Tag Archives: An Exercise of the Will

A Lazy Bum

“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Being called “a lazy bum” or “couch potato” has quite a negative connotation, but I have to admit that’s what my flesh is drawn to. I find it takes a conscious choice and serious effort to be productive and active. I feel like I’m waging war against my flesh daily to do what I know must be done.

Sadly, I know I am not alone. Over the years, we have received many emails from moms who have lazy husbands. They usually weren’t complaining but seeking encouragement on how to be a helpmeet to a husband without nagging. I have come to wonder if laziness isn’t pandemic these days. Twenty years ago, I used to see far more men out early exercising before work than women. Nowadays the ratio seems to have flipped, and I see far more women out than men.

May we each examine ourselves. Are we lazy? Are we more inclined to sit around than tackle projects that need to be done or do something active with our family? Do we seek entertainment or do we seek challenges? My observation is that most people admire those who have the discipline to accomplish things, but do we realize that maybe they aren’t naturally like that? Maybe they are choosing to go against their flesh and do things that need to be done. Choice is a beautiful thing when we exercise the right one!

“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).

Steve

An Exercise of the Will – Part 2

Last month we began looking at how a father communicates to his children when the Lord directs a change for the family, especially when that change impacts something with which the children are involved. The dad’s gentleness, presentation, and humility are all vital as he shares with his family if he is to win the support of his children and avoid having to make decisions where he is dragging his family along behind him. There is so much power in a family working as a team, serving the Lord, with one heart and mind. I encourage every father to invest what it takes to make sure that is the spirit in his family.

In last month’s Dad’s Corner, we left off in the middle of the information I was sharing about presenting the change to your children. Very critical in your discussion is applicable Scripture. It is important that the children understand the biblical basis of the decision so that they don’t view it as Dad and Mom pushing their personal preferences on all of them. For this particular example, I will list just a few of the many verses that Dad could use with the children to help them see why the Lord has led you to the decision.

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).

“He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight” (Psalms 101:7).

“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).

“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14).

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24).

Is that something that each of them wants to do? Seek an answer from each one that they desire to do that as well.

Now you will want to move into the compassionate stage of the discussion. Share with the children how you know the decision might take some adjustment time, but that you are going to help them through the process. You can remind them that Jesus said, “. . . If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Explain how that even though eliminating the beast from your home might seem hard, it would hardly be considered denying oneself. Let them know that you and Mom will be impacted too, but you want with all your hearts to follow the Lord’s direction for your family so you are happy to make any sacrifices that are necessary. Help them to understand that it will be a change for all of you, but you are committed to doing the right thing.

It is helpful to give Mom an opportunity to share her heart with the children in this discussion. Even if all she does is repeat some of what you have said, the children will observe that the two of you are united in the decision and direction. Working as a team is vital when a change is being implemented.

I also would suggest that you take time to allow the children to give you input. Listen to their concerns, fears, excitement, and practical suggestions—whatever is on their hearts. What you think they will object to might actually be something that they have been considering, and they are already planning ways to augment the implementation. You might find a resistant heart, but an arm around the shoulder with loving words of encouragement will go a long ways to soften that resistance.

Finally as we end these discussions, I like to ask each child whether he will follow me. My children have always answered that they would follow. Regularly they say that it is hard for them, but as time progresses, I can’t recall a decision that was difficult for the children that they haven’t greatly affirmed as the months went by.

Perhaps there is a child who continues to resist even after all that you have shared from your heart. Then what? Consider what would happen if your child had a serious illness he needed surgery to correct. You explain to him his condition and the surgery, but he says he doesn’t want the surgery. What would you do? If you loved your child, you would do what was best for him anyway. Isn’t it even more important that we have this same attitude for a child’s spiritual health? Just like the parent helps a child toward physical surgery, you will want to help your child toward spiritual surgery by spending time with him, continuing the communication on the topic, and being very gentle through the changes.

We do what is best for our children whether it is their preference or not. If a child at this point doesn’t want to follow you in following Jesus’ direction, then it is important to know that right upfront. This child will not make a good decision, has been influenced by the world, and is going to need an even greater amount of love and encouragement in the process.

Don’t forget to thank the children for following your lead. You can affirm their desire to please the Lord Jesus Christ and to trust you with this decision. Let them know how much that makes you happy and blesses your heart.

One dad told me that while the family was out, he had a friend come in and take the beast away. When the family came home, the children noticed it was gone and asked Dad about it. He said it was gone and not coming back. He said they were a little disappointed, but soon forgot about it, and life was better from then on. While I’m not suggesting you try this method of implementing a change in the family, I share it with you to illustrate how we can be fearful that what we are planning will be devastating for our family only to have it work out like it did here. The children were a little disappointed, soon forgot about it, and life was better—end of story!

In reality, I have found that times like these when we are setting out on new spiritual frontiers, is exciting for my children. They like the spiritual adventure. Children often become bored with a faith that doesn’t challenge them.

To help reinforce the decision, be on guard for situations that are a positive result of that decision. In our throwing-out-the-beast example, when Dad observes the children doing something constructive with their time, he reminds them that they wouldn’t have been doing that when the TV was in their home. When Dad is having nightly Bible time, he can tell his children how much he loves Bible time and being with his family. Dad will notice a host of positive changes in his family when the beast is removed so he needs to make sure that he shares those with the children.

