What do you really want for your children?
Popular author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer in What Do You Really Want for Your Children says, “Parents want their children to value themselves, to be self-reliant and independent, to take risks, to be free from stress and anxiety, to live peaceful lives, to celebrate present moments, to value wellness and creativity, and to feel a sense of purpose.”
Most parents are practical and realistic with what they want for their children. They don’t usually envision their children being rich or famous, having perfect marriages, or living in beautiful homes. Yet they do want their children to develop a sense of tranquility and contentedness and be able to handle the challenges of life without being overwhelmed.
What does God want?
Condensed in a simple sentence, most parents want their children to develop the ability to one day enjoy life as high functioning, positive, fulfilled adults. But is this what God wants for our children?
Consider these words, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). Note the phrase “no greater joy.” Nothing should make us happier than reports about our children journeying in the way of Truth!
Chap Bettis, author of The Disciple Making Parent, says,
“Surrounding us are parents making superhuman sacrifices for their children’s soccer practice, hockey practice, academic progress, and music lessons. We can be tempted to follow them. While we may give lip service to discipling our children, the reality comes when we start prioritizing activities … Here lies the crux of the matter … Each parent must decide whether he is more concerned that his child be accepted into Heaven, or ‘Harvard’. We all have ‘Harvards’—those worldly successes we desire for our children, but the question remains, ‘Which is most important to me?’ Each parent must finish the sentence ‘I have no greater joy than …’”
Orientating our hearts
So what brings you the greatest happiness concerning your children? To answer the question honestly, you must examine your heart. Orientating our parenting begins, not with our children’s hearts, but with our own hearts.
Input results in output. The things in your heart will overflow into your children’s hearts. If you value intellectual development, your children will more than likely be academically inclined. If you prioritize physical development, your children will probably enjoy sports. And if you focus on social development, your children will usually like spending time with people.
While there are many worthwhile goals and helpful activities for our children, let’s not settle for what’s good, let’s aim to give them the best. More than anything, our children need truth – the living Truth – Jesus Christ. He alone is all satisfying and all-sufficient.
While we should pay attention to the emotional, intellectual and physical wellbeing of our children, the focus of our parenting should be their spiritual development. Our number one priority should be to help our children (with the empowering of the Holy Spirit) to love, know, serve, honour, and treasure Jesus above all else (cf. Matthew 22:37, Joshua 24:15b).
Heart to head to hands
If the spiritual formation of our children is our main concern, then we’ll order our time and energies accordingly. One way to do this is to establish daily interactive family times to discuss God’s Word, pray, sing praises, and seek the Lord. The progression should be heart to head to hands. We must help children connect with the Living Truth (Jesus), contemplate the written truth (Bible), and actively live the truth.
What’s in your heart? If your overriding desire is to “… gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:8-9), then your children will almost certainly want to embrace Jesus and be embraced by Him, too.