the story. He went down and he got five, smooth stones and he put it in his sling and he just said, “Man, I’m taking him on, not in my power, but in God’s.”
And God used a teenager to slay a giant. And what I want you to know is that if you can live your life as a parent or grandparent, not so much focused on fear and protection, but equipping, how do you equip your son or daughter to slay the giants in their world?
God has been doing this for a long time. Daniel was a teenager when he got into the most counter-cultural, counter-Christian, anti-God environment and he changed the world. The same was true of Mary. A little, teenage girl when God wanted to change the world, He chooses a fifteen, maybe sixteen-year-old girl.
And believed that there was something in them, as they trusted Him, to really make a difference. Here’s the question. What do they need most? We’d think, Oh, well, a good education, a good home, when they get so old they need this, they need that.
I want to share with you that if I could only give my kids five things, five smooth stones to put in the pouch of their lives, to slay the giants I know that they are going to face, these would be them. In fact, all my kids are grown.
And I would say: This is what I want them to get, because if these five things become their lens, their worldview, and their core values, I will tell you what, I don’t care what happens in the world. They will do great. Are you ready?
Stone number one: Teach them to suffer well. The myth of the world is: No one should ever suffer at any time. And the myth of parenting is: How do I protect my little boy or little girl from ever going through difficult times? You’ve got to understand, they are going to go through difficult times. What you want to do is teach them to suffer well.
Let me give you a theology of suffering – biblical overview. Number one, life is hard, but God is good. They need to learn that early on. Number two, life is unjust. It’s not fair! But God is sovereign, He is in control.
The Old Testament roots is the life of Joseph. If you’re not familiar with it, this is one from the early storybooks, to when they get older, to reading, to pondering. They need to grow up with, Oh, Joseph. He was the seventeen-year-old whose brothers betrayed him and they put him in a pit. Boy, that’s not fair.
Not only did they put him in a pit but then he got sold and became a slave. That’s not fair. Then he got falsely accused of raping this guy’s wife. That’s not fair. Then he got stuck in prison and he helped these two guys and they promised they would help him, and they didn’t, and that’s not fair.
But all through those thirteen chapters, the Lord was with Joseph, the Lord was with Joseph, the Lord was with Joseph. And Joseph had been given a dream and a picture of what God wanted him to do, and he didn’t think that it was unusual to go through difficult, painful times.
He learned something in each one. God is going to take the difficulty that your kids go through, the unfairness, the pain, the kid who gets to play who is not as good, the one who doesn’t study and does better in grades, the people who get in a school when they practiced more and did better, the breakup that they are going to go through the first time – a boy or a girl says, “I don’t want to be with you anymore.” They are going to go through difficult, painful times.
What you want to do is teach them to suffer well. And what you learn from the life of Joseph: God is in control, and He orchestrates things, He works all things together for the good to them that love Him.
And so, yes, there was the pit; and, yes, there was the prison. But God did all that so Joseph became the second most powerful person in the world. And he ended up in the palace. He ended up second to Pharaoh and it was that role that saved the entire nation of Israel.
And so, at the end of his life, all of his brothers, all of his sisters, everyone is saved and they end up there and then his brothers were a little squirrely. That’s not a biblical term, but they were a little squirrely. And even after the father dies, the brothers are thinking, Well, Joseph has been really nice, he said he forgave us, but now that Dad is gone he is probably going to put it to us.
And Joseph turned to his brothers, it’s the very end of the book, it’s one of my favorite verses. Chapter 50, verse 20, he looks at his brothers and I think in his head he’s going, You guys still don’t get it, do you? And he says, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, to bring about this present result,” and I think he looked at all those families, “to preserve many people alive.”
The New Testament, talk about an example, Peter is writing during a time of intense persecution. People who love Jesus are getting dragged out of their homes, they are being taken into stadiums, they are being wrapped in animal clothing and thrown into coliseums, they are being used as human torches and being lit for the emperor for his cocktail parties, and being burned alive. And life is not fair and life is hard. How could a good God let that happen?
Peter would write, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in 1 Peter 2, verses 21 to 23, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps. He committed no sin; no deceit was found in His mouth. When they hurled insults at Him, He didn’t retaliate. When He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.”
Your kids are called to suffer, but they are called to suffer well, not blaming someone else, not getting resentful, not saying, “Life isn’t fair,” not getting consumed with themselves – to suffer well and to trust God the way Jesus did.
Because what He will do, He will do something in their character and He will use them and He is going to prepare them for things beyond their wildest dreams, if they don’t bail out of the process. In fact, the application is: Help your child to grow through suffering.
