The Most Important Test

I remember well that early spring Saturday morning as I drove to Huntsville High School to take my ACT test.   I knew how important it was.   As a college student I remember the weight I felt during finals week and how much each test would impact my grade.   I remember sitting in a small office waiting on a group of pastors and godly men as they discussed how I did on my exam to be ordained into the ministry.

All of those were crucial to the next phase of my life and my future, but none of them were the most important test for me.    What is the most important exam a person will ever take?

In these series of posts I have organized my thoughts around what is the best education for your child.   My proposal is that it is not the education that prepares us to make a living (though that is important), but rather how to live.

The education and training that would accomplish this is given in the home.   Thus, parents are the best teachers; childhood is the best time to teach these lessons; and the best text to produce this type of life is the Bible.

All of these thoughts are directly from a passage in God’s Word – “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;  And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.   All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”.   (II Timothy 3:14-16)

What verifies that this training has taken in the life of a child – it is the final exam, if you will.   All of us reveal how we did on this test by certain marks in our life.

Ashley receiving her college degree.

Ashley receiving her college degree.

The most important test is the way one lives, not what he knows.   My ACT, college finals, and ordination exam all were oriented around my command of the facts.   While there is a necessary place for this, it isn’t the best test.    That is determined by the way a person lives and behaves every day.

The final verse reveals the ultimate pass/fail of all that our parents have poured into us.   Now it is time to see what kind of score we have received.   This is how God evaluates our success – “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works”.   (II Timothy 3:17)

The Bible’s influence in our lives is evidenced in the laboratory of life.    If Timothy succeeded it would known by the fact that he was a “man of God”.    This isn’t referencing him being a preacher, but to the kind of person he was.

Honestly, I have known preachers that weren’t men of God and I have known laymen in the church that were men of God.   My father was such a person.   His success was not in the financial realm, but in having Christian character and caring for people.

As parents we ought to desire that our children be men and women of God.    If parents have initiated this objective, accepted responsibility for it and modeled it in their lives their children will be the beneficiaries of such a focus.

There are three marks of a child or teenager that has been trained in God’s Word in how to live.    These are all taken from II Timothy 3:17 as the fruit of a life that has been disciplined by the Bible.   They are the “scoreboard” of success in our lives and our children’s lives.

The first result is that there will be maturity.   The Bible states this person will be “perfect” (II Timothy 3:17).   The word doesn’t mean sinless, but complete, well-rounded and balanced.    In short, they will have what they need to fulfill God’s mission for them.

Maturity is not guaranteed as one ages.   It is both a broadening and deepening of one’s life not only physically, but spiritually, socially, and intellectually (Luke 2:52).

A mature teenager is not necessarily one that is popular with his peers, but one that is able to interact equally with children, his peers, and adults.   The Bible fosters maturity in our lives.

One year as I was coaching baseball I had a young man that was not the best athlete on the team and sometimes struggled to do things with coordination.   I noted that sometimes the guys on the team would laugh at him in spite of the fact that he was well-mannered, likeable, and always gave his best effort.

At the end of the year I always gave out special certificates for each player that designated something special about their role on the team.   The best award as far as I was concerned was not the MVP, but three others – “best attitude”, “most improved”, and “best hustle”.   The latter are character-based.    (Sometimes the MVP is, too).

During the awards time at the banquet I called this young man to the front and gave him his award (“most improved”) and made a gentle verbal jab toward those that had laughed at him during the year.   I said, “This young man hasn’t played a lot of baseball, but improved a lot.  He has a lot of character and some of you fellows will be working for him one day”.    And I really believed that.    Character and maturity trump talent every time.

Ashley with her brothers at her graduation - Jake, Jeremiah, Jon, and Jordan.

Ashley with her brothers at her graduation – Jake, Jeremiah, Jon, and Jordan.

A second result of one that has been trained by the Bible is that they are equipped.   This comes from the expression “furnished” (II Timothy 3:17).  It has the idea of having skills to be successful in all arenas of life.

When a ship came in after a long trip fresh supplies and equipment was required to enable the ship to return to sea.   This process of “furnishing” the ship provides an excellent example of what it means to equip someone.   It means to supply what it missing.   This is what obedience to God’s Word does for us.

The focus today is on making a large income.   That is the apex of success to the majority of people.   What good is money if a person can’t stay married, has rebellious children, and doesn’t have close friends because of pushing deals to the exclusion of relationships?

It is a shallow victory and one that as a person grows older is not a victory at all.   Everything a person needs to be successful is found in the Bible.

A third result of being trained by God’s Word is that a person serves others.   The words “good works” (II Timothy 3:17) show that he lives for others and has a heart for people.   All of our children will grow up and do some kind of work.   Our task is to train them to do “good works”.

A young person that has these three marks has passed the test with flying colors.    They are matured, equipped, and willing and able to serve.   This is my heart for my children and grandchildren.   I am grateful for others that God has brought into their lives that has helped to reinforce what Paula and I have tried to give them.

Parents, let’s initiate this process, accept responsibility for it, and model it.   God will bless our efforts.   It’s the most important work we will ever do.

About familyencouragement

Pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Married for 41 years with seven children and nine grandchildren.
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