I began this set of posts on balancing family, work, and ministry with a diagram to summarize our time commitments.
We covered the various time categories that get “squeezed” when children join the mix. We also talked about the time we invest in our families. We emphasized that family time is not babysitting or childcare; it is investing in our children’s future and our legacy.
Let’s wrap up our discussion with a few thoughts about work. It is easy to find our significance in our work. I think this is especially true if we feel unqualified or uncomfortable on the home front. But rest assured, God has qualified and gifted you to be a success as a husband and father. Everything you were given at your new birth – a new heart, a new identity, a new power, a new disposition, a new Spirit, a new nature – are available to you to invest in your family.
I think sometimes those of us in ministry to fathers sound like we are negative toward work when we address the topic of overwork or finding our significance only in our work. Work is a good thing. In fact, we have posted previously four biblical reasons to go to work. Our goal is to learn the balance between doing our work with excellence while at the same time not becoming totally wrapped up in our work.
One principle that has been helpful to me is the idea that “You may feel indispensable at work; you are indispensable at home.” Don’t give everything you have at the office. Save some time and energy for your family. Not to denigrate the importance of the work you do, but there is probably someone who could step in and do your job in a pinch if you were not there. There is no one to “step in” at home. You are it. And your presence and influence are indispensable to your family. You are the one. Remember, you may feel indispensable at work; you are indispensable at home.
Finally, we invest in our children when we teach and model the concept that love trumps knowledge. Paul writes in I Corinthians 8:1, “Knowledge puffs up, love builds up.” Or in another translation, “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” Paul could not be more direct. When the apostle expounds on the topic again in I Corinthians chapter 13, he explains that knowledge without love is useless. According to Scripture, knowledge without love is of no value whatsoever!
This prominent message of the New Testament has tremendous implications in your family and in your community of believers. In our legitimate quest to get things right, we can forget the love. In our effort to get our kids to fly right, we can damage the relationship with a lack of love. In our search for Bible knowledge, we can become hearers and studiers of love instead of doers of the Word. The knowledge we advertise in our gossip often harms the ones we claim to love. Our desire to be in the knowledgeable inner circle can leave us stepping over our less-connected brothers and sisters. And in our effort to be biblically correct on current trends, such as homosexuality, we can lose our love for the individual caught in its grip.
I have seen our children take this message to heart. I have seen the idea that love trumps knowledge played out in their lives over and over. It would be self-serving to share their stories, but it warms the hearts of their parents. Did we value knowledge in our household? Very much so. Bible knowledge is important. Academic progress was encouraged and rewarded. But it must always be subservient to love.
Soon after Rhonda and I were engaged to be married, I flew up to Alaska for a job assignment while Rhonda finished her last semester in school. She gave me a book as I boarded the plane and wrote this verse on the flyleaf, “Let all that you do be done in love” (I Cor 16:14). Little did we know then, over 35 years ago, that this verse would become a theme for our family. Rhonda has always been a doer of the word when it comes to love, but I guess on that day she was a prophet as well.
Oops, I see that I skipped 29 ways to affirm your children. Let me make it succinct: Affirm, affirm, affirm your kids. Affirm them for their gifts. Affirm them for their personalities. Affirm them for their spiritual interest and maturity. The essence of Christian child-training is celebrating our children for who they are while at the same time spurring them on to greater development and maturity.
Now parents sometimes wonder, “Will Junior take advantage of all this affirmation?” In my mind, it works a lot like grace. Legalists worry that too much emphasis on grace in our practice and teaching will somehow lead believers to take advantage of God’s gift. But I see it as just the opposite.
The more I know and experience of God’s grace, the more I desire a close relationship with Him. I do not want to sin more. I want to sin less, because I am in a love relationship with my Father and I do not want to disappoint him. In a healthy believer, you could say that grace – and the relationship that comes with it – is self correcting.
Affirmation is very similar. Children run to where they are affirmed. Your affirmation builds a relationship with your child that, generally speaking, they will not want to break or disappoint.
Now if this does not describe your own childhood and affirmation does not come natural to you, it will take some intentional effort. But we have something to help. We have previously published 29 ways to affirm your children and have collected these posts in this archive. This list is extensive, but is not designed to weigh you down with more to do. They are ideas to incorporate into your every day family life. And I know you can do it!