Contentment – Part 2

In last month’s Mom’s Corner we delved into the difficult topic of contentment. We saw that Paul had learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself. However, we also discovered the root of this contentment was not in the situation, but rather in his relationship with Jesus Christ and his trust in His will. We also realized that Paul’s contentment did not mean he didn’t desire change or pray for it in a particular situation. Instead, he was able to fully rest in his Lord Jesus and wait for His timing to work.

This leads us to other important questions for Christian wives and mothers to consider in relation to contentment. We may agree that we want to be content and would like to learn this contentment. However, we don’t really know where to begin. We are too steeped in our natural inclinations and wrong thoughts. Paul is a wonderful teacher of contentment, so let’s again turn to what he has to say. Was there an area of Paul’s life that was difficult for him? What did he do about it? What was God’s response, and how did that affect Paul?

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Paul had what he called a “thorn in the flesh.” He asked the Lord three times to be relieved from his “thorn in the flesh.” However, the Lord’s answer was “no.” God had a purpose in Paul’s difficulty and was going to use it as a demonstration of His grace and strength in Paul’s life. What was Paul’s response and ultimately his secret to contentment? He chose to “take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

For me, personally, this goes totally against my natural, fleshly reactions to hard circumstances. What I feel like doing is to grumble, complain, be irritated and unhappy, feel sorry for myself, and try to figure out a solution. I am still at the stage in my Christian walk where I must choose to “. . . [bring] into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) because it isn’t my first, automatic reaction to take pleasure in what I don’t like.

James learned the same lessons as Paul did about contentment and facing the areas of our lives that would rob us of contentment. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). The word “count” means “to consider, deem, account, think” (Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary). This is an act of my will. It is a decision I make as to how I will think about my trials. James didn’t tell me to simply accept my trouble, to endure my difficulties, or to grit my teeth until it was past. No, he said to “count it all joy.” JOY! Doesn’t that sound like an impossible reaction to hardship? It is, when I am relying on myself. I have the choice to make regarding my thoughts. God does the work in my life.

There are two sections of Scripture I would like to look at regarding our view of difficulties. These passages show me that God has purposes far beyond just getting through a struggle. What these verses teach me is that my focus is everything. My natural reactions put myself in the limelight. How does this affect my comfort level? Is this to my liking? Can I see anything positive in it? Scripture tells me that Jesus Christ is to be the center and object of my thoughts and therefore, as always, the focus. When this is true, then I can rest. Resting is the place of faith and trust in my sovereign God. It is acceptance that He knows what is best for my life. I am to count it as joy. When I receive trials with this attitude, then I am content. My joy is not in what is happening but rather in my relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:1-5).

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh . . . For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11, 16-18).

We know that our attitudes are, in large measure, the attitudes of the home as a whole. Seeing that Scripture teaches us contentment is important and knowing this from personal experience as well, may we seek contentment. May we begin to make the choice to “count it all joy” and to take “pleasures in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

Can Dads Influence Their Children’s Spiritual Outcome? – Part 4

How deep is the sadness when parents lose their young adult children to the world. To lose them at a time when the sweetness of the parent-child relationship should be close to its peak makes this a high fall. To lose one’s child after years of investing heavily into his life through homeschooling makes the fruit of the loss all the more bitter. To most of us, it would make more sense to lose our children if they weren’t homeschooled. How is it that some homeschooled Christian children are being lost to the world? Is there nothing that we can do as fathers to train up God-fearing children who will love and serve the Lord? We continue with this heavy subject (read the previous months here).

I’ve copied that last half of the message the father wrote again for reference.

What I am seeking is good, practical advice on how and at what age to expose my children to the world. And how to keep from losing them to the world. (I’ve got a seven-year-old daughter, four-year-old daughter, a two-year-old son, and one on the way.) This isn’t the first time that I have heard people speak of sheltered kids getting out and “going nuts.” It seems to me that it would be best to expose them to the results of sin (chapel for recovering addicts, jail, etc.), as compared to them seeing “all of the pleasures and none of the guilt,” such as is seen at the mall, etc. Maybe even working this into some kind of a family ministry (although my children may be too young now, that is part of my question). This recent comment about the backsliding grandson has got me seriously considering self-employment and some kind of family businesses.

