This month we continue the series on leaving a godly legacy to read the previous three months, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. The clock is counting down on each of our lives. We don’t know how many days we have left, but it is sure, today we have one day less than we had yesterday. As we raise our children, we have one chance to do something with our lives that will impact theirs, and each of us are at various stages in this race with high stakes.
Likely most have seen the bumper sticker that reads, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” This would seem to represent the hearts of so many today. Think of the number of “toys” men accumulate: big screen TVs, boats, jet skis, motorcycles, airplanes, and race cars, to name just a few. Often these men will purchase their toys with money they don’t have, while planning to use them with time that the Lord would direct differently. I’ve heard some men encouraging others to borrow all they can, enjoy themselves, and let somebody else pay it back once they’re gone. “The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again. . .” (Psalms 37:21). That frame of mind would be consistent with the carnal rich man in Luke 12:19. “And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” These mentalities make sense for the lost, who will spend eternity in hell because having fun in this life is all they have to look forward to.
Leaving a godly legacy after we are gone involves making ongoing difficult choices right now. If it were easy, then everyone would do it. That is why this month’s topic is so very important—shaping the will, and that begins with ours. Our example will have far greater impact on our children than what we teach. What sort of choices are we making as we lead the family? Are we having an individual Bible time every morning and then praying? Are we leading the family in Bible time every night? Are we worshipping with other believers each week? Is the “beast” (TV) alive in our homes and indoctrinating the souls of the family? Do we have an entertainment and recreation mindset or is our affection set on things above (Colossians 3:2)? What other influences are welcomed into our homes that are pulling the hearts of the family toward the world and ungodly choices? Do we see the connection between our decisions and how the wills of our children are shaped by them?
The decisions that we make and our example will have a powerful effect on training our children to make the right choices. “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). This was referring to church leaders, but a secondary application would be to fathers. We demonstrate to our children an abiding life in Jesus by being joyful and content, following and serving Him versus choosing fun and entertainment. I’m amazed at the strong pull that fun, wild, thrilling things still can exert on my heart that would pull me away from what I need to do with my time. My flesh would love a motorcycle, airplane, jet ski, and sail boat. However, those things take time and money. I have come to appreciate every day, every hour, and every minute that the Lord gives me, and I want to spend them as He directs. I praise God that I see my sons wanting to make right decisions in their lives.
For example, our three remaining sons at home (the two oldest are married) have taken the matter of saving so they can purchase their own homes debt free very seriously. I see them working hard to earn an income and saving all they can by not spending money on foolish things and being careful when they buy clothes and other items. Sure they can be tempted like other young men to throw their money away on fun and exciting things, yet they’re making wise decisions for their future family’s good. If my life was filled with fun and exciting “toys,” you can be sure my sons would be making the same poor choices.
Next to consider is how are we communicating godly decisions to the family. Discussing decisions with our families will not only help everyone get onboard with new direction, but it will also teach them the basis for making similar good choices for their lives in the future.
From the beginning, Satan has deceived man and tempted him to choose against God’s will for his life. Even if he can’t get man to choose wickedness, but rather choose something contrary to God’s leading (read disobedience) he has won. A few of the most critical, milestone decisions children will face that will have great impact on them being a godly legacy are: salvation, future spouse, “higher education,” and vocation. As we disciple our children, the goal is to help them learn to surrender their wills to the Lord Jesus Christ for all decisions. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Notice that first we have to confront the will and tell it “no,” and then we surrender to follow Jesus. There are no bad choices when we obediently follow the Lord.
The problem is how difficult it can be to make godly decisions. It seems like there is a tug-of-war between the spirit wanting to do what is right and the flesh wanting to satisfy itself. If the Apostle Paul struggled with this, we can be sure that we will struggle with it and our children will as well. “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:14-19). We can anticipate this war to be both long and tempestuous, but we can make some choices that will help it be victorious.
We must feed the spirit and not the flesh. We must avail ourselves and our families of every opportunity to strengthen the spirit such as: having individual and family Bible times, making right choices even in small decisions, creating positive appetites, and being a part of a local fellowship of believers for weekly worship.
In addition to taking positive steps, we must also have good defenses. We must be on guard against what harmful influences are being allowed into the home because they can create negative appetites. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). The problem is that we often don’t take seriously the threat of the flesh. The world is strewn with the shipwrecked lives of Christians who underestimated the flesh’s power. Remember if Paul struggled, we will be greatly challenged as well.
An appetite is a desire for something that will result in a biasing force when we are trying to make a good decision. It will prejudice our whole decision making process and can possibly even shipwreck it if it is a negative one. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15).
People usually don’t plan on creating powerful appetites in their lives. What about the person who smoked his first cigarette or had his first beer or tried drugs for the first time? Do you think he planned to die of lung cancer, be an alcoholic, or a drug addict? What about first experiences with things that are thrilling and exciting? Appetites that are introduced into our lives will be powerful forces with which to reckon. Will we be careful to build good appetites and avoid creating negative ones? “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4).
We must consider appetites as participants that will join in the tug-of-war in making a right decision. They will start pulling on either the flesh’s or the Spirit’s side. We can’t afford to give the flesh any advantage.
There is a whole chapter in the Keeping Our Children’s Hearts book on this; therefore, with limited space we will not delve any further into these areas.
Time is short, and the task is great. Shaping our children’s wills is of vital importance. Will we do this by modeling for our children the fruit of right choices? Will we be preparing our children for those milestone decisions they will face? Appetites will exert biasing pressure on our choices. We must be careful to avoid negative appetites and cultivate good ones in our children’s lives. May we diligently train the wills of our children so they can make right choices thereby preserving a godly legacy.
“Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come” (Psalms 71:18).