In the family of Andrew Murray, of South Africa, eleven children grew to adult life. Five of the sons became ministers and four of the daughters became ministers’ wives. The next generation had a still more striking record in that ten grandsons became ministers and thirteen became missionaries. The secret of this unusual contribution to the Christian ministry was the Christian home.” John Mott in his biography of Andrew Murray reminds us of the power of a father’s legacy.
Last month we began the topic of a father’s godly legacy. How critical is it to us that we leave behind children who love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ? You can tell how important something is to a man by the decisions that he makes. A man will find a way to do what is important to him. No matter how difficult it is, he will do what he considers must be done.
God has called the dad to provide for his family. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8). Most men are responsible when it comes to providing for their families. Often there are mornings they are tired and would like to sleep in, yet they get up and go to work. There can be a host of days where there are other things they would rather do; yet they make the right choice and go to work.
Funny, how sometimes others know us better than we know ourselves. They know that we do what is most important to us by observing the decisions we make and the actions we take. We may think something is important to us, but if we aren’t making appropriate decisions and allocating time to accomplish it, we need to face the fact that it really isn’t important to us.
Assuming raising sons and daughters to be mighty in the Lord Jesus is vital for each dad reading this, how might one go about this? Paul tells us the basic “components” of a person. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). We see from this verse that a person consists of a body, soul, and spirit. So how might we establish a proper foundation of each area?
First let’s consider how we could prepare our children physically. A body is important because it houses the soul and spirit. If the physical house we live in is in poor repair, we are less effective in life. When the storms come, a leaky roof diverts our attention away from what we could be doing. If the furnace is faulty, we will have to take emergency measures during cold winter storms, and poor drainage may cause our basement to flood. For us to invest time in priorities, our homes must be maintained in good repair.
In a similar way, our health impacts greatly how well we can serve the Lord. If we have no energy or are sickly, we won’t have the stamina to give the Lord full days. Then when we come home from work each evening, we will be too tired to lead family Bible time. As a matter of fact, many dads come home for work and choose to vegetate through the evening.
Proper nutrition and exercise may well mean the difference between suffering lifestyle-related diseases with onerous medical expenses that could be avoided or leading an active productive life. What we feed our children and how their bodies are strengthened will greatly determine how well their bodies will function during their lifetime, and it will set appetites that will help or hinder them throughout their lives.
During the last twenty years, obesity percentages have continued to climb to the point that it is being called a national epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control with roughly one third of all adults being classified as obese. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Americans are sowing to the flesh so effectively that obesity statistics keep rising at alarming rates. Being overweight leads to serious and costly health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea. Next time you are at the doctor’s office take an informal poll and count how many in the waiting room are overweight versus how many are trim. Every time I’ve done that the results have been consistently shocking.
We have heard some say how manageable diabetes is today, but I don’t believe it. I have personally observed the “fruit” of diabetes in the elderly at our nursing home church. Toes and portions of a foot are cut off in the attempt to stop infection from spreading. Legs are removed up to the knee before the infection is finally stopped. Kidneys fail, and eyesight is lost all due to diabetes.
The best way to deal with diabetes is to prevent it in the first place. A proper diet and exercise are necessary. Parents modeling a healthy lifestyle and then teaching their children the same will ensure that sons and daughters have bodies capable of serving the Lord.
When you observe an overweight parent, notice how common it is see overweight children in the family. I know I have not been a good example of weight control and a balanced diet for my children. However, over the last five years it has been a focus of mine to become a good example and great positive strides have been made in nutrition for our family. If only the bad food didn’t taste so good it would be much easier. But isn’t that true for sin as well? Sin is pleasurable, and therefore must be resisted. Overeating unhealthy food is also pleasurable, and for our health it is good to resist.
Nutrition goes hand-in-hand with exercise, and we can observe from 1 Timothy 4:8 that the physical emphasis is somewhat beneficial when compared with godliness. “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” Unfortunately, all too often parents think of competitive sports as the answer to a need for exercise. Yet, we have regularly talked to people who mention injuries they have received due to childhood sports’ team activity. Exercise at home together as a family is a much safer way to receive exercise without the heightened risk of injury due to competitive sports. Also, when exercising at home with the family, the child doesn’t have the negative influences of other teammates nor develop the appetite to waste hours and hours watching the sport on TV.
Simple exercises at home are possible and effective. If Dad will work out with the children, there is the added benefit of time well spent together building relationships. As an experiment this winter, we had a three-month fitness challenge on Titus2.com for families. Many who participated commented to us how they greatly enjoyed and benefited from their time invested working out together. Simple habits learned as children will bring lifelong benefits to health. However, it does take effort to begin and maintain exercise programs. If you would be interested in a few introductory exercises that you can do at home as a family, you can go to: February challenge.
I ended up suspending my normal, daily exercise during the last trip. I really didn’t miss the hard work and the time it takes. However, I did miss the benefits of exercise. When I don’t exercise, I feel lethargic and have greater difficulty maintaining my weight. I’ve found it to be one of those necessary aspects of life that has to be a priority for it to happen. Then once it is over, I’m satisfied that I did it and glad to get on with the rest of the day.
Our influence is powerful in the lives of our children. We are sowing appetites in their lives by our example. Medical costs are going to spiral upward through the years, and the healthier a person is, the less he will spend and the higher the quality of his life. A fit person will have more energy with which to minister to his family and serve the Lord. May we teach our children how to maintain their bodies for the glory of the Lord. “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Next month we will continue this series.