Can Dads Influence Their Children’s Spiritual Outcome? – Part 6

(If you’d like to read the previous articles in this series, please do so.)

There is a wonderful elderly man we know at the nursing home, and we love him dearly. We have known him for close to ten years, but I’m afraid he won’t live much longer. The biggest problem seems to be that he doesn’t eat and therefore is wasting away. I don’t see how such a thin person can continue to lose weight. The food seems to be good there, but I’m told he just sits in front of his food, picks at it for a while, and then quits. He will die without nourishment.

I recently had a very engaging discussion for about an hour with a young man in his early teens. He was strongly opinionated, and I was enjoying asking him questions in trying to understand what the basis was for the decisions he was making. He was intelligent and articulate, and yet there was a major disconnect in his reasoning. I then asked him about personal and family devotions. He said he was having personal time with the Lord, but his family didn’t have a time when they would look at Scripture together. After hearing himself say that and realizing how that appeared, he thought for a moment and said, “Well, I guess I’d have to say, that our family devotion is sort of all day. It is the way we live.”

Have you ever thought about the fact that God did not have to make our bodies to need food? God could have easily created us never to require food, but He had a purpose in it. “Give us day by day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3). We require continued sustenance to keep our focus on our Provider.

The reality of physical food is used by the Lord to teach us about our need for spiritual food. In John 21:15-17 we read, “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” Jesus was not talking about Simon Peter physically feeding sheep but rather spiritually feeding the flock.

Notice how Jesus related Peter’s love for Christ with Peter’s feeding those for which he would soon be responsible. Peter would soon be leader of the church in Jerusalem, and if Peter loved Jesus, Peter was to feed them spiritually. If Peter loved the Lord, he could demonstrate that love by feeding the flock. In asking the question three times with slight variations, Jesus was making His point very clear. “Peter, if you love Me, you will feed My sheep.” That is true of us dads as well, if we love the Lord Jesus, we will spiritually feed those He has entrusted to our care.

In John 10:3-4 we read, “To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” The shepherd leads the sheep out to find good pasture. He is careful that the sheep only eat what is beneficial for them. He cares about the sheep and wants to see them grow and be healthy. A shepherd may be negligent in several areas and still not devastate the flock, but if he is not feeding them, they will suffer. That is so true for our families. We may fail our families in many ways, but if we aren’t feeding them spiritually every day, they will suffer.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psalms 23:1-2). What a beautiful picture of a caring Shepherd Who pastures His flock in lush green fields where they will eat well and then may rest. Do we fathers make our daily family devotion time appetizing? Does our family look forward to dining on God’s Word together? Is it something we are excited about like a hungry man with a steak dinner, or do we force ourselves to take a few bites when we really aren’t interested? If we aren’t interested in God’s Word then we need not expect our families to be excited.

Ezekiel 34 is amazing as God blasts those shepherding Israel. “. . . Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock” (Ezekiel 34:2-3). “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock . . .” (Ezekiel 34:10). God harshly judges the shepherds who will not nurture their sheep.

Can we be serious about our desire to raise children who will be men and women of God without feeding them the spiritual food that they will need to grow spiritually strong and healthy? How can they resist the world if they are not spiritually strong?

A homeowner who says he is working hard to grow a nice, healthy lawn and never feeds it is only fooling himself. All his neighbors know the truth by merely observing his lawn and what steps he is taking. They can see that his actions aren’t consistent with his words. In the same way, those around us who observe our children and who visit our home will soon come to understand what emphasis we place on spiritually feeding our family.

Feeding those we are responsible for is critical. Just as we can expect repercussions from the government if parents don’t physically feed their children, there are consequences when parents don’t spiritually feed their children. Why is it so many dads don’t lead their family in daily Bible reading when this is such a serious matter? There are probably a myriad of answers, but NONE of them matter. I believe if dads realized the consequences they will experience (and observe in the lives of their children) for not spiritually feeding them, they would get serious (and excited) about daily feeding their family God’s Word.

The Lord is our example. He says, “I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 34:14-15). Men, we must feed our families (see Feed My Sheep). I would encourage every dad not to eat a meal the day following a missed family devotion. Let your physical hunger spur you on to feeding your family’s spiritual hunger.

When I started leading the family devotion, I knew Teri could have done a far better job. But that was okay because I knew I needed to do it, and God would enable me to improve over time. The Lord has been so faithful through the years in teaching me how to lead my family. He will do the same for you if you will begin (if you aren’t currently). So Dad, what are you feeding your family tonight?


The topic of sleep is one that is very real to every mother. Pregnancies, babies, busy schedules, homeschooling, outside activities, ministry, relationships—almost every area of life has the potential of robbing us of sleep. If I feel tired throughout the day, is it because I am not getting enough sleep? Does it seem that I don’t have the available time to sleep the hours my body requires? Do I envy others who seem to have much more time in their day because they function nicely on fewer hours of sleep than I do?

Recently, a mom asked me:

I used to sleep up to twelve hours a night and still could sleep ten if I had the time. I find that as I have more tasks to care for, I am cutting down on my sleep. I know the rule that we need eight hours of sleep, but I have seen some women live on seven hours consistently. I also know back in previous days most women (families actually) went to bed at 9 and rose at 3:30 or 4 a.m. I would like to hear from you since you had seven hours sleep time scheduled but still nursed during the night, even if for only the first few weeks. That is the toughest time to get through! Any advice?