Let me give you two or three maybe practical ways to do that. One, as they are growing up, ask them often, what are they concerned about? What’s going on? Just make little notes for yourself where, What are they concerned about? And don’t be quick when they are hurting. You say, “Oh, it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be all right, I’ll go talk to the coach,” or, “I’ll talk to your teacher,” or, “They are bullying you, I’ll step in, I’ll make everything…”
Find out what is going on in their heart. That means you’ve got to take some time and they usually don’t share that kind of stuff when you say, “Okay, let’s have a parent, meaningful conversation.” They usually do it when you’re just kind of hanging out.
The second is, when you find out what’s going on, what they’re really concerned about, what bugs them – go ahead and verbalize, and rather than solve everything, just say, “That doesn’t sound fair, does it? Boy, that must make you feel terrible.” Just affirm that it’s okay to be in life and that this is a raw deal.
And then model something. Say, “Why don’t we, this isn’t fair, let’s talk to God.” And just, in your own language, in your own heart, just share, “God, this hurts. This is difficult. Will you help my son, help my daughter?” And model for them.
A third thing that you can do, not only ask them what’s going on and pray with them, when you’re going through difficult times, I think sometimes parents have this, I’m a good Christian parent! I never have problems. I have a good attitude all the time. Share when you get a raw deal, where it’s appropriate.
Sit around the table and say, “I can’t believe it, you know? I got laid off. This is so unfair. I was one of the early employees; so-and-so didn’t.” And process with them, let them see you. And then you go to Joseph’s life and you open the Bible and say, and let them see your emotions: I don’t like this, this isn’t fair, but I am going to trust You, God. You begin to lay a foundation for them.
My one son is a musician. And as he was growing up, there was a young man in our church in Santa Cruz who was a prodigy. He was an amazing drummer, a guitar player. He said, “Oh, the piano, it looks like guitar strings but they are like this,” and three weeks later he could play the piano. Someone came and did a concert and had a little mandolin, he goes, “That looks kind of cool,” three weeks later, he was playing it. It was unbelievable. He wrote songs, had this voice that was just perfect pitch.
And he hung out at my house, those of you who have had kids with bands, like, the drums are in the garage, then the pianos, then the wires, and there are always people at your house all the time, they eat all your food, and you think, Well, it’s better than them being someplace else, right?
And John was super skinny. Super, super skinny. And we didn’t know why. I didn’t know why because he ate so much of my food all the time. And one day I found out why, because his parents called and said, “We are at Dominican Hospital, we would really like you to stop by. John’s got cancer.”
Two weeks later we found out it was a very rapidly growing type of cancer. Two years later, when he was emaciated and looked like he had been through a Nazi concentration camp, just skin and bones, they put a hospital bed in the lower part of his basement, and our worship pastor, with a guitar; his mom and dad; his fiancé was over here; Jason and I were here; and one other friend. And we sang worship songs and we prayed, because he had just a day, maybe, to live. And he died.
And when we walked out of there, knowing that he had hours or maybe a day, and he did die, I sat in the car with my son. And it was dead quiet. And he turned to me and said, “Dad, John’s got more musical ability in his little finger than I have in my whole body. How could God let him die and me live?”
And I will tell you, in those moments, parents, you better have done your homework and taught your child to suffer well. And I didn’t have a little verse to say, “Oh, it’s going to be okay, Jason, and God’s going to work it out somehow, someway.”
“Son, it’s a fallen world. Life is hard, but God is good. I don’t understand. And I am angry and I am hurt too. All I know is that John is twenty-five years old and sometimes God’s entire agenda can be fulfilled in twenty-five years, sometimes it’s fifty-eight years, sometimes it’s ninety-five years – that this isn’t all there is, this is painful and this hurts,” and we cried together in the car. And I watched my son suffer through it well. And he didn’t blame God, he didn’t turn away from God, he didn’t get resentful, he didn’t blame other people.
Some of the deepest things that will happen in the character of your children will be in their suffering. Don’t try and fix everything. Help them understand, it is a fallen world, life is going to be hard, life is going to be unfair, but Jesus is enough in the midst of it.
Suffering is normal, if you didn’t get that as the major life message. Suffering is normal.
The second smooth stone to put into their pouch is: Teach them to work unto the Lord. You understand that if you eliminate the time that you sleep, the time that you brush your teeth, the time that you eat a little bit of food, the time that you do basic necessities, you and your children will spend somewhere between sixty to eighty of your waking hours working. So that’s going to be a lot of their life, right?
So don’t you think you ought to teach them? So, how do you think about work? A theology of work. Work is a calling, not a job. The word vocation we used to use, “What’s your vocation?” The Latin meaning of vocation is, “a calling.”
He doesn’t call people into just full-time ministry. He calls people to be software developers, He calls people to be stay-at-home moms, He calls people to be construction workers, He calls people to be athletes, He calls people to be musicians.
