Learning from Children — Part 3


This is the third and final post in a series of three, from a message I preached earlier this week. This message can now be listened to in its entirety here, if you prefer the audio version. Hope you enjoy and are challenged by it.

There is a third and final lesson we must learn through God’s precious children and that is…

C. The Lesson of Generosity

which is found in Matthew 7:7-11:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11).

Now, granted, this text teaches us more about the nature of our God than the nature of our parents. Our God is not a cosmic-kill-joy-mean-old-tyrant who sits in heaven ready to zap any joy out of our meager existence. No! God is generous and kind; He is always eager to bless and ready to forgive those who come to Him with a humble heart. This is the Christian God I know.

But it is also clear that Jesus is saying here that it is okay for us to be generous with our children. In fact, our natural tendency as parents is to give the best we can to our children. In other words, it is within our nature to be generous, to provide, and to look after the affairs of our children.

Try as I may, I cannot understand the minds of those who bring children into the world only to abuse and neglect them. That’s one thing that makes me angry. In fact, not too long ago I was hanging out with some children in a depressed area of our town where we have a ministry called “Sowing Hope,” and a guy called me aside and introduced himself. He said, “Hey, my name is Greg. Do you know what I do here?” I said, “No Greg, but it’s nice to meet you.” One of his kids was hovering nearby, so he waved him off, looked straight into my face, and said, without hesitation, “I sell dope here.”

I was sitting at a picnic table, and the moment I heard him say that, I rose to my feet. I put my index finger right in front of his face and said, “Greg. You stand against everything we do here in this complex. If you ever come anywhere near one of our children, I am taking you down.” Then I sat down before my legs gave way from shaking… Greg is about 6’ 2’’ and he weighs about 250 pounds. By the way, five months later, by God’s grace, I baptized Greg and his wife Christy at our church, but that is another story.

The point here is that we should be outraged by injustices in this world, and especially injustices against God’s precious children. This type of outrage led me, with the help of friends, to start a ministry to rescue children in SE Asia called G.R.O.W. Since 2009, we have rescued 9 children in Chiang Mai, Thailand, who are now kept safe from the evil claws of those who harmed them through sexual and physical abuse. These children are now happily thriving in the G.R.O.W. home and, more importantly, they have met the Lord who is the reason for their hope of heaven.

The Bible says that God is the one who gives us “good and perfect gifts,” and He expects us to do the same to our children. I don’t know how it is in your family, but I know that my wife and I have always been willing to sacrifice so our children would have a place in the sun. By the grace of God, they have been blessed and we are very proud of them and what they are doing with their lives.

Sometimes, generosity to our children means making an effort to be a part of their lives, even if it costs you something. When my girls were in school, they were very active in sports. To stay involved, I coached their Junior High Volleyball teams. I have so many memories of those years but none as vivid as the time my oldest daughter Carolina’s team was playing a critical game in a decisive tournament. We had fallen behind in the last set and I called a time out to set up a play. There was so much tension in the air in that small gym as we huddled together and I was explaining the play. Suddenly, I hear Carolina say, “Dad?” I said, “What, Carolina?” She responded loud enough that the parents on the bleachers behind could hear: “You have bad breath!” At that point everybody was laughing, including myself, so I just sent them back to the court, while someone “parachuted” a whole pack of gum down the bleachers for me… From that day on I learned to always keep a pack within reach…

But generosity to our children does not mean that they get a blank check. I just saw a portion of an interview with Mark Wahlberg, who, by the way, is starring in a movie that has a kid-friendly name and a cute bear but don’t be fooled by it. To my disbelief, I heard him say, “Now, when it comes to our kids we make an exception – we give them whatever they want.” Now, I am hoping he is exaggerating or at least that his wife has better judgment than him, for that is a recipe for disaster.

The Bible tells us the story of one of King David’s sons, a guy by the name of Adonijah. When David was old and there was some question about who was going to succeed him on the throne, Adonijah rose one morning and declared: “I will be king.” The story is found in 1 Kings 1. In verse 5 it says that…

“… he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him.” (1 Kings 1:5).

