‘When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were around me.’ Job 29:5 NKJV
Vince Foster served as deputy counsel to President Bill Clinton. He allegedly committed suicide in a Washington DC park. A few months before his death, Foster was asked to speak to the graduating class of the University of Arkansas School of Law. This is what he told the students: ‘A word about family. You have amply demonstrated that you are achievers willing to work hard, long hours and set aside your personal lives. But it reminds me of the observation that no one was ever heard to say on a deathbed: “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” Balance wisely your professional and your family life. If you are fortunate to have children, your parents will warn you that your children will grow up and be gone before you know it. I can testify that it is true. God only allows us so many opportunities with our children to read a story, go fishing, play catch, and say our prayers together. Try not to miss one of them.’ Job’s seven sons and three daughters died tragically in a single day. Looking back on it, he said, ‘Oh, that I were as in months past, as in the days when God watched over me…when the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were around me.’ (Job 29: 2; 5 NKJV) If you sacrifice your children for your career, or for material things, you’ll live to regret it. Don’t let that happen to you. On your journey to success, be sure to take your family with you.
‘God places the lonely in families…’ Psalm 68:6 NLT
Life in God’s family can be challenging. To enjoy and fulfil your role as a family member you must understand three things: (1) Your rights. When you trusted Christ as your Saviour you became a member of God’s redeemed family (John 3:3–6). That means you have the right to be accepted, loved, protected, respected, provided for, trained, equipped, and rewarded. Regardless of your past mistakes, God guarantees you these rights, so embrace and enjoy them. (2) The rules of the house. Without the rule of law, you end up with anarchy. And it’s the same in a family. Can you imagine what would happen if the kids ran the house? Well, God’s family isn’t a democracy. You don’t get to vote on the rules. God has established unchanging principles in His Word that guarantee His blessing. ‘If you are…obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.’ (Isaiah 1:19 NKJV) (3) Our responsibilities to one another. You’re called to accept, love and help your brothers and sisters even when they’re selfish, immature, critical and irresponsible. Remember that God’s family is still ‘under construction’, but it’s much better than any other alternative! You need to participate in regular family life and activities. Early church believers met together ‘daily’ (Acts 2:46); as a result they survived all Satan’s attempts to destroy them. So support the life and mission of your church family with your tithes, talent and time. Don’t just be a taker; ‘…God loves a cheerful giver.’ (2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV)
‘…At just the right time we will reap…’ Galatians 6:9 NLT
Susan was the only member of her family motivated to work for change. Her husband, a military pilot, was gone months on end while she brought up the children alone. Her repeated efforts to reform him and the children had failed miserably. Pointing out that doing more of what hadn’t worked wouldn’t make it work, the counsellor suggested she work on what she could change: she responded! He taught her to ‘defect in place’: relinquishing some of her ‘overload’. Everyone became responsible for their own dirty dishes, laundry, untidy room etc. And Susan used the time she saved to do something she’d always wanted to do – take voice lessons. Yes, she found it difficult to avoid picking up after everybody and carrying their responsibilities. At first, when nobody assumed the unfinished workload and the ‘mess seemed unbearable’, she was tempted to give in and return to ‘her old job’. Then, with perfect timing, she read a book about breaking the sound barrier. Pilots who attempted it had always given up when the plane vibrated violently, until astronaut Chuck Yeager said to himself, ‘Maybe once you get through the vibrating everything calms down.’ Yeager sped up where the others slowed down, and flew through the barrier into the calm beyond. After a weekend of unrelenting family criticism, Susan ‘revved up’, persisting against her old instincts. It took time. But after their complaints, the children took on more responsibilities, and her husband accepted fewer distant assignments. ‘So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.’
‘Children are a blessing…’ Psalm 127:3 CEV
If you’ve forgotten how well off you are to have your family, read this: ‘I’d finally had it. The children were loud, irritable and impossible. I was tired and fed up. My wife was tired and fed up. So I decided to run away from it all and have a day just for me; a day in which I did what I wanted. I was going to live it up and be as greedy as I pleased. I wasn’t going to tend to anybody but myself. I zoomed out of the house with $50. "There, I did it," I said to myself as I drove to the highway and headed north. Well, I went to a shopping centre, had a great time in a bookstore and bought the collected poems of Walt Whitman. Afterwards, I drove to McDonald’s and ordered two hamburgers, my own large fries and my own large cola. I ate everything without being interrupted, without wiping anyone’s mouth, nose or bottom. Then I ate the biggest chocolate ice cream I could find. I was free! I was out of town! So I drove to the cinema and watched a film without buying popcorn, without someone sitting on my lap, without escorting someone to the bathroom. I was a free man. I was living it up – and I was miserable. By the time I returned home, everyone was asleep. As I slipped into bed my wife whispered, "We missed you." I answered, "Me too." I never ran away from home again!’
