One of the most important responsibilities I have as a pastor is pre-marital counseling. It is time-consuming, but a task I take seriously. Someone wisely said, “Most couples spend more time on the wedding than they do their marriage”. When that happens it usually tells on the couple during the first year. After experiencing a stormy marriage they are interested in getting help – after a lot of damage and hurt has occurred.
Years ago I was helping a young couple struggling in their marriage. They had been married less than three months, but they wanted help. I met with the husband privately on several occasions to work through some of their challenges using biblical principles and truths.
I challenged him to be a spiritual leader for his wife and soon-to-be-arriving child. He listened as intently as anyone I had ever counseled. They were in trouble and he didn’t want things to continue as they were.
As we discussed what it meant for him to be a godly man and a spiritual leader he ended one of the sessions and very sincerely said, “Rick, I want to be a man of God and I will do whatever it takes to be one”. I believed him and was grateful to be able to pour into his life some of the things God had taught me.
Something happened though. His good intentions never materialized. Today, his marriage is rocky and his children have gone through some things he never dreamed they would have to experience. Somewhere along the way he lost his influence on his family. And it has been very painful for all of them.
In the classic book, “Spiritual Leadership”, J. Oswald Sanders defines leadership as simply “influence”. One’s position or title doesn’t make one a true leader, but his ability to affect a person or course of events.
Likewise, a man of God is not determined by a title, position or occupation he holds. He is one that is able to influence people, especially his family, through his character, compassion and competencies.
One of the best passages in the Bible that describes a man of God is Psalm 128. It provides four characteristics by which he is defined and measured. A man of God is known by his relationship with God, his choices, his family, and his influence.
There are two specific areas in which he has influence: his nation and future generations. The Bible says of this man, “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.” (Psalm 128:5-6)
Note the double reference of the words, “thou shalt”. This is God’s promise to a man that would meet His requirement. This promise refers to the sphere of influence he has.
First, a man of God will influence his nation. The problems we have in our nation are symptoms of an underlying root cause. As in health problems, as long as we treat the symptom the sickness will return. Our national challenges are more than differences in policy, positions or party platforms. These are symptoms of a deeper problem. We cannot cosmetically address a cancer and expect success.
We have a weak nation because we have weak churches; we have weak churches because we have weak families; and we have weak families because we have weak fathers. A father’s influence in the family (or the lack thereof) is exponential and has a ripple effect that will ultimately reach the nation.
God’s promise to His man is that He will bless him “out of Zion” (:5). The word “Zion” is used over 150 times in the Bible and it refers to the city of Jerusalem, especially as a place from where God bestows His favor and blessing. Because of God’s blessing this person would “see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life” (:5).
This promise relates to the good of a literal city. Not only are homes and churches greatly blessed from men of God, but so is a city, state, and nation. Our nation is in dire need of men of God. God has promised to bless those that would meet His conditions to be that person.
One of the characteristics of spiritual renewal in a man’s life is when God begins to turn his heart to his children. The response to this turning (another term for repentance) is that the children will begin to give their hearts to their parents.
“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:6)
Here is God’s order: the father must first give his heart to his child if he would expect him or her to reciprocate. That’s why, to me, a youth ministry in a local church is more of a family-centered ministry where the youth pastor supports the biblical goals of the parents to see their children spiritually mature.
Don’t miss the consequence if men fail to give their hearts to their children. The Bible states that God will “come and smite the earth with a curse”. This is one of the dominant reasons we have such severe problems with our children today, absent fathers. And the ensuing judgment is that there will be chaos all over the world. This is a principle that cannot be violated without consequences.
I genuinely believe we don’t have financial, moral, or crime problems in our nation so much as we have fathers that are indifferent and passive to their duty to lead their families spiritually. What would happen if men of God assumed their responsibilities at home? God would influence the nation through them.
A second area of influence that a man of God has concerns future generations. The final promise to this man is that “thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel”. (Psalm 128:6)
We do not sin without effecting others, but neither can we do what is right without influencing for good our children and grandchildren. One of the great joys in a man’s life is to see his children raise their children and watch them grow spiritually. The Bible says, “Children’s children are the crown of old men…” (Proverbs 17:6)
I suppose I am in the category of “old men” now that I not only have grandchildren, but my hair is turning gray and my strength and stamina is abating some. Now I watch my kids raise their own – and it is a one of the greatest joys of my life.
