The greatest legacy we pass on as fathers is not our inheritance. It is not even our good name. It is the spiritual heritage that we give to our children, desiring them to walk in the way of the Lord.
When David was on his deathbed, he said to his son,
"As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever" (1 Chronicles 28:9 NKJV).
God has placed parents as the authorities in the life of the child. And in many ways, we as fathers represent God to our children.
A story I've often told about a little boy illustrates this well. The little boy was frightened one night by a very loud thunderstorm. He called to his father in the next room and said, "Daddy, I am scared."
His father called back from the next room, "Son, don't be scared. God is with you."
The boy paused for a moment and then said; "Yeah, but I want someone with skin on right now."
Fathers, in many ways, are like God with skin on to their children. I don't mean that literally, but I do mean that fathers are the representatives of God to that child.
Consider this: many of the attitudes a child will develop about God will be based on their relationship with their fathers. While I am not trying to lay a guilt trip on fathers, I do want to say that we fathers need to do everything we can to be a godly influence on our children. When our children see their mom or dad contradicting what they know is true, great damage can be done. Sadly, many children do not honor their parents simply because they are not very honorable. Many adults have never grown up themselves, so they abandon their responsibilities to their families to chase after their own interests.
That is why Andrew Murray said, "The secret of home rule is self-rule: first being ourselves what we want our children to be."
Our children must see the gospel lived as well as preached. We are not only to be witnesses to the world. We also need to be witnesses in our homes. Children pay attention to what really matters to us and how our Christianity affects us in day-to-day living.
You are an example. The question is, will you be a good one or a bad one?
We find an interesting insight in an often-quoted passage regarding parenting — one that is usually quoted when children go astray. Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it" (NKJV).
This phrase, "in the way," could also be translated, "in his bent." The Amplified Bible translates it this way: "Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it."
We see in this a recognition that every child is different. I hope, as parents, that we realize this about our children. Every child has a unique and distinct personality. Just as no two snowflakes are exactly like, it is the same with children.
This is why we need to observe our children. We need to watch our children. Then we need to adapt our training accordingly.
This doesn't mean we turn away from the principles of Scripture, but that we adapt them to each child. For example, stern words get some children in line, while others need a different approach.
My point is that we need to recognize the unique characteristics in the lives of the little ones whom God has entrusted to our care. We want to do our best to point them in the right direction and train them in the way of the Lord.
How often we think, "I'm too busy for the kids!" Yet time goes by so fast. Treasure each moment with your children, and don't neglect them. Express your love to them.
To know that our children walk with the Lord — that is our great hope. But we need to remember that they don't belong to us; they belong to God. Our responsibility is to point them to Him.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!