“God’s dream for our children is to be holy, not happy.”
Quote by Chip Ingram, from his book, Effective Parenting in a Defective World.
A few years ago I led a small group study for parents at our church. The name of the DVD/book study is Effective Parenting in a Defective World. Chip Ingram, the author of the study, challenges parents to rise above the cultural norm for raising successful children in a defective world. He states in his book that the goal of Christian parents is to help their kids become like Jesus. (Romans 8:29b)
I believe most Christian parents truly want to raise godly offspring, but some may be duped into believing they are obtaining this goal based merely on a spiritual check list rather than on God’s authoritative Word.
First, if you are a parent, please take a moment to answer the following question, and include your answer, along with any comments at the end of this blog.
Q. What is your dream for your child? Is it the same as God’s dream?
Look again at Chip Ingram’s quote from above. I imagine that many parents will say, what’s so wrong with wanting my child to be happy? Am I right?
Of course we want our children to be happy! What loving, caring parent, wants their child to be unhappy? Before you jump too quickly to your own conclusions, take a moment to consider the following.
If we define happiness only by the world’s definition, we risk raising children who desire external pleasures over any other desire. If a parent’s dream is to raise happy children without intentionally and continually training their children to become more and more (like Jesus), they will ultimately raise children who embrace our current culture’s view of happiness. “It’s all about me!”
“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6). – NIV
I’d like to share a few quotes from some notable Christian authors.
Warren Wiersbe, from his devotional book, A Time To Be Renewed:
“The Christian student who obeys only because the school has rules is not really maturing. What will he do when he leaves the school? God’s Word can change our hearts and give us the desire to do God’s will, so that we obey from inward compulsion and not outward constraint.”
Happiness—true and lasting, is only achieved when one’s inner desire(s) align with that which pleases our Heavenly Father above all.
From Andrew Murray, The Secrets of Intercession:
God’s Will and Ours…thy will be done. (Matthew 26:42)
“It is the high prerogative of God that everything in heaven and earth is to be done according to His will and as the fulfillment of His desires. When God made man in His image it was, above all, that his desires were to be in perfect accord with the desires of God. This is the high honor of being in the likeness of God.”
Excerpt from Chip Ingram’s book, Effective Parenting in a Defective World:
“Examine society’s picture of parenthood carefully. It tries to convince us that the target of a good parent is to ensure their children have highly developed athletic prowess, refined social skills, and the best and most prestigious education, all of which should lead to greater upward mobility in life with greater opportunities, and of course, greater happiness. We can easily find ourselves bending over backward to make sure our kids never have a bad day and never lack any opportunity for success that might be out there. And the pressure’s on, because if we fail at any of these points—if we don’t work hard enough to earn enough money and rearrange our schedules to make enough time—we (and others) might feel as if we’ve done a bad job as parents.”
“I’ve got news for you. This is a dead-end street. The difference here is not simply a matter of parenting style; it’s a matter of distinguishing between your dream for your child and God’s dream for your child. Do you understand what you want to produce—or more importantly, what God wants for your kids? You have a tremendous opportunity to shape these vessels of the Holy Spirit and help them fulfill God’s calling. God has a plan for your children that will fit with His overarching purpose. What are you doing to set your children up for success as God defines it? You can’t hit the target until you know what the target looks like.”
Looking back over my parenting years, I can tell you forthright, that I didn’t always hit the bull’s eye while shaping the lives of our now adult children. From time to time, I allowed the things of this world, and the desires of the flesh, to redefine the bull’s eye. There were times when my target appeared blurred while I was preoccupied with raising “happy” children based on the world’s standards rather than on God’s holy principles clearly defined in the Bible. Thankfully, God granted me and my husband much grace as young Christian parents, and He also took the initiative to train and correct us as we learned to seek Him and his wisdom for raising our children.
It is my hope and prayer that every Christian parent will define their bull’s eye as Jesus, and that they will diligently pursue this aim, with God’s grace and wisdom, and by the power of His Holy Spirit.
