I am sure you’ve noticed this, but we live in a microwave, Snapchat, Vine video culture. Everything has to be quick or instant. Perhaps more than any time in history, we expect so much for so little.
For example, I recently stumbled across the “7 Minute Workout” Challenge App on my I-phone. According to the description, it is a seven-minute workout that can be done anytime and anywhere. It asserts, “Researchers have selected 12 exercises that are performed for 30 seconds with 10-second rest intervals.” The App claims this workout leads to “a higher daily metabolism that is the equivalent of working out for over an hour.” So buy the App, do the workout, and it’s as if you exercised for an hour! We expect so much, for so little.
Unfortunately, in my humble experience, this runs counter to how life works. If I want to be a godly parent, it takes way more than seven minutes daily with my kids. Similarly, if I want to have a robust relationship with God, it involves more than a few minutes here and there.
In fact, these two ideas are inseparable: the Bible argues that to be a strong parent, I must develop a thriving relationship with God. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 says this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children.”
Here’s the key: faith has to be in you before it can be in your kids, so prioritize your relationship with God. Every person is called to enter into a relationship with God through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ. And that relationship is to be the top priority of our lives. In Matt. 6:33 Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Practically speaking, how do we do that? A quick disclaimer: this is not a seven-minute deal, but a lifetime journey. It is pursuing God with all that we are, every day, everywhere, all the time. However, let me suggest four ways you can make knowing God your priority so you will be a stronger man/woman of faith and thus a godly parent.
First, evaluate your relationship to God’s word. God’s word purifies and changes us. Psalm 119:9-11 asserts, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
Our best illustration is Jesus. According to Matthew 4, when Satan tempted Jesus, Jesus quoted the Bible to repel Satan’s enticements. We can best grow in our relationship with God, and turn away from sin and the temptations of Satan, by planting God’s word into our hearts.
Here’s what’s remarkable about God’s word: if we drink it in and digest it, it has power, through the Holy Spirit, to change us. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even the dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Another way to prioritize your relationship with God is by evaluating your friends. Proverbs 18:24 observes, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” The truth is that your friends will help make you a better follower of Jesus or drag you down. The people you surround yourself with will reflect and reinforce your faith or will lead you down a path of ruin. Many of us are quite possibly investing in unhealthy relationships, and it’s time to make a change. For others of us, we may need to build a stronger support system. Perhaps we need to find a community of parents who are seeking after Christ in order to grow as Christian parents. They have wisdom and insight and will encourage us in our faith and parenting journeys.
Third, evaluate your marriage. If you’re married, what is the state of your marriage? Is it happy and healthy, loving and supportive? Is it tense and dysfunctional? Are you just co-managers of a household? I have heard it said—and agree—The best parenting is modeling a godly marriage to our kids. Not a perfect marriage, but a humble one that is dependent on the grace of Jesus Christ.
I believe Ephesians chapters five and six outlines the correct order of priorities in our families. According to Eph. 5:1, God is first: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love.” Marriage is our second priority (Eph. 5:21—33). Third, comes the children: Eph. 6:4, “Parents… bring up your children in the training and instruction of the Lord.”God is first; spouse is second; children are third. As a pastor, I cannot tell you how often people foul up their families by prioritizing the children, or their career, before their relationship with God and their spouse.
If your marriage is struggling, I encourage you to see a Christian counselor or pastor or attend a marriage training or retreat. It is possible to get your marriage back on track with the right resources and support.
Lastly, you can deepen your relationship with God taking responsibility and making time for your priorities. Pastor Carey Nieuwhofdid a life inventory and evaluated his parenting, Bible study, marriage, etc. He came to a hard realization: “I stopped saying, ‘I don’t have the time.’ Instead, I starting saying, ‘I didn’t make the time.’ That made me realize that everything I do is a choice. It’s a constant reminder to me that I need to make time for what’s important and cut what isn’t.” Put differently author Louie Giglio wisely remarks, “Whenever you say yes to anything, there is less of you for something else. Make sure you’re yes is worth the less.”
Deuteronomy 6 gives this challenge: our faith has to be in us before it can be in our kids—so we are wise to prioritize our relationship with God.
What areas of your life do you need to change and rearrange?