Have you ever considered in detail the different ways your parents positively influenced your life? I think it’s a good exercise that encourages us to develop a deeper sense of gratitude for them and to be able to know how to influence your own children.
One of my hobbies is reading and I have read many books on the subject of marriage and parenting. Some of them made the task of being married and raising children very complicated. They reduce having a successful family to memorizing a list of different ingredients and making sure to include them all every day; only then will the “recipe” produce the desired product.
The topic of this post deals with an issue in parenting that I have rarely heard anyone deal with and it is so vital – and simple. When we follow God’s Word, the best manual on the family, it is much simpler than the ideas of men and yields the best results.
Usually when we speak about “obedience in parenting” we are referring to children obeying their parents. And I do heartily believe that as it is a command in the Bible (Ephesians 6:1-3). However, that’s not the theme of this post.
I believe that the best “obedience in parenting” isn’t on the part of the children, but when their parents obey the Lord. Our children are influenced by our obedience to the Lord far more than we realize. What they see us do and the way we live has more impact than what they hear us say and what we believe.
One of the best fathers in the Bible is one whom we know little about. He is Joseph, the step-father of Jesus Christ. I believe God the Father was very selective about whom would raise the Son of God. As I read about him, he is a model of integrity and godliness, he was obedient to his Heavenly Father.
Here’s the synopsis of his story. Joseph had a dream and an angel told him: (1) that Mary’s pregnancy was not from another man, but that God had supernaturally implanted the seed in her womb and (2) he was to name the child Jesus.
When he awoke from the dream he obeyed in spite of the difficulty of doing so. It is recorded for us in Matthew 1:24-25 – “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.”
First, Joseph took Mary as his wife. This was difficult because it assured the couple, and Jesus, of a life of mockery and suspicion. See John 8:41. Whoever heard of a virgin birth? Yet, he did as God commanded him and did not divorce Mary. That was difficult to do.
Second, he restrained from having a physical relationship with her while she was expecting. They did have children later on, but he obeyed in an area that was not easy as it is normal to have a sexual relationship in marriage.
Third, when Christ was born, Joseph named Him “Jesus” as he was told by the angel. He surrendered the privilege to name the child he would raise in agreement with God’s will.
Fourth, he kept God’s law concerning a son being circumcised on the eighth day after birth (Leviticus 12:3). Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Jerusalem to dedicate their firstborn, per God’s direction (Exodus 13:2), to the Lord’s purposes (Luke 2:21).
Later, he obeyed the angel of the Lord again when he was instructed to move the family to Egypt while Herod was killing babies out of fear of being displaced by a rumored king that had recently been born (Matthew 2:13-14). Later he again followed divine direction again when returned to Israel after Herod had died(Matthew 2:19-21).
The consistent pattern of his life was his simple and faithful obedience to what God had told him to do. This is “obedience in parenting”.
This encourages me as a father. Joseph was a common, skilled laborer (carpenter), but a dedicated servant of God. Nothing is mentioned about him after Luke 2:41-52, when Jesus was twelve years old. But he was faithful to God. I can do that with His grace helping and strengthening me.
Joseph was not at the cross when Jesus died or ever mentioned in his earthly ministry. Some scholars speculated that he had died during Jesus’ teen years. Perhaps He did. It would certainly fit in with Jesus being our sympathetic High Priest, experiencing the temptations and trials we face (Hebrews 4:14-16).
It is impossible to consider the life of Joseph and not come away with the insight that he was a man of obedience. Doing what is right isn’t always easy, it usually isn’t. When the angel appeared to Joseph to explain God’s will for him in the birth of Christ, he told him to “fear not” (Matthew 1:20). The angel knew there would be a hesitancy to obey.
There was a cost to his obedience – and there will be to ours, too. Yet, in our obeying God we are establishing a foundation that God can grant his favor and blessing – and, oh, we I need that as a father!
We cannot reduce being a Dad or Mom to a list or a formula. While there are certainly principles and specific matters we must give attention to, the most important thing a parent can do to impact his children is to be wholly surrendered to the will of God.
During our most mundane times of obedience the Lord sometimes is making the greatest impact on our kids. The most difficult times to obey are often the most crucial and rewarding times in our lives, especially in the training of our children.
Both of my parents were committed believers so I had the privilege of growing up in a Christian home. They didn’t send us to church, they took us to church. And we went to every service. Rain or an overcast sky never kept us away. Special television programs on Sunday evenings didn’t keep us away. Having an extra amount of homework or a school project due the next day was no excuse for missing church. It was a value in our family.
Some would read this and scoff at it as legalism, but to Dad and Mom they were just obeying the Lord. I learned the importance of listening to preaching from my father. He would buy sermon tapes and listen to them. Later, I developed the habit from him. When we had singers in they would buy their music (33 RPM’s back then!) and I learned to love Christian music. Mom and Dad tithed and taught us to do the same. They weren’t critical of our pastor or spiritual leaders and I learned to respect them, too.
My parents obeyed the Lord through their service. They were busy in God’s work for all of my life. Teaching Sunday School, visiting people with needs, singing in the choir, ushering, making meals for others, helping teenagers, driving buses to pick up little children. When we went to Youth Camp and Winter Retreats as teenagers, our parents went with us as workers in the youth ministry.
I could go on, but you get the idea. While they expected obedience from their children, they were obedient to the Lord in their life and that is what impacted Melanie, Hoss and me the most. It wasn’t what they said, but what they did.
Firsthand, I saw (and continue to see) the fruit of their obedience to God. I want that for my children, too. I want them to see a pattern of obedience in my life, but also that it indeed pays to serve Jesus and honor His Word.
Many of the spiritual blessings we enjoy are the result of someone’s obedience to God in the past. We won’t even discover fully what they did until the Judgment Seat of Christ when believers are rewarded for their faithfulness to God. Chief among those that have blessed me through their obedience are Linda and Cotton Johnson.
If you had a father or mother that loved God, served Him, and was surrendered to His plan then you have much for which to be thankful. I know that I’m enjoying the blessings of the obedience of my parents even in my mid-life years. In a sense, my children are, too, because of the lessons I learned from their grandparents.
It is often said, “Like father, like son”. In Joseph’s case as we see his godliness and heart of obedience, in spite of a difficult callingm we could say, “Like Son, like father”. Joseph, indeed, was like his Heavenly Father – and like his step-son, God’s Son.
So was my Dad and Mom. And for that, I’m very grateful. They touched my life by their obedience to the Lord.
Charles Swindoll wrote, “It’s never too later to start doing the right thing”. Dear parent, take heart in God’s mercy and grace and begin to honor Him through your obedience and in that, more than anything you will ever do, will influence your children for God and His glory.