A while back I heard one of my older children telling one of their friends, “My Dad has a reason for everything he does”. He’s right. Though I enjoy the spontaneity of life and try not to be shackled to a schedule all the time I do have a purpose for my activities and strive to prioritize them.
I’m glad he had learned that by observing the way I had lived and had listened when I had taught him the importance of purpose. The dictionary defines purpose as “the reason for which something exists or is done”. This means one has taken the time to consider the desired result of their activity.
One reason purpose is so crucial in our lives is that it is essential for success. Until the finish line has been established and made clear there is confusion and it is impossible to establish a strategy to fulfill a purpose. Design always precedes success.
Raising children is difficult enough when we have a clear objective, but when our activities as parents have no purpose or “finish line” it becomes discouraging and hopeless. Today we increasingly see parents without a clear understanding of their roles in respect to their children; they have no ultimate purpose or philosophy to guide them.
Many (most?) seem to raise their children and just hope for a good return. It rarely happens that way. Someone wisely said, “Hope is not a strategy”.
Tragically, most fathers are more intentional about their careers than training their children. Their vocational purpose is clear. They are motivated to care for the tasks that are stepping stones that lead to the goal because it is clear to them. There is no haphazardness in their work habits because they are intentional in following a purpose.
Without a compelling purpose for our families we will allow secondary matters to supplant that which is primary. One reason is we can’t differentiate between what is primary and secondary. It’s true, “The enemy of the best is the good”. However, if we fail to know what is best we will settle for less, just hoping for a good result. Seneca wrote, “If one does not know to which port he is sailing, no wind is favorable”.
For me, the most important purpose in regard to my children is to see them come to know Christ and be saved. When I became a Christian at nine years of age it was the most significant decision of my life. It not only determined my eternal destiny, but also the quality of my life on earth and my ability to influence others for God.
Noah is best known for building an ark; the Bible says that “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house…” (Hebrews 11:7) Though Noah preached for people to repent from their wickedness (II Peter 2:5) only eight people were saved in the entire world. These included himself, his wife, his three sons and their wives.
God commanded him to build the ark and made it clear that it was for his entire family (Genesis 6:18; 7:1; 8:16). His obedience to God (Genesis 6:22; 7:5) had an impact on his family, he saved their lives by doing what God told him to do.
Our children have a way of forcing us to face eternal matters like nothing else. Enoch is known for walking with God, but he didn’t begin to do so until after his son was born (Genesis 5:21-24). It seems that the crisis that burdened him to fully yield to the Lord was the birth of his son.
Remember the pressure of responsibility you felt on your shoulders when you held your newborn child, your own flesh and blood? A sobering reality settled in on you as you realized the great part you had in the shaping of their destiny, more than any other person in the world.
I took this responsibility very seriously – to see my children come to Christ and grow spiritually. More important than their academics, athletic accomplishments, their financial success was what they did with the Lord Jesus Christ. It was my primary purpose as their father, to influence them spiritually.
There are so many precious memories I have with my children, but they all pale when compared to helping them to be saved and become disciples that follow the Savior. If I succeed in other areas of my life and fail at this I am a failure. I want my children to know and love God more than anything else in the world. If I succeed in that then I will be the happiest man in the world.
A father especially has a tremendous influence on the spiritual direction of his family. When the husband and father sets a course for the family spiritually it influences the entire family. When the jailor was saved after the earthquake his entire family followed his decision to serve the Lord (Acts 16:31-34). He set the pace for his wife and children.
The greatest thing a parent will ever do for their children is to help them to know the Lord Jesus Christ in a personal way. Joshua was a national leader and military strategist in the nation of Israel. But more important than what he did for the nation was what he did for his family. He purposed that his family would serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).
Are your children saved? Are you helping them to be exposed to God’s truth in order that they might do so? Are you helping them to grow in their faith? Do they know it is a priority to you because of the focus and time you give to it?
When I was seventeen years old I was driving to my grandmother’s house to visit her and my brother, five years younger than me, was riding with me. As we drove to her home I began to think about my brother’s salvation. We had always been close and I was convicted that I had never talked to him about whether or not he was prepared to go to Heaven.
We stopped at a red light and I said, “Hoss, I have never asked you about this, but are you a Christian? Have you ever trusted Jesus as your Savior and asked Him for forgiveness of your sins?”
I was surprised by his answer. He said, “Yes, I am, Rick. I am a Christian; I have been saved”. Because we were a close family I thought I would have known about something this important.
“Hoss”, I replied, “When did this happen?”
He said, “It happened a couple of days ago on Saturday night. Dad asked me the same thing you did. I told him I didn’t know where I would go when I died. We sat down on the couch in the living room and showed me from the Bible how to put my faith in Christ”.
I‘m glad my father took his task seriously to influence his children for Christ. Mom and Dad were concerned about our education, that we be physically coordinated, and that we learn to relate properly to people. Those are all important matters, but not as much as our spiritual lives.
I had a friend who I had led to Christ in his teenage years and he confided in me that he was greatly troubled because though he had grown up in church with his parents, they had made no effort to ask him about his soul. The truth is, that is what happens to most children that attend church. Parents leave the “spiritual work” to the “experts” (pastors and leaders) and hope for the best.
Years ago we had a special New Year’s Eve service at church and we had testimonies from our folks of God’s goodness in our lives the past year. One of our men stood and shared how grateful he was for the spiritual influence his dad had upon his life. His father had died in recent years and my friend was deeply moved as he talked about how his dad had helped him.
No one noticed but he had a Bible in his hand and toward the end of his comments he held it up and said with tears, “This is my father’s Bible he used and it has his writing in it where he took notes. It is one of the greatest treasures I have”.
It was a wonderful treasure because it represented his father’s responsibility and care for the spiritual training of his family. We ought to teach our children to be honest, to work hard, to give their best and other matters. Above all, we need to teach our children the gospel, give them an opportunity to be saved, and train them to serve God.
What a great purpose in parenting! If you have parents that cared enough to take you to a Bible-believing church and help you come to Christ you have much for which to thank God! As you read this you may need to speak to your children about their souls and help them to grow spiritually.
Perhaps, Dad or Mom, you have never trusted Christ as your Savior. May you do so today, not only for your sake, but for those that follow you. It is a part of our purpose as parents.