Scripture warns several times about the dangers of loving sleep, “How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Proverbs 6:9-11). “Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread” (Proverbs 20:13).

These verses show us that in general we have to guard against wanting to have too much sleep. We should exercise caution as we evaluate how much time to allocate for sleep. Our tendency is to choose the easy path, the one that includes more sleep. Because of this warning, I believe we have to carefully observe our “need” for sleep and make sure we are meeting true needs and not fulfilling wants in this area. With this warning against too much sleep, I believe we can move on to evaluate how busy moms can get an adequate amount of sleep to function normally.

I don’t know about you, but when I don’t get enough sleep my whole personality changes. I am more easily discouraged. I become angry at small things. I can’t think well. I cry, and nothing seems right. This doesn’t appear to be uncommon among women. I have also seen in Scripture several extremely godly men who, at one point in each of their lives, ask God to let them die. To me it seems to be related to them becoming very weary. These men are Jonah (Jonah 4:7-8), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), and Moses (Numbers 11:15).

I would encourage us to make sure our schedules are such that they allow us to sleep the amount of time we need to each night so that we can function well each day. Our family’s schedule helps Steve and me in this area. We have a set time to go to bed each night, Sunday through Thursday, and a set time to get up. There is very little that we allow to interfere with these bed times and wake up times. The consistency of our sleep schedule has enabled us to determine sleep amounts that allow us the greatest amount of productive daytime while still adequately meeting our sleep needs.

It may take some trial and error to determine whether one should have seven, eight, or nine hours of sleep each night. Obviously the number of hours of sleep we need may not be the same as the number we could sleep. In the case of the mom who wrote the note, she said she could sleep ten hours each night, but she may only need eight hours of sleep. That means she must determine how little sleep she can get by with so that she isn’t experiencing the sleep-deprived symptoms I listed earlier.

For most of my adult life, I thought I needed eight hours of sleep each night. However, I often couldn’t get to sleep when I went to bed. At some point in our married life, Steve and I decided to see if we could get more time in our day by sleeping fewer hours at night. We dropped down to seven hours a night. It was amazing for me. I functioned well on seven hours per night and no longer struggled with having trouble falling asleep. My body didn’t need eight hours of sleep.

If you have planned a schedule that allows for eight hours of sleep each night, or whatever your personal amount happens to be, but there isn’t time in the day to accomplish what should be done, then what? There are several possibilities. As you evaluate them, it may be that one will be helpful, or you may need to use all of them.

First, make sure you are using a daily schedule for your time and your children’s time. This will make you as productive as possible throughout the day. It will help you to discern your priorities and put your time where it is most needed and beneficial. The Managers of Their Homes book addresses this topic in detail.

Next, I would encourage the elimination of activities, based on their priority and urgency. Mom’s sleep must come before any outside-the-home activity, no matter how important that activity may seem. When we deprive ourselves of sleep for an outside activity, we aren’t trading off our personal preferences for our child’s best interest. Rather, we are giving away the possibility for our child to have a sweet, godly, loving mother, which has eternal value in that child’s life. Generally, we are making this exchange for an activity of temporal value.

Another suggestion may be a difficult one for some—a home business. If Mom isn’t able to get enough sleep and she has a home business, then I believe her priorities again are wrong. Anyone who has a home business will have a justification for having it. However, if the home business robs her of necessary sleep (or the ability to homeschool, train the children, be a keeper at home—any of her biblical roles), then the reasons for it have to be reevaluated.

The next area to look at would be time trade-offs. For example, it may be that your preference is to make your own bread and sew your own clothing. At some seasons of life, these may be reasonable tasks. Again, though, if Mom can’t find time for the sleep she needs, then these time-consuming choices may have to be eliminated. The priorities should be kept in line, and sleep is higher than homemade bread or home-sewn clothes.

Scheduling an afternoon nap can be another way to allow one to get by with less nighttime sleep. For the years I was pregnant or nursing, I always had a half-hour nap scheduled sometime during the afternoon when the children were taking their naps. This short rest gave me the added boost necessary to keep me going during those months that were taking a higher toll on my body.

Finally, as we look for ways to free up time for needed sleep, consider the type of homeschool curriculum you are using. Here again, we may decide to make different curriculum choices so that school and school planning aren’t requiring so much time. Hours that are deterred from a time-intensive curriculum can be given to sleep. Again, this change will likely only be for a season. Then, with another set of circumstances and available sleep time coming from another area, a return to the preferred curriculum can be made.

The Bible warns us first not to love sleep. We must be cautious to discern if our desire for sleep is a want or a need. Throughout our lives, there will be periods of time when we will be living sleep-deprived lives for one reason or another. However, because of what a lack of sleep does to us spiritually, emotionally, and physically, I don’t believe it is wise to continue to try, on an ongoing basis, to get by without adequate rest. We shouldn’t feel guilty for getting the sleep we need. We aren’t being selfish to do so. Rather, we are loving our husbands and loving our children as Titus 2:4 tells us because we are giving them a mom who is sweet, loving, and kind rather than angry, depressed, and sluggish. May we be women who value our families enough to make the necessary choices to allow us each the right amount of sleep.