There is something I feel the need to warn you about, though. When making positive changes that challenge the family, if Dad has compromises in his life, the children will view him as a hypocrite, be discouraged, and react to the changes. In this example of eliminating the TV, if Dad chooses to go over to his parent’s house to watch the “big game,” or is using his computer for late-night TV viewing, the family will feel he has a double standard. Dad will be seen as asking them to give up their entertainment, while not giving up his. We must be leaders that our families are willing to follow.

Paul knew his testimony was a good, consistent example such that he encouraged others to follow him as he followed Christ. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). That needs to be true of us with our families as well.

Inevitably as we follow the Lord Jesus Christ, there will be areas in our family’s lives that He desires to add or remove in order to draw us closer to Him and use us for His kingdom. These changes will impact our families. We want to consider how we can best present changes to our children in a spirit of love and humility so that they will understand and desire those changes. As we pray and seek the Lord’s guidance, may we be men who invest our lives into the lives of our children.

An Exercise of the Will – Part 1

I’m guessing and hopeful that every family has had a situation come along where they felt the Lord was leading them to make some major changes, and they obeyed. First the Lord brought conviction to the hearts of Dad and Mom, and they came to the place of knowing they wanted to comply with that conviction. Next these potential changes were broached with the children. Dad wondered what the children’s responses would be as he presented this information to them. If only they would eagerly accept the new direction from the Lord, but he was concerned that there was going to be major resistance to it. What was the result? Was it an emotional and spiritual battle, or the children cheerfully following Dad and Mom’s leading?

Is there a way to make these transitions easier? Most certainly, but first let me give you a scenario that is quite sure to produce conflict and bitterness in the hearts of the children. Picture the dad who sits the family down sternly telling them that the old way is wrong, but the new way is good. He says that’s the way it is going to be, and he really doesn’t care what any of them think about it. I can assure you that this method may initially be less time intensive, but the damage done to the hearts of your children is hard to reverse, if it even can be reversed. There is a better way to handle these difficult changes that will draw the children’s hearts to you and your heart to them.

If Dad and Mom have the hearts of the children, then it will be far easier to introduce change into the family. If you find you aren’t willing to make a decision for the good of the family out of fear of how the children might react, that is a serious situation. It shows that you don’t have your children’s hearts and are more afraid of your children than the Lord. We are to fear God and not man. “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye” (Acts 4:19). When God directs us to do something, we must do it. For more information on keeping our children’s hearts, I would direct you to our book by that title, Keeping Our Children’s Hearts.

In order to walk us through how to biblically, lovingly, and compassionately implement a change in the family, let’s look at a possible example of a decision and how Dad and Mom could go about presenting it to the children. Let’s assume Dad and Mom have been convicted that they should get rid of the beast (TV). Here is how Dad could go about such a dramatic change with his family.

God gives grace when we follow Him, so depend upon that grace through the process of implementing a change. “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). When God directs and we follow Him whole-heartedly, we can rest knowing He will give the family the needed grace to follow as well.

It all begins in the prayer closet. Seek the Lord for His help concerning how to best present the change to the children. Ask Him to prepare your heart, making sure it is loving, tender, compassionate, patient, and filled with the fruit of the Spirit. Also cry out to Him to be softening the children’s hearts in preparation for what you will be discussing with them. Pray for His blessing on what you say and the outcome with the children.

Next you will want to determine whether it is better to have a family meeting to talk with all the children together or to meet with each child individually. I have done it both ways. When we decided to take our older two sons out of Little League Baseball, I started by inviting Nathan, my oldest son, to Burger King for a milk shake one afternoon. I told him I had something important that I wanted to discuss with him. I did the same thing with his brother. That allowed me to hear each of my son’s heart response to my request without their being influenced by the other.

Most generally, I call a family meeting by telling the family, after Bible time, that I have something that has been on my heart that I would like to talk with them about. I begin by explaining how the Lord has been dealing with my heart and Mom’s heart in a particular area. In this case, it would be concern over the influence of the TV in our home and the time wasted watching it. I explain that it is my desire to follow the Lord Jesus no matter what He tells us to do.

I generally confess that I have failed my family in the situation such as bringing the beast into our home in the first place, and I ask their forgiveness. I have had to ask my family’s forgiveness many times for bad decisions I have made. I’ve found asking forgiveness to be a good thing because it is a humbling process for me, it shows my children my sincerity, and I’m more careful when making future decisions so I that I won’t have to undo it in the future. I look each child individually in the eye and ask him to forgive me. I’ve never had a child who wouldn’t say yes.

You will want to tell the children what you decided to do and why you believe the Lord Jesus is leading you in this direction. Explain to the children what the benefits of the change will be. In this example of throwing out the beast, you could start by saying that you will be less hindered in having family Bible time every night, and that you are very excited about that possibility. Your enthusiasm for the change will be contagious. You could go into how they will not have the negative influence of the world affecting their hearts like it was with the beast. Commit to them that you will personally have more time to spend with them. Encourage them that the family will use their time more productively than they did when they were watching the beast. Let them know that you and Mom are looking forward to the elimination of the conflict that was occurring between family members over which TV show to watch.

This is only the beginning of the suggestions I would like to share with you concerning helping your family accept changes that the Lord is directing toward. When these changes affect your children, you would be benefitted to have a plan for how you will approach the situation so that you can bring their hearts happily along with you. Invest the necessary time helping the children understand the reasons for the decisions you are making. I will conclude this discussion next month, but for now I encourage you to consider how you have approached these situations in the past, what has been successful for you, what hasn’t, and what you might do in the future.