By Cynthia Carrier
The girls are bickering…again. But I’m right in the middle of a math lesson with my younger son. I push back from the table, encouraging him to keep going on his own while I go to talk to his little sisters. On my way to their room, however, the baby starts crying. Then the phone rings. Sigh.
Life is busy. Maybe you’ve heard the expression, the tyranny of the urgent? That phrase describes those times when the important things in life are set aside by everyday emergencies. Those things that we just have to attend to, whether we want to or not. So many “teachable moments” potentially missed. So many opportunities for relationship-building neglected.
This is one of my personal frustrations as a Christian parent. Though I’m sure my life situation may be in some ways similar and in other ways different from yours, we all want to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). We all want to experience God’s best every day, but unfortunately many days we feel that to be an elusive goal.
Even before we had our first baby, my husband I had talked about the importance of family to us both, and about what it would take to do it “right.” We were committed to living Biblically—living by God’s Word and teaching our children to do the same. Yet even when our first children were still very young, we experienced the typical frustrations. Not that we expected life to be perfect, but we did expect that if our hearts were right and we were doing our best, we’d experience a lot more happiness and that things would be good.
And therein lay the problem. Things were “good.” People said we were good parents. As our children grew, we received many compliments about what good kids we had. Marc’s career was blessed and he was recognized for his work ethic and his management skills. Everyone who came to our home felt welcome and always commented on how well kept things were. So, with all this going for us, why did we feel like there was just “something” missing?
Quite simply, we had it good. But we knew that there was more. God had something better for us; and in fact, we decided that we didn’t want to settle for anything less than God’s best. And that didn’t just mean being good parents.
After reading many well-selected parenting books, and taking away something positive from each one, we’ve arrived at a rather surprising conclusion: every book on our shelf focuses on our goal as parents, which is successfully raising our children. For us as Christians, that means, first and foremost, that our children embrace our lifestyle of faith and carry it into their adulthood. There are many ways of doing this, and we’ve read our share of the theories.
Through much of what we’ve read, however, we’ve been encouraged to measure our family success by externals. Unfortunately, with so much focus and attention applied to “symptoms” (like the behaviors of children), we’ve found insufficient emphasis given to the primary influencers of the household—the parents. An unfortunate outcome is that parenting becomes not only child-centric, but disjointed from the rest of life.
Through God’s wisdom in the Bible and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we’ve developed a somewhat different perspective on parenting—one that can make life simpler, not more complicated. We have come to focus as much on ourselves, as parents, as on our children. That’s because we, as parents, are the driving force of our family. If we want our children to mature into responsible and loving adults, we must exhibit those traits ourselves. We need to be committed to living out any of the positive characteristics we wish to see our children express.
We don’t just want to emphasize the goal of parenting, which is successfully raising our children. When this is the case, we’re either explicitly or implicitly encouraged to put our own selves, as parents, aside, in pursuit of this prize. No sacrifice is too great if we end up “winning” in the end.
Problem is, we don’t know if we “win” or not for at least 18 years. In the meantime, there are daily frustrations and struggles and sometimes it seems like we’re putting everything on hold for something that isn’t guaranteed. Although it is selfish to think, what about me?—let’s face it, we all do. We don’t just want to labor and strive for tomorrow, but we want to experience God’s blessings today. Family success is a journey; yet not only do we want to arrive at our destination (successfully rearing our children) but we also want to enjoy the journey. The good news is, God wants that for us, too!
The expression of our parenting philosophy comes with a slight disclaimer, however. It’s not that we as parents focus on “ourselves” in the sense that we pursue our own plans to the detriment of the family, or that we serve our selfish desires so that we feel personally fulfilled. No, what I mean is that we, as parents, seek first and foremost to grow in our relationship with the Lord and mature into Christlikeness so that we can impart the truth of God’s Word and Christlike character to our children.
As family leaders, we are called to live out godly values for ourselves. The apostle Paul instructed his young protégé, Timothy, “…train yourself to be godly. For… godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come…” (1 Timothy 4:7b-8, NIV). As we grow in godliness, we become more effective in serving God and his purposes.
Further, our goal as parents should be to train our children in these key character traits that are important to God. Doing so will ensure that our children have the proper foundations for living according to God’s precepts prior to emancipation. In fact, we see that Paul also told Timothy to “command and teach these things” (1 Timothy 4:11). As we live out the values that reflect a godly character, we are to train our children in these truths as well.
It is important, then, to be proactive in both living out and training our children in the values that God values. In doing so, we will shape them according to the timeless principles of God’s Word and encourage them in Christlikeness. They will be equipped to fulfill God’s purposes as they mature.
As we have devoted ourselves to the study of the Word, particularly as it applies to successful family living, we have seen some revealing trends emerge. We’ve found hundreds of Scriptures and examples of people of faith who were promised—and given—success, peace, joy, and other abundant blessings as they have lived according to God’s Word. Putting case studies and specific verses together, we see that all of the individuals who were most used, and most blessed, by God were those who lived their lives according to twelve fundamental values—we’ve coined these “the twelve core values of God,” or, the values that God values. People who live out these values exhibit a godly character that the Lord rewards.
Granted, our idea of happiness often differs from the joy that God’s Spirit brings. Peace may not be outwardly evident, but it is internally present. Likewise, true success doesn’t come from achieving all of our own goals, but rather is found by following God’s plan for our lives. As we’ve grown in our understanding of God’s blessing, we’ve experienced it in abundance as we’ve made progress in living according to His Word.
For us, identifying the foundational character traits that express Christlikeness was akin to digesting all of the information in a complex road map such that we could rely on a compass for quick directions and assurance that we’re on the right track in our travels. The twelve core values have become that compass. They point us in the direction of successful emancipation for our children and God’s blessings for ourselves as we strive to live according to his Word. We still need to know what his Word says, to be sure, but the core values provide just the right sort of pointed and sure guidance we need, on a moment-by-moment basis, so that we can remain on-course in the more specific route that’s already mapped.
It is with these core values that we’ve been successfully equipped to leverage those “teachable moments” in the midst of everyday chaos. The core values have simplified our children’s Biblical instruction, training, and even the disciplinary process. Living the Word of God through the core values is our goal as a family. As we pursue this shared vision, we mutually encourage one another to make grow in godliness in concrete ways each and every day.
With that being said, the twelve core values, in brief, are: faith, surrender, love, faithfulness, wisdom, self-control, righteousness, holiness, humility, diligence, generosity, and praise. As we go along in this continuing series (particularly when you see the many verses that attest to and describe these various characteristics), you will surely agree that these values are important to our God. You will also be encouraged to help your children grow spiritually fit through a system of Biblical training and instruction that’s easier than you ever imagined—not because it’s a pre-packaged “program,” but because it is, quite simply, all about how you live out your lives as parents, modeling and teaching the values that God values.
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