‘…The years…pass quickly, and then we are gone.’ Psalm 90:10 NCV
Eileen Silva Kindig writes: ‘We talk about lack of time…when what we lack is backbone to take responsibility for how we spend it… Instead of coming home, we’re escaping to the office and assembly line to get away from household chores, childcare, and the demands of relationships…work gives us a buzz. Besides money and freedom, it provides the satisfaction of a job well done, an outlet for creativity, breezy, low-demand camaraderie, and intellectual stimulation… All this may be keeping us financially afloat…but the less time we spend with family, the messier our home life gets.’ Time is so precious that God gives it to us a moment at a time. ‘The years…pass quickly, and then we are gone.’ So what will you have to look back on? Hours spent working overtime or hours spent with your loved ones? Kindig recommends: (1) Remember who’s in charge. Manage your time, don’t let it manage you. Think through commitments before you make them. Decide what’s important. The urgent seldom is. (2) Schedule in reverse. Put your real priorities on the calendar first, then add the rest. (3) Drop one thing from your schedule; for example, spending two afternoons less a month volunteering frees you to enjoy lunch with your spouse. (4) Be, rather than do.Think. Pray. Relax in a chair. (5) Get your spouse’s perspective on how you’re spending your time, and what may be stealing it. (6) Be honest about your limitations.You can’t manufacture time; we all get the same amount. (7) Keep a list of your commitments by the phone so you think twice before adding to it.
‘…This man welcomes sinners…’ Luke 15:2 NIV
Let’s look at two sinners Jesus welcomed. First, Matthew. As a tax collector working for the Romans, he was hated by his own people, the Jews. But Jesus had special plans for him. Because he was skilled in keeping records Jesus not only saved his soul but salvaged his talents. As a result he ended up writing the first of the four Gospels. Do you still think God can’t use you? Not a chance. The fact Matthew invited Jesus over to his house for dinner is surprising. The fact Jesus accepted was truly amazing, given the times. They didn’t understand why ‘This man welcomes sinners.’
Second, Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus so badly that he climbed up a tree. He was willing to go out on a limb to find God. ‘When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today. So he came down at once and welcomed Him gladly. All the people…began to mutter, He has gone to be the guest of a sinner. But Zacchaeus…said to the Lord…Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody…I will pay back four times the amount. Jesus said to him, Today salvation has come to this house…’ (Luke 19:5-9 NIV) The Bible says that God ‘…is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.’ (Hebrews 11:6 KJV) So be diligent in your search. Be persistent in your quest and relentless in your pilgrimage. Turn away from the puny pursuit of possessions and positions and seek the Lord. You will not be disappointed.
‘…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ Genesis 12:3 NKJV
In order to bless all the families of the earth, Abraham had to start with his own family. Before a man could qualify for leadership in the New Testament church, they examined his home life (1 Timothy 3:5). Their thinking was, ‘If he doesn’t succeed there, don’t enlarge his territory.’ But if you’re going to enjoy God’s blessing as a family you must learn to cope with difficulties. So: (1) Try to remember that you’re all on the same team. Don’t take your frustrations out on your loved ones. Too often, home is where we go when we’re tired of being ‘nice’. (2) Before you speak, get the facts. Nothing’s more damaging than jumping to conclusions. ‘Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.’ (Proverbs 13:3 NLT) (3) Handle it with wisdom. List all your options and you’ll be more objective. That’s how you’d handle a problem at work; why not do the same with your family? (4) Find something good in the situation. ‘And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God…’ (Romans 8:28 NKJV) No matter how bad things seem, every situation holds something positive — look for it. (5) Make sure they know you love them. It’s ok to express how you feel so long as you do it graciously. But make sure your family knows you love them. When people feel loved they can weather almost any crisis. Think: when do you need God’s love most? When you deserve it least! Try to follow suit.
‘He must manage his own family well…’ 1 Timothy 3:4 NIV
Balancing family and career calls for tough, unselfish choices. If you make the right ones you’ll look back with joy, not regret. John Ortberg writes: ‘A friend of mine is a professional musician. For many years he made his living on the road. He was becoming increasingly successful. Then three years ago he became a father. He was on the road about half the time. He realised that when his daughter was about a year old she hardly knew him. He knew he needed to make a change but it was frightening to him. What if his career slowed to a crawl? What if being home more actually made life harder? He took a job as the head of a music department at a university. He still performs, but he travels now only a fraction of the time. His relationship with his daughter has become a source of pride and joy in his life that he otherwise never would have known. He did have to let go of some of his old dreams, but he has since recorded a bestselling CD and been nominated for a Grammy. Most importantly, he realises his daughter will grow up a fundