"So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields." Matthew 9:38
The morning of my wife’s fifteen week ultrasound was probably the biggest shock of my life. With four boys, we were absolutely sure that baby number five would round out our mini basketball team. We never in our wildest dreams expected to hear that a little girl would be coming into our family. A rush of emotions overtook me as the nurse smiled and said “Its a little girl!” Shock was first, followed by extreme joy. And then…fear.
I know what its like to raise boys. I know what to expect. Boys are tough. And boys will grow into men who are able to battle the evils of the world. But a little girl….immediately I felt my responsibility as a father escalate to a new level. Even before we left the ultrasound room, I began thinking of her wedding day. More than that, I began to think about the man she would marry. It was then that I realized the seriousness of my role as a father to my sons and my daughter.
Lacy and I are big on family worship with our boys. At night before bed, we read the scriptures as a family and explain them to the boys. We have always wanted them to see the beauty of the Lord from a young age, so that they will grow into Godly men. But how do you disciple a daughter? It became apparent that I was entering a whole new ball game.
I fear that men have forgotten their roles as protectors of the family. We live in a culture that when in comes to dating, parents basically turn kids out into the world and pray that they make the right choices. Centuries ago, it was common place for a man intending on marrying a woman to ask her father for her hand in marriage. And upon doing so, the man and her father would enter into a period of relationship building. To put it more plainly as Dr. Voddie Baucham once put it, “He’ll have to date me first before he gets access to my daughter.” Unfortunately, today when a man asks a girl’s father for her hand in marriage, it is seen as more of a formality than an actual invitation of character examination.
This period of meetings between the father of the intended bride and her suitor allowed for the father to evaluate the man. And it also allowed for discipleship to occur. This may seem extreme, especially in light of the loosely liberated society we live in today. But if I am to be a protector of my children as a father, I intend on carrying that role through to make sure they are protected in marriage.
We have a goldfish at our house. A few months ago we had to go out-of-town, so I gave our goldfish to a friend to care for. I took time to carefully explain to him how to properly care for the fish, and I was selective in choosing the friend to leave it with. I did not want to leave our fish with someone who I knew was irresponsible or reckless. I wanted to know I could trust him. Sadly, more caution is taken by fathers today in evaluating care givers for their pets than suitors for their children.
In his book “What He Must Be if He Wants To Marry My Daughter”, Voddie Baucham told a story about a family friend who was going through a terrible divorce. Voddie’s young daughter overheard her parents talking about the divorce of their friends and how the man ran out on his wife. Voddie wrote that his young daughter came up to her father and said, “Daddy, Im so glad I have you to help me pick my husband.” The little girl had witnesses the consequences of marrying an unworthy man, and she acknowledged reliance on her father as her protector!
This is not arranging a marriage for your kids. Rather, this is guarding them from wrong choices. When we go to the grocery store with our boys, often they will run to the fruit section because they love to help with our food selection. We allow them to choose the fruit they want to eat. Often times because their eyes are not trained to spot such flaws, they will pick a piece of fruit with a rotten spot that would be terrible to eat. So we train the boys what to look for in good fruit, and how to spot bad fruit. If I as their father were to allow them to eat a piece of rotten fruit I would be a terrible father. How much more is this true of protecting our children of when it comes to dating.
Unfortunately, many fathers bow out (or chicken out) of this great responsibility of protecting their children in this way. As parents, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking only about the here and now rather than having a multigenerational mindset. Statistics show that many adults who were raised in broken homes tend to carry the trend on into their future relationships. Future divorce rates greatly increase within families where past generations have separated. Once the deterioration of the family has started, its like rolling a snowball downhill, it is prone to just gets bigger and bigger.
When it comes to the subject of the sovereignty of God and salvation, one of the hardest questions for parents to come to grips with is “What if my children never have a love for God?” But God is faithful to those who truly love Him, and are faithful in leading the families He has given them.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4-6.