Now, the author of 1 Kings, at this point, pauses to make a little editorial comment. The comment gives us a critical insight into the reason Adonijah was emboldened to try to take the Kingdom. It turns out that the mighty King David, the fierce King of Israel, the same one who killed the lion and the bear and routed many enemy armies in war, was fierce to everyone else except his own children. Sadly, the author says in verse 6:

“His father had never interfered with him by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?’” (1 Kings 1:6).

This comment should serve as a warning to all well-meaning parents out there who have decided to ignore conventional wisdom (and Biblical teaching) in favor of more permissive parental guidance from the pens of people like Dr. Spock, among many others.

This is a textbook example of how to raise a rebel: give whatever he wants and never ask why he behaves the way he does. Adonijah reasoned: my father has never denied me anything; now that he is old, I doubt that he will care if I take the kingdom. But he forgot one little detail – a feisty little woman named Bathsheba. You can read for yourself how the story ends, but I guarantee you – it does not turn out well for Adonijah.

And it never ends well to anybody raised that way. Generosity does not give us a license to indulge and the line of demarcation between a gift and a bribe sometimes is very thin, though the desired results couldn’t be more different – after all, a gift evokes gratitude, a bribe breeds a tyrant.

Pastor Ed Young has written about this in a Book titled Kid CEO: How To Keep Your Children from Running Your Life, which I highly recommend. He says that there is a power struggle in most of our homes – a crisis of leadership, he calls it, with parents leaving the decision-making to kids barely out of diapers, if that. At one point in the book, he says,

In fact, what is happening is a role reversal. In other words, kids are running the asylum. They are leading, and the parents are following. As a result, the home has become a lopsided landslide of mayhem – it has become kid driven rather than parent driven.”  

How about your home? Is it a “lopsided landslide of mayhem”? If so, perhaps it is time for you to take over the reins again. And you might need to start at the basics, like taking charge of the game console or the cell phone. This might be the hardest thing you will need to do, but is worth it. Listen, folks, there is no consolation prize for those who console themselves with the game console and if the cell phone is your shepherd, you SHALL want.

I remember when our kids were small and they wanted to continue watching T.V. beyond their bed time. After trying to convince them to turn the T.V. off on their own, I would just to grab the remote and tell them, “Watch me, I’m the most powerful man in America,” Click. And, believe me; I felt every bit as powerful as I saw the flickering lights of the tube disappearing in front of our eyes.

I know this sounds mean but it really isn’t. I did it because I was absolutely certain that it was the best thing for my kids, even if they didn’t know it.  We don’t want someone to say of our kids what Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor, said about American families in the 1800’s. After one of his visits to America, he is reported to have said:

“The thing that impresses me most about America is the way parents obey their children.” (Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor).

Now please, I beg you, don’t just go home and take everything away from your children. If you are not in the habit of doing this, take your time, talk to them, establish your rules, and stick to them.

In sum, then, the third lesson we learn from God’s precious children is this…

be generous but don’t forget to lead.

 Conclusion

I want to end by saying that there are many more lessons God wants to teach us through the precious children He has entrusted to us. I only had time to share three with you today, but here is a final thought. Some of these lessons come like comic relief; others have the force of a 2 X 4.

When my daughter, Carissa, was 5, she taught me the greatest lesson I ever learned about the tension between ministry and family. At the end of every service people always wanted to shake hands and chat with the pastor. This sometimes would go on and on while my wife and two small girls would wait. This time Carissa decided enough was enough. She tried to get my attention by tugging at my coat and saying, “Dad!” I was so distracted, I didn’t notice. She probably tried again, I don’t know. All I know is that suddenly I heard that sweet little voice behind me saying, “Pastor Ivanildo!” I immediately turned and to my shock I saw my daughter there.

Ouch! She had figured out how to get my attention!!! I felt ashamed, humiliated, a thief of my family’s time. I went home in silence but I have kept that reminder close to my heart ever since and through all my highs and lows in life and ministry I keep this thought in front of me: God desires for us to serve Him with all of our hearts but not at the expense of our families. He wants us to love our children to Jesus, to be humble like they are, and to go out of our way to be judicially generous in all of our dealings with them. But above all, He wants us to teach them to be imitators of God all their lives as we learn from this verse in Ephesians:

“Follow God’s example in everything you do, because you are his dear children” (Ephesians 5:1).

Ivanildo C. Trindade

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