Your family serving God
By Beth Grant
Our two daughters were sitting at the kitchen table after school in serious conversation. As a missionary family, we were frequently separated from my husband during the school year as he traveled in ministry. Our youngest daughter, Jennifer, had reached her limit of missing her daddy.
“Mommy, why does Daddy have to travel so much?” she asked.
Before I could speak, her older, wiser sister, Rebecca, injected a quick response she had heard many times. “Jennifer, you know God has called Daddy to preach and he needs to travel to do it!”
Jennifer was undeterred. “I know that! But does God make his schedule?!”
Our 5-year-old daughter captured what we adults often forget. As followers of Jesus, our relationship with Him should shape and define every area of our lives — even how we prioritize our time. Western culture has traditionally divided the world between the spiritual and secular; God’s Word and the life of Jesus Christ challenge believers to an integrated life of faith. In no area is this integration more strategic, strengthening, and potentially life-changing than in our homes.
The Bible articulates this day-to-day integration of faith in God with the daily life events of our families. Consider Deuteronomy 6:5-9 (NIV):
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
Our faith in God and serving Him with all of our hearts must become the unifying threads through the course of our family’s days. Faith and service are to form a framework by which we make decisions, relate to others and relate to our world. But how do we go about bringing the love and life of Jesus into the very heart of our family life?
Invite your family by word and deed to follow you as you follow Jesus.
In my mind, I am always holding on to the hand of Jesus with one hand and holding on to the hands of our daughters who follow behind me with the other. Jesus is leading me, and I am leading them while together we follow Him.
In a practical sense, Christian parenting is first and foremost mentoring our children to follow Jesus. We are not perfect, and we are always aware, like the apostle Paul, that the treasure of God’s power and glory is at work within very human vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7). But as parents transparently follow Jesus “24/7,” children have the greatest opportunity to see firsthand God’s love and grace at work and can be inspired to follow Him as well.
To illustrate, when my husband or I encounter conflict with someone else in the community of faith, our daughters are very protective on our behalf. They watch closely to see how we will respond and are quick to defend us. In those real-life moments between Sundays in the privacy of our home, we can choose to exercise Christ’s love and forgive or take offense and choose not to forgive. One is uniquely Christlike, liberating and life-giving; the other is very human, emotionally and relationally crippling and spiritually destructive. Our daughters can learn the Christian discipline of forgiveness by watching their parents practice a lifestyle of Jesus’ forgiveness.
Recognize your family as a small unit of the body of Christ.
During one of our times of ministry in India, I was requested to speak to faculty wives at Southern Asia Bible College. The question arose regarding how husbands should treat their wives. Given the very different ways in which husband-wife relationships are viewed in American and Indian cultures, I knew I would not serve them well by responding from my American cultural perspective. Suddenly the Holy Spirit dropped a truth into my heart.
The New Testament gives believers many instructions on how to relate to fellow members of the body of Christ. We are instructed to love one another (1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 3:11), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18; Hebrews 3:13), and be kind one to another (Ephesians 4:32). The apostle Paul’s words to the Christians at Philippi are clear instructions in teaching fellow believers how to relate:
“Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:2-4).
If husbands, wives and their children are fellow believers, don’t these relational instructions apply to family as well, regardless of our cultural background? Obeying and applying God’s Word diligently inside as well as outside our homes assure us of God’s blessings upon our obedience and in turn our families.
Some practical emotional, mental and spiritual needs can be met uniquely within the Christian home when we are relating to one another not only as family but as fellow believers, as God’s Word instructs.
1. Make home a place of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual safety where family members are mutually committed to one another’s well-being. Make it safe for family members to ask sincere questions regarding God and His Word. No one asked more challenging questions regarding God and His purposes than the Psalmist David, and he was judged to be a man after God’s own heart.
2. Recognize and respect the unique God-given gifts of each family member, encouraging and developing them for the fulfillment of God’s purposes (1 Corinthians 12). As Paul’s instructions teach us, each person’s unique gifting is to be affirmed and valued for its potential in fulfilling God’s purposes.
3. Integrate faith with the experiences of everyday life. Discuss personal experiences of family members’ days, being transparent about our human tensions and our desired response as Jesus’ followers. Pray together about them honestly as they emerge. This encourages integrity and practicality in learning to love and serve God.
4. Encourage family members to be globally aware and discuss the significance of world events from a biblical perspective. For example, why are tragic numbers of people in Africa dying of AIDS? What is our responsibility as Christians? What can we do as a family?
Embrace the work of the Holy Spirit within the life of your family.
Pentecostal believers value the important work of the Holy Spirit within our lives as individuals and within our churches. What might God do through His Spirit in our families if we were as expectant, open and obedient to His leading and empowerment at home as we are in church? The Book of Acts is a dramatic first-century story of what happens when the Holy Spirit is at work. The following kinds of supernatural events still occur in the lives of 21st-century Spirit-filled believers as they participate in God’s presence and power:
1. The Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin (John 16:7,8) and reveals Jesus as the Son of God (John 14:16,26). While we can teach our family members we are all sinners in need of the saving, cleansing work of Jesus Christ, it is only the Holy Spirit who can convict of sin and reveal Jesus as one’s Savior. It is the Holy Spirit who continues to convict us of actions and thoughts that are not like Jesus in our walk of faith.
2. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us, bringing freedom from sin for ongoing transformation into the likeness of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:2-4; 2 Corinthians 3:17,18). When even one family member is actively striving to follow Jesus more closely through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, the whole family is affected.
3. The Holy Spirit gives diverse spiritual gifts through which individual members of the community of faith are strengthened and encouraged (1 Corinthians 12–14). Gifts like words of wisdom and knowledge, faith, healing and even miracles operating by the Spirit in our homes bring families closer to Jesus and one another as they serve God together.
Some of our most significant milestones in faith can occur within the day-to-day life of our families. Moments of praying together for a sick child and experiencing the joy of God’s healing, seeking guidance together for a parent’s challenges at work and witnessing God’s intervention, celebrating children’s first attempts to share God’s love with friends, learning to find strength in God and one another at the death of someone dear — all are steps in our family’s journey of faith.
DR. BETH GRANT is a missionary-educator for India and Eurasia (AGWM) and serves as chairperson for the National AG Task Force for Women in Ministry.
From Jesus and You: 25 ways to grow your life in Christ, compiled and edited by George O. Wood, Hal Donaldson and Ken Horn (Springfield, Mo.: Onward Books, 2006). Excerpted with permission.
E-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.