Saturday, April 26, 2008

Chapter 5 - Examining Your Goals

Saturday's Shepherding a Child's Heart

All parents have goals for their children, whether conscious of it or not. Tedd Tripp notes that "however we define success, we wish it for our children." I don't think anyone can argue that. We all have hopes and dreams for our children and pray for the very best in their lives. Yet in the midst of wanting good for our children, we often set unbiblical goals. Tripp mentions seven different goals that fit into this category. I'll mention each one and comment briefly.

The first unbiblical goal is developing special skills. Tripp mentions children being hustled from baseball, football, hockey, dance class, etc. He's also clear to point out that having these skills is not evil. The question is: is the child being measured by his abilities or number of skills being developed? As a teenager, I set this standard for myself. I was in just about every single activity possible. It gave me a sense of belonging and self confidence. However, I truly linked "who I was" to "what I was in." As Christian parents, we should ask what values are being implied and taught by the coaches and instructors of these activities. Will involvement in these activities point our children to the Lord? I believe they can, if we choose wisely. If not, we could be inadvertently teaching our children things we never imagined.

The second unbiblical goal listed is psychological adjustment. Much of today's culture presents a pop psychology that is simply not biblical. And in the process, makes us think it is the only right way to teach our children! I liked Tripp's comment regarding esteem. He mentions how so many of these books teach us to build self-esteem in our children and yet there are no books teaching children to esteem others (as the Bible instructs us). Christ calls us to be servants to those around us - shouldn't that be our teaching point?

Third, is the goal of saved children. Oh, how so many Christian parents fall into this camp. I must admit, it will be tempting for me to do the same as Hannah gets older. The parents are so concerned about "getting their children saved" that is their sole focus. This is a sensitive issue because parents do want their children to become Christians. And yet, when it becomes the sole focus, there are two facts (as pointed out by Tripp): 1) You can never know with absolute certainty whether your child is saved and 2) A child's profession of faith in Christ does not change the basic issues of childrearing. Tripp reminds us that there are many passages of Scripture that call us to train, instruct and discipline our children. Yet none that tell us to get the child to say the "sinner's prayer." We point our children to the Lord the best we can and God works in their hearts as He chooses.

Fourth, the goal of family worship. Many Christian parents think that if they are having daily devotions and prayers with every member of their family, things will be okay. The problem is that oftentimes there is no connection between this routine and life. As is, such a family is reflecting a defective spirituality.

The fifth unbiblical goal is well-behaved children. We discussed this a little in the last post so I won't elaborate much. We need to remember that good behavior is, as Tripp puts it, "a great secondary benefit of biblical childrearing, but an unworthy goal in itself." Good manners apart from biblical roots is deceiving. And in the end it will not produce godly fruit.

Sixth, is the unbiblical goal of good education. Many parents have the sole goal that a good education will make their children succeed. Again, good education is a great thing. But there are many educated "disillusioned and broken people."

Last is the goal of control. This is similar to the goal of well-behaved children. More specifically, as Tripp points out, "the concern is personal convenience and public appearance."

All that being said, what does the Bible have to say about goals and cultural influence. Well, we see clearly in the Old Testament that Israel (God's people) were to not be influenced by the people around them. They were to follow the laws of their God. Our purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him in all we do. We need to evaluate our goals next to this purpose. Instead, we are teaching our children the idolatry of materialism. We send mixed signals and expect our children to "turn out okay."

In next week's post, we'll discuss reworking these goals. In the meantime, what unbiblical goals are you struggling with? If we're honest with ourselves, we can probably name a few. Repent to the Lord for those and ask what He wants of you.

In Christ,

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