I pulled into the Shell station in a small town in Colorado to fill up while on vacation. A cheerful, official-looking young man around fourteen wearing a neatly-pressed shirt with Shell logos on it approached me as I got out of the van. “Sir, would you like me to pump your gas for you?”
Since I didn’t know if there was an extra charge, I simply responded, “No, thank you, but I’d enjoy visiting with you while I do.”
We first discussed Oregon where an attendant must pump your fuel for you. Then I learned his name, that he was a Christian, that he was homeschooled, and that his father had been a pastor. His friend’s dad owned the station, and he and two of his sisters worked there after school. He was full of life and enthusiasm. He might have been pumping gas for a season, but I’m confident in a few years he will move on to more challenging, higher paying endeavors. I felt he was on track to be a “winner.”
Raising children is much more than changing diapers when they are young and feeding them. Fathers are commanded to take an active role in training their children. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Paul, by the Holy Spirit, would not command fathers in this responsibility if children automatically acquired these attributes themselves. It takes commitment and hard work. Our first priority is to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, so that they are headed down the right road spiritually.
Dad’s daily example of life in Christ is important in shaping his children, and family Bible time is his most effective tool for shaping his children into winners. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalms 119:9). Not having family Bible time seven days a week is like skipping feeding your child meals because it takes too much time. I’ve heard some say they don’t want to be legalistic about having Bible time every day. Are parents accused of being legalistic who feed their children three meals a day? Of course not! We feed them because it is needful for healthy bodies. We feed their spirits daily because it is needful for healthy souls. No spiritually discerning person would argue that their bodies are more important than their souls, therefore we feed that which will live for all eternity at least once a day. Our family eats “spiritually” twice a day, morning individual Bible time and evening family Bible time.
The young man at the Shell station was a great conversationalist. He looked me in the eyes, spoke with ease, answered my questions, and asked me some of his own. He was confident and had enthusiasm. What about your children? Are you raising winners? (If you need help, see Making Great Conversationalists!)
Are we teaching our children to work hard and apply themselves? Teri and I had a casual conversation “on the road” one day with a public school teacher. She told us how she prepared her students for successful test taking. As she taught them, she would emphasize what would be on the test and encourage them to write it down in their notes. (This is not to imply all government school teachers do this.) Then when they took the test, they were able to use their notes. Can you imagine the difficult time they will have as adult employees trying to provide for their families when conditioned not to have to work hard? How likely do you think their employers will be to give them raises for good performance? Are we teaching our children to work hard at learning?
One way to provide our children feedback on their academic performance is to give them grades for their schoolwork. By giving them tests over what they were to have learned (no open book tests), they will develop the correlation between hard work and positive results. “For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee” (Psalms 128:2). Working hard produces good fruit and is what we want to instill in our children. This leads to developing winners.
As your children grow older, give them projects to do that are beyond their current experience. CHALLENGE THEM—vocationally, physically, and spiritually. This is what lies ahead of them in life, challenges that are beyond what they have already accomplished. Get them used to working hard for a goal and then enjoying the feeling of success and the confidence that they can achieve anything the Lord Jesus calls them to do. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). I strive for each of my children to know the truth of that verse in daily life.
When I use the term “winners,” I know you understand what that means. You have a mental picture that necessitates evaluating your child. That is how serious the challenge is before us. We are preparing our children for life, and the stakes are high. We aren’t teaching our children to win by defeating others but by defeating their own laziness. Everyone is in the race, and all can be winners. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Train your children every day for life ahead.
We just returned home from our vacation in Colorado (see this link and this one for blog reports). We love our time together. As much as possible, we put aside our normal work or ministry responsibilities and focus on each other and the Lord. We spend many hours in intense physical challenges all the while enjoying the beauty of God’s magnificent creation. Together Teri and I climbed two mountains over fourteen thousand feet with our children (now seventeen to thirty-six), and they went on to climb a third one that required a two mile transverse. I want my children to know how to work hard and delight in the view from the top spiritually, vocationally, and physically. Do you desire that for your children? May I encourage you in the job at hand? “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).