Spiritually Healthy Children

Reflecting back on all the places Teri and I have lived during our twenty-eight years of marriage, I realized there was one thing consistent with each place: they all had “needy” lawns. I always mowed the lawns on a regular basis, but I had no clue as to what it took to have a truly healthy lawn.

There were times when I would get inspired and think, “If my neighbor can have a reasonable looking lawn, then so can I.” I would go buy a bag of fertilizer and a new drop spreader (the old one had rusted to a point of uselessness by that time) and painstakingly attempt to apply the chemicals to the yard. Then, with significant anticipation, I would watch for the lawn to green up. I can remember the satisfaction of seeing beautiful, green grass. Unfortunately, that satisfaction was always tempered by the disappointment of seeing lush green stripe, pale green stripe, lush green stripe, then pale sickly-looking stripe.

No matter how careful I was to overlap each pass with the drop spreader, it seemed like I missed as much as I covered. At each turn, I would even put a stake in next to the wheel and aim for the opposite stake across the yard. I just couldn’t get it right. I wasn’t sure which was worse, a uniformly pale, anemic yard, or one with deep green stripes accenting the pale stripes, sort of a drop-shadow affect.

Then, eleven years ago when we moved into this house, I decided it was time to do it right. By combining my lawn with my father-in-law’s lawn (he lives next door to us), I could get the chemical treatments applied professionally for less than I could buy them over the counter. With the volume discount, a rich, green lawn was on the horizon. No more striped lawn! A pro was going to be applying the treatments, and all I would have to do was mow. I was so pleased!

I greatly enjoyed seeing the lawn green up as the chemical plan started. I began to take even more notice of the lawn than I ever had. The lawn-treatment company always said that if you weren’t pleased with the results, just to give them a call. They would come back out and take care of whatever they needed to do. So for the first time ever, I had hopes of not only a green lawn, but a weed-free lawn as well.

I wish I could tell you those six years of professional lawn treatments revolutionized our yard. Unfortunately, I can’t because we didn’t have one successful year. My only explanation is that the Lord obviously had a lesson in it for me.

Each year there was always some sort of problem with the lawn. I would discuss it with the lawn-treatment company, and they always had a reason why the yard wasn’t improving. For several years it was because it was a wetter-than-normal year. They told me the fertilizer and weed control were being washed away. Then there were the years when it didn’t rain often enough. They said I needed to water the lawn so it received at least an inch of water every week. Do you have any idea how much an inch of water over the whole yard each week costs? It made what we were paying for the chemicals seem like chicken feed. Then there was a year when they had to treat for grubs two or three times. By the time the grubs were finally conquered—well, actually, “conquered” probably isn’t accurate—I think there was nothing left to eat so the grubs moved on.

After several years, I finally could see that having someone else responsible for fertilizing and weed control was not the answer either. What needed to happen was for me to learn what should be done to properly care for the lawn, and then do it myself.

The first rule I discovered was that a healthy lawn—one that is well-fed and well-watered—will resist weeds. Unfortunately, my lawn was in such sorry condition that it needed much more major work.

The first thing we did was to verticut the yard, reseed it, and apply starter fertilizer. After applying large amounts of daily water, the grass seed sprouted and began growing. It took several years of fertilizing, watering, and some more over-seeding to achieve our current lawn. It has grass that looks nice—not beautiful, but acceptable, by my standards.

In giving you that much detail of my lawn history, I didn’t want to bore you or brag about what little I know regarding lawn care. I felt the background was important in laying the foundation for what I wanted to share.

Brothers, I am deeply grieved by my observation of how many dads are doing nothing to maintain healthy children’s hearts. It is as if, just by giving them a place to grow, these dads believe their children will turn out all right. To me that is like giving grass a place to grow and then expecting it to be a beautiful lawn. I don’t think either will happen.

The next wrong assumption I see is that it is best to turn our children over to the professionals to be properly trained. The experts are supposed to know exactly how to raise children, just like the guys who spray chemicals on the yard are to have your “lawn’s best interests” in mind. However, even if some professionals have more knowledge than a typical dad, they don’t have the heart attachment that a dad has for his own children.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 is clear in stating that the responsibility for discipling children rests on fathers. “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”

The temptation is to let others give our children their spiritual training. We cannot, though, expect Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, or even our pastors to be responsible for our children’s spiritual growth and nurturing. Notice the key word in that last sentence: responsible. We are the ones who will be held responsible for how our children have been spiritually fed. Others may supplement what we are feeding our children, but we will not stand before the Lord and say, “It was his fault that my children weren’t discipled.” As long as the chemical “pros” were responsible for my yard, I was hardly even willing to water it. That was my fault and not theirs! Just because we take our children to church does not mean they are being trained in the way the Lord wants them to be.

The chemical “pros” give every lawn the same treatment. That is why it took three treatments of increasing-strength chemicals to deal with the grubs that one year. Even within a family, each child needs individual care and nurturing. There are times when I’m choosing to give one child much more attention than others, because that is what the child needs at that time. I wish we were able to train each child in the same way as it sure would make raising children easier, and we wouldn’t have to work so hard. That is my preference, though, and not the Lord’s. “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” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The fact that we feel inadequate and uncertain about how to raise our children is a good thing and will motivate us to pray. Then God gets the glory for everything that is done.

The essence of having a healthy lawn is to nurture it. That means, at a minimum, we give it proper food, water, and cutting. Weather will always be a factor in how much we do of each of the basics, so we have to be observant. In the same way, we must be observant of our children’s needs. The storms of life will come and go, and they have an effect on how we are going to care for each child. This will vary from year to year, and maybe even day to day, as needs will be different depending on the conditions.

One thing is certain: food and water are a must. Dads, that is why we must be serving our family a healthy portion of the Word daily. It may be a larger serving at some times, but they need God’s Word every day. If you don’t want them to grow in the Lord, not leading your children in a daily time of family worship will accomplish that goal. Your children will not grow and mature spiritually if you don’t spiritually feed them! Are we relying on the experts to feed our children? Please don’t if you really care about your children!

In John 21:17 Jesus said to Peter, “. . . Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because Jesus said to him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said to him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” Men, if we love our children, we must feed them. May we not stand before the Lord someday admitting we didn’t feed His sheep.

(Steve has a 2 CD Set on the importance of daily, family Bible time, how to practically accomplish it, and actual samples for our family devotions. Please see Feed My Sheep.)