One-track manhood.

Yesterday my wife and I talked for a while about our boys and their future, wanting their best interests in life and sacrificing to provide those things for them. The fear of the Lord, the right kind of education, healthy eating and lifestyle choices, being a part of the church on a regular basis, and so on. Those are good things, as they go, and we should strive to help give our children the tools necessary to navigate the seas of life.

But there’s also something implicitly deadly in this, too. You can want the best for them so much that you might just be found giving them unrealistic expectations about life, namely, that if you play all your cards right you can actually avoid suffering. It’s a good thing to avoid unnecessary trouble for yourself, like the kind that comes from foolishness. But righteousness does not equal pain-free living, either.

“Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22) is what Paul said he taught his churches, which was to encourage them to continue on in the faith. Living wisely doesn’t mean trying to avoid suffering; it means dealing well with the God-appointed trials set before you.

I think this is one reason our children (and we) need to continually read the Old Testament, so that we can see God’s covenant faithfulness and mercy working for the good of his people, through his promises, in the downright distressing circumstances of the lives of his saints. In the genealogy in Chronicles 1, for instance, you see the storyline from Adam to Noah to Abraham to David, which immediately brings you back to some of man’s greatest failures. Yet in the midst of that sin and heartache God weaves his grace for the sake of his glory in redemption.

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side… then the flood would have swept us away” (Psalm 124:2, 4). In a culture so consumed with “giving our kids the best” that we often miss the main point—teaching them how to trust God in the midst of real life—it’s a refreshing reminder when you see the messy, busted-knuckle grace at work in the lives of the ordinarily sinful people of the Scriptures. Are we teaching them to lean on God in the floods of life?

When I look at my boys I think about Davin, and I think about his parents and their three boys. I’m sure they wanted the best for their son. You want them to go to college, get a job, get a wife, have kids, and fruitfully multiply. For a lot of people that is more or less a reality. But life is never that clean or simple. So what did Davin, who got to experience very little of that, learn that made him successful as a man?

I think he learned through his losses, through his cancer, that serving and pleasing the Lord is better than life here on earth. He learned to count all those good things as loss for the greater treasure—the knowledge of Christ himself (Philippians 3). So if my boys become anything, I want them to become men like Davin, who set the pleasure of serving his Lord above everything—including his life.

Maybe they’ll live a long time or maybe they won’t, but either way God has had every one of their days recorded in his book before they were born. And since I don’t know what God will grant them in whatever time they do have, I want them to say with Davin, Paul, and Christ: “whatever gain I had in this life, I was willing to lose it in order to glorify my Father in heaven.”

May the prayer of our lives for ourselves and our children be as Christ’s: “Father, glorify your name” (John 12:28). Whatever happens in life, glorify your name through us, and cause us to be satisfied with your presence forever (Psalm 16:11).

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