The key to raising Christ-centered children is determined by how we, as parents, respond to God’s Holy Spirit in our own lives. I pray that parents will respond to God’s Holy Spirit by diligently shaping their children’s hearts to God’s desires, building their minds to think His thoughts, and acting in ways that will build His Kingdom.
There are so many good parenting principles to glean from Chip Ingram’s book, of which, I’ve only skimmed the surface in this blog entry. I encourage every parent to get a copy of Effective Parenting in a Defective World and possibly use the DVD study with other parents in a small group setting.
To help keep your family’s focus on Jesus, make a target similar to this one and attach it to your refrigerator as a visual reminder of your goal.
During evening meals, ask family members:
In what way(s) did you look more like Jesus today? Allow plenty of time for everyone to share—successes, and setbacks. Pray together as a family, asking God to help you grow in Christlikeness.
Example: I want to learn to be more kind to my siblings and friends. (Read Gal. 5:22, Eph. 4:32, 1 Peter 3:8-9, Col. 3:12)
Closing Thoughts: “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”—Quote by Zig Ziglar
Instead, aim at Jesus, keeping Him and His kingdom in clear view, and diligently point your children in this direction every day.
A Brief Litmus Test
Do I typically “cave” when my child pleads with me to skip church when his/her sport’s activity falls on a Sunday?
Does my child observe me consistently reading my Bible and praying?
Do I tend to spend more money on my child’s favorite activities (movies, video games, sports, etc.) than I do on faith-based opportunities that will nurture my child’s spiritual growth? (Fundraising for a youth’s mission trip, purchase of a new Bible, saving for a mission trip, Christian music, Christian concerts, etc.)
Is it more important to me to help my child live for God and become like Christ, than it is to see my child grow up to become a successful athlete, musician, artist, or business person?
Did you know that if your highest goal is to raise children who love God with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind, they will possess the greatest potential for becoming successful in whatever God calls them to do or become?
Other useful Scriptures:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2). – NIV
“Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:13-14). – NIV
And from The Voice Bible, Galatians 5:16-25:
“Here’s my instruction: walk in the Spirit, and let the Spirit bring order to your life. If you do, you will never give in to your selfish and sinful cravings. For everything the flesh desires goes against the Spirit, and everything the Spirit desires goes against the flesh. There is a constant battle raging between them that prevents you from doing the good you want to do. But when you are led by the Spirit, you are no longer subject to the law.”
“It’s clear that our flesh entices us into practicing some of its most heinous acts: participating in corrupt sexual relationships, impurity, unbridled lust,idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, arguing, jealousy, anger, selfishness, contentiousness, division, envy of others’ good fortune, drunkenness, drunken revelry, and other shameful vices that plague humankind. I told you this clearly before, and I only tell you again so there is no room for confusion: those who give in to these ways will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
“The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this. Those of us who belong to the Anointed One have crucified our old lives and put to death the flesh and all the lusts and desires that plague us.”
“Now since we have chosen to walk with the Spirit, let’s keep each step in perfect sync with God’s Spirit. This will happen when we set aside our self-interests and work together to create true community instead of a culture consumed by provocation, pride, and envy.”
My greatest passion is intentionally passing my faith in Christ down to the next generation, starting with our family. I’ve been married to Jeff since 1975. We have three adult children, two sons-in-law, and six grandchildren…our greatest joy in this life! I served alongside of my husband in pastoral ministry for twenty years. We currently offer resources and a speaking ministry to churches and families called Covenant Heirs. Our mission is to encourage and equip parents, grandparents, and others to intentionally live a life of faithfulness to God, with a family discipleship emphasis. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more about us and our ministry.
Holding His Hand blog (2016) is dedicated to my mom, Audrey Lewis, who learned to trust in Jesus during her battle with cancer. This blog testifies to God's amazing love and provision in our lives.