Romans 3 clearly says that in our flesh, we hate God. No one seeks, and no one naturally understands. All have turned away to sin. This is evident in how quickly we choose material comforts over God. Its easier to grab the newspaper instead of our Bible. And its easier to plop down into the recliner with the remote in hand at the end of a long work day instead of discipling our children in the ways of the Lord. Choosing worldly things over God only proves the truth of our own depravity. How easily we choose carved images such as the television over the knowledge of God. And the scriptures call this a hate of God. The above verse goes on to say that the Lord therefore allows iniquity to pass from generation to generation, but shows steadfast love to those parents and their offspring who persevere.
“The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ Numbers 14:18.
The Lord is faithful to bless the generations of families who fear the Lord. How a parent raises their child in the Lord and the love they give, the values they teach, and the emotional environment they offer influences not only their children but the generations to follow,” either for good or evil. The great preacher Jonathan Edwards demonstrated a strong sense of duty in his role as a father. He and his wife, Sarah, had 11 children, for whom he always tried to make time, and the family was adamant about family worship together. Read below of the generations that came from Jonathan Edwards family legacy;
“As for Edwards’ descendants, they included a U.S. vice president, three senators, three governors, three mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 65 professors, 80 public office-holders, 100 lawyers, 62 physicians, 75 Army or Navy officers and 100 clergymen, missionaries and theological professors. There were practically no lawbreakers.”
How could such a strong legacy come from a mere preacher who raised his family in perilous times? Simply, Edwards was a Godly man who guarded the very souls of his children. And as a result of his obedience in caring for the family God had entrusted to Him, the Lord kept his promise, showing “steadfast love” to the future generations that were to come.
Will our children make wrong choices in life? Undoubtably. But it is our job as parents and protectors to minimize this in love and Gospel training. It was Paul Washer who once said, “Don’t be surprised when you make church and God a low priority in your home, raise your children in a lukewarm Christian atmosphere, and then be surprised when they grow up with the church not being a priority in their lives as they live a lukewarm Christianity. They are just mimicking the example they’ve been taught by you.”
Fathers, pour into your children while you still have time. Disciple your sons and daughters in the ways and the knowledge of the Lord. Guard the hearts of your children. Parents are quick to instill in their children precautions to protect them from physical harm such as looking both ways before crossing the street, or not taking candy from strangers. Ironically, when it comes to the eternal salvation and well-being of their children, many parents all but neglect this instruction, cross their fingers, and just hope for the best. Discipling your children is more than just making them attend church. It is to walk with them and train them up in the ways and knowledge of the Lord. Sadly, the reason many parents don’t do this is because they are not walking in close relationship with God themselves. It’s hard to feed your kids when you yourself are starving spiritually.
What legacy are you currently paving for your family? Are you concerned with the salvation of future generations or merely the here and now? Part of the problem with modern-day Christians is that we live in an immediate gratification society. We want things to be for us and we want them immediately. This is seen in how we at times wrongly interpret the scriptures.
Take for example a verse like Jeremiah 29:11;
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
Christians love this verse, and they cling to and make the promise for their immediate lives circumstances. However, more times than not we take this verse out of the context from which it was written. The Lord was speaking this promise to God’s people who were enslaved in Babylon at the time. Lets read this promise in a more broad context;
“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” Jeremiah 29:10-12.
Notice God speaks of the promise of plans of good for his people who are in exile. Look at verse twelve”THEN” the promise will be fulfilled. If we are to take this promise in context, we should ask, “What does God mean by then?” Now look at the beginning of verse 10…”When 70 years are complete.” After 70 years, light appears at last in the edict of king Cyrus, but still God’s people would remain enslaved until they began to return under Nehemiah 150 years later! The promise of Jeremiah 29:11 was written to God’s people promising them that He had a great plan for their lives! But they would never see that plan in their lifetime, because it was not a promise for individuals but rather it was a multigenerational promise!! It was a promise of blessing upon their future generations as a reward for their obedience and faith! Yet we rip this verse out of the middle of its original context and try to squeeze immediate blessings out of it!
We must live our lives with a multigenerational mindset. We must think about not only our children, but our grand children and great-grandchildren! An old Chinese proverb says, “When is the best time to plant a tree? The answer is yesterday. When is the second best time to plant a tree? Right now.” The time to begin to disciple your sons and daughters was the day they were born. But if you have neglected this duty, cry out to the Lord and repent in brokenness. Then start today. Future generations depend on your obedience to Christ today.