There is a calling. Your son or your daughter has a DNA like no one else’s in almost seven billion people. That DNA makes them good at certain things, not good at certain things, it gives them passions, directions, personality. So you need to help them discover, So, what is God’s call on their life?
He’s got a purpose for their life. All work is sacred. It’s not white-collar and blue-collar or manual and headwork. All work is sacred to God, because He has made all people to do all work, and all work matters. It’s holy.
Third is, our work is to flow from God’s unique design and purpose for our lives. Doesn’t it make sense that if they are very analytical and they love mathematics and physics comes easy that being an engineer might be a really cool thing? Or if they are very relational and they love English and they are great with words that maybe it’s going to be talking with someone.
And doesn’t it make sense that if they happen to have a personality that might be a little bit more reserved and they are a deep thinker and they are a little bit artistic that maybe a sales job isn’t really what they ought to do?
See, God wants you to understand that the tools that He has put in the heart of your child is exactly the preparation, because He wants to use them. They are special.
A theology of work means that you work for an audience of one. This is hard. You don’t work to impress your mom and dad, you don’t work for the boss, you don’t work for the manager, you don’t work so you can make “x” amount of dollars. You work because you say, My life is a living sacrifice and when I come into a room like this, I’m just reminded of who God is. When I give the first portion of my time, the first portion of my money, the first portion of my energy and my dreams I am saying, “God, I want to live my life before You.”
And then when I show up, I’m a full-time Christian worker developing software or changing diapers or hitting a ball or catching a ball or coaching a team or writing blueprints or developing the cure for cancer. I live for an audience of one. I am made in the image of God.
The old theologians would say: “Doing life before the face of God.” That’s how you want your kids to learn to work. The Old Testament roots are Genesis 2:15 and I put that verse in there because work occurs and the assignment to work is before there is sin.
The myth of our day is that work is a necessary evil to make money so you can raise your standard of living.
So get through, you’ve got to work, get it done, because life is really about Friday, because Friday starts the weekend! And the weekends are about me and fun and pleasure and just what I want to do.
So work is a pain in the rear that, I guess if you have to do it, so here’s the deal. We have seventy percent of Americans surveyed don’t like their job. You want your kid, that’s sixty-some percent, maybe seventy percent of their waking hours, you live in a world where, I guess I’ve got to do this to make money in order to…
God says, “What a silly, silly way to live. I want you to discern, This is what I made you to do. And I want you to love it. I want you to discover not, you aren’t what you do, you should do what you are.” And there is a world of difference.
Berkeley had their graduation and of all people, they had Jimmy Page, the electric guitar player, supposed to be one of the best ever, ever. Some of you have never heard of him, others it brings back lots of memories. Easy, easy.
And here’s what he said to the graduates. He said, “Here’s what I have learned. I learned to do what I really love, and when you do what you really love, it’s not like working. But what really matters in life is doing what you really love, but do it in a way to serve other people.”
Now, I’m not sure how some of his songs served other people, but you can go from there, right? Amazing. That’s what you want for your kids.
So, the application is the New Testament, Colossians 3:23. What does he say? “Do your work heartily, unto the Lord.” Do it before God; do your work, not unto men, but unto God, where your kids realize, Whatever I do, whether it’s, I’m the small kid making my bed, whether my parents say, “Clean out the garage,” where I’m doing my homework, or whether I’m at college, whether I’m on a construction site, you want to teach them a work ethic that they work hard, they work well, they do it with a great attitude.
And when you do, you will help them be successful in whatever they do. But more than that, they will learn that work is a gift from God. Help your child discover God’s calling for his or her life, so they can impact their world and beyond.
A couple of specific ways that might help, especially when they are young, start early or begin now, and give them weekly chores. Give them things to do. And whether that’s making their bed, taking out the trash, unloading the dishwasher, doing some stuff in the yard – just, if you have to make up chores, but give your kids work to do and teach them how to do it with a good attitude.
The second thing is, become a student of your child. What are they good at? Just, literally, you ought to just study your child. What are they good at? How do they process information? What is their personality? Extrovert or introvert? Are they good with their hands? Are they mechanically minded? Do they have people skills? Do they tend to like sports or do they like…?
You want to be a student of your child and then you want to provide opportunities for them to develop. And your goal isn’t how they reflect on you. All your kids don’t need to go to college. All your kids don’t need to have great SAT scores. What you want to do is figure out: What did God make them to do and how do I coach and cooperate with them to do what God made them to do?