First, I would like to make a comment to answer the implied question this father asks, “How and at what age should I expose my children to the world?” Scripture would provide direction if that were the primary issue. However I believe the real question is, “How do I prepare my children to be in the world but not of the world?” Scripture has much insight on this subject, and that is the essence of what I have been sharing.

Initially, we saw that the starting point is an awareness that within our hearts is the potential for each of us to be ensnared (Matthew 15:19). The child who does not have a healthy respect for and fear of fire will likely get burned. The Christian who doesn’t have a healthy respect for and fear of what his heart is capable of will likely fall.

Next comes the whole issue of having and keeping our children’s hearts. If we have their hearts, they will listen to us and receive instruction from our hearts. That is why Solomon said, “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways” (Proverbs 23:26). Solomon was instructing his son to give him his heart. He wanted his son to entrust the center of his very being to the care of his father. “Let thine eyes observe my ways” might be restated to, “Be attentive to the way I live life and be favorably drawn to it.”

Therein lies the tremendous responsibility that goes with having our children’s hearts. What have we done with the most precious trust we have received? Have we tenderly cared for their hearts or lashed out in anger at them? Can they trust Dad more than anyone else in the world and go to him when they have any sort of problem that needs to be shared?

Our children will give their hearts to someone or something, and that is what will have the greatest shaping effect on their life. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). The person whom your child perceives as valuing him the most will have his heart. Does your child know that you care for him more than anyone else in the world? Do you tell him how much you love him and how special he is? Do your actions confirm your words? Do you spend time with him?

We communicate value in many ways. I think one of the most obvious and immediate is by our facial expressions and the tone in our voices. A person’s face brightens when speaking with someone who is important to him. This is especially obvious when a young man or young woman is speaking with someone in which they have an emotional interest. It is true of dads as well. Do the expressions on our faces indicate the delight we have in our children?

I’m not saying that we should put on false faces. We need to “tell” our faces how important our families are to us because our faces will communicate to them. Once the Lord convicted me of this and I became aware of it, I found it natural to smile at my children. When I saw them first thing in the morning, it was easy to brighten my voice, smile, and cheerfully greet them. I delight in my children. They are my greatest treasures. However, I had gotten lazy in communicating this to them. My face now tells them how much they mean to me.

I think that is why anger is so damaging. Next time you are around an angry person, watch his face. It looks awful and indicates such dislike of the person that the anger is directed toward. Is it any wonder that the child of an angry father is quick to give his heart to someone else? The child “knows” the parent does not love or value him, and he is going to find someone who will. Brothers, may we not justify ANY anger in our lives at all. Anger alone may drive our children away.

Solomon told his son to watch his ways with the goal of favorably influencing the child’s life. Unfortunately, even though Solomon was the wisest man in all the earth, his life had serious problems. Eventually he was disobedient, had out-of-control lust as evidenced by hundreds of wives and concubines, and allowed idol worship. We can see that Solomon’s children were watching his ways by observing the results in his children’s lives.

Our children know us better than anyone else (except maybe our wives), and they see what sort of Christians we really are. They know whether Jesus is more exciting to us or whether a sports event is. They know whether we are more inclined to want to read the Bible, spend time with them, read a magazine or newspaper, or watch TV.

The first priority for us is winning and keeping our children’s hearts. The second issue is what we are doing with those hearts as they will be drawn to what draws us. They will want to emulate their dad if there is any measure of heart attachment. The things that are important to you will likely be important to them. That is the power that having their hearts involves. I encourage you to ask yourself if your children are seeing a father who is sold out to the Lord or one who is living for the world.

My ultimate goal in having my child’s heart is to transfer his heart from me to his heavenly Father over time. It all begins when he comes to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Then over time, I want my child to grow steadily more dependent on Him and less on me. The emphasis is on a relationship with Christ—loving God with all of his heart, soul, and mind. Children aren’t born with that love for Christ, but God does give them a natural love for their parents. We are to use that relationship to lead them into a relationship with God. It is to be a process of transferring their hearts from us to their Lord.

I love what God said about Abraham in Genesis 18:19. “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” With all my heart I want the Lord to say that about me, and I want my children to benefit from that blessing. I desire to raise children who love God with all their hearts and want to serve Him. Brothers, if you have your children’s hearts, what are you doing with them?