Each of my grandchildren are indeed a “crown” to me. A king did not wear his crown every day, but in public. It was a symbol not only of authority, but of coronation and exaltation. The coronation was a formal and joyous ceremony to recognize one’s promotion in a designated ceremony. The crown as an exaltation occurred in the Olympic and Greek games of that day. Victors were given crowns to recognize their achievement and to honor them.
When Paula and I raised our children we did so intentionally. Oh, we made plenty of mistakes along the way, but we had a vision for their lives that helped our focus. As I see our children training their own to serve Christ and others it is a type of coronation to us. The greatest achievement of my life will be for my sons and daughters and their children to love and serve the Lord. It’s not a visible crown for others to see, but it is so fulfilling to my heart to see the reality of God’s grace in their lives.
To be honest I never realized that I was training my children to parent their own children one day. The present multiple responsibilities of being a father were so weighty that I didn’t know I was influencing not only the next generation, but my own legacy in my family that would outlive me. It’s a heavy thought to know that what I am doing today with my children will have a direct impact on their children, my grandchildren – and the ripple effect will continue on to future generations.
My oldest son, Jeremiah, was married in September to a precious lady, Jacky. He asked me to pray for them at their wedding and I gladly did so. Though I never read my prayers I do prepare my thoughts. I wanted my requests to God that day to echo the desires of my heart for Jeremiah and Jacky on that beautiful late afternoon.
It wasn’t a lengthy prayer and I asked the Lord for several things for their marriage. I weep easily and I didn’t want to do so as a wedding is a joyous, happy occasion. And I did fine until I came to a request for Jeremiah in his marriage. Then my voice cracked a bit and I had to guard my emotions. It was something for which I had prayed for him and the rest of my boys from the time they were born.
The request that was heartfelt and caused my eyes to fill with tears was this, “God, may Jeremiah be a man of God”. The reason I was broken was not that he is a bad young man, but that that was the deepest desire of my heart for him.
I knew that everything else will work out in his marriage, parenting, and life if that would be true. Jeremiah doesn’t realize it fully right now, but as he is training his children he is even influencing his grandchildren. They will one day be his crown.
A successful attorney was recounting the best Christmas gift he ever received. Here is what he wrote.
“The greatest Christmas gift I ever received was when my Dad gave me a small box. As I opened it there was a note inside that said, ‘Son, this year I will give you 365 hours, an hour every day after dinner. It’s yours. We’ll talk about what you want to talk about, we’ll go where you want to go, play what you want to play. It will be your hour’. My Dad not only kept his promise, but every year he renewed it – and it’s the greatest gift I ever had in my life. I am the result of his time”.
This is a gift we all can give our children. For in our giving it we are influencing our legacy long after we are gone.
My father never formally gave me a written note like that nor was his time carefully meted out in daily increments, but he did that for me. Dad game me his time and, more importantly, his heart. He influenced my life, far more than he ever knew. I have and am doing the same with my children – in the same way he did with me. Now, Dad is in Heaven and I’m the older manand it’s a joy to see my children do the same with their children. May I continue to strive to be a man of God; may my sons and their sons be men of God that we might influence our nation and our families.
There are little eyes upon you, and they’re watching night and day;
There are little ears that quickly take in every word you say;
There are little hands all eager to do everything you do;
And a little boy that’s dreaming of the day he’ll be like you.
You’re the little fellow’s idol, you’re the wisest of the wise;
In his little mind about you no suspicions ever rise.
He believes you devoutly, hold that all you say and do
He will say and do in your way when he’s grown up just like you.
Oh, it sometimes make me shudder when I hear a boy repeat
Some careless phrase I’ve uttered in the language of the street;
And it sets my heart to grieving when some little fault I see,
And I know beyond all doubting that he picked it up from me.
There’s a wide-eyed little fellow, who believes you’re always right,
And his ears are always open and he watches day and night;
You are setting an example every day in all you do
For the little boy who’s wanting to grow up to be like you.