Because you know what? They will have a life of joy. They will have a life of impact. And they won’t be one of those seventy percent of the people going, I did this, my parents wanted me to do this, I felt all this pressure, and now I make a lot of money doing it and that’s really good, I guess, except now I can’t do anything else because I’ve got a lifestyle that requires this much money, so now I am sentenced to a life of doing what I am not made to do and I don’t really like to do it. And I am fulfilling everyone’s expectations, so I am just going to wait until my mid-life crisis, then I’m going to blow all this off.
The message: You were created to work. You want your kids, isn’t that a different message than: It’s a necessary evil? You were created to work.
Stone number three: Teach them to manage their lives wisely. Key word is: manage.
We are going to talk about a theology of stewardship. Do you know what a steward is? A steward is a manager. The myth of our day is that: It’s mine! I made it! I got it! I’ll decide what to do with it!
God says, “No, no, you don’t understand.” Here is a theology of stewardship. God owns everything. Psalm 50 says, “The Lord is,” it says, ‘The earth is mine,’ says the Lord, ‘and everything in it.’” God has entrusted things – time, talent, and treasure – and then He appointed us and our children to manage them for Him.
I tried to help my kids think about, What are you going to do with the time God gave you? What are you going to do with the talent God gave you? What are you going to do with the money that God gave you? What are you going to do with the brains God gave you? What are you going to do with the educational opportunity that God gave you?
It’s a stewardship. It’s not yours to blow off or decide, I’m going to do this or do that. God, what do You want me to do?
God expects a positive return on His investments. He has placed very special, unique abilities in your kids. For some of them, He has given them a lot of leadership; for some it’s brains; others athletic, artistic; for some it’s money. He expects a positive return.
And He will hold them accountable and I believe He will hold us accountable as parents, “Did you teach them to be managers?” Or did, out of the pressure of wanting them to be happy all the time, you gave them everything and taught them to be little narcissists? And then when the world doesn’t go their way, they get really mad, and then you can’t figure out why they don’t walk with God and don’t care much about you, because they think the world revolves around them. And the word they get early on, right? When they are even small, like two years old, “That’s mine. That’s mine. Don’t take that! That’s mine!”
And then they get older, “It’s mine!” And then they get even older, “And it’s mine!” You want to break that early. It’s God’s. How are you using it? It will completely change their perspective.
The Old Testament roots are Genesis chapter 1. Before sin enters the world, God says, “I created all that there is – good, good, good, good, good, good. And then I created you very good. Now, are you ready for this? Here’s the earth. Be co-creator with Me. I want you to manage it for Me: animals, manage it; fish of the sea, manage it; the future, manage it; the garden; manage it. Use your creativity. Explore, build.”
Christians should be the greatest environmentalists on the face of the earth. He said, “Steward the earth. Steward your gifts. Steward your money.”
The application from Matthew chapter 25 is the parable of the talents. That’s one worth really going over with your kids. Jesus is talking about how the kingdom works and He says a king was going to go away for a long period of time and he gave to his servants one, five talents; one, two talents; one, one talent, according to their ability.
In other words, if this person had a lot of ability, he is going to give them more. A little bit less ability, give them a little bit less. And the way he evaluated them wasn’t on the end result. It is, “What did you do with what I gave you?”
Two of them doubled them and he said, “Well done, good and faithful servants. Enter the joy of your master.” One of them squandered theirs because they were afraid; they buried it. And they got a sharp, sharp rebuke.
You want your son or your daughter to realize, God has given you some talents. He is going to hold you responsible. His heart is for you to have great joy with Him in them. But you need to use them well.
Here’s the application: Help your child become faithful in the little things. Faithful in the little things.
Now, I am going pretty fast, and you’re writing pretty fast. And Luke 16:10 says that, “He who is faithful in a very little thing will be faithful also in much. And he who is unrighteous in a very little thing will be unrighteous also in much.”
I would encourage you, as parents, that’s a real principle. It’s a financial passage, in terms of the context, but it’s not just talking about finances. You want your kids to be faithful in little things: how they clean their room. You want them to be faithful in their words and their attitudes, because if they are not faithful in little things, they are not going to be faithful in big things.
And I’m not talking about over-scrutiny and being legalistic, but you really want to help them to be faithful. And the little thing in this context, do you know what it is? It’s money.
The reason Jesus talks so much about money is because it’s the cleanest, clearest, most visible, tangible thing where you can figure out how you’re a steward or not. And what He is saying is, “If you can’t learn to manage money well, I’m not going to entrust true riches.”
If God gives you “x” amount of money and you can’t even handle money, “Why in the world would I entrust spiritual things or an important relationship or a job with more responsibility?” The training wheels of stewardship are money. You can see it. It comes in, it goes out, you’re given an amount, you’re accountable. If you can’t handle money, what Jesus teaches, there’s no way you’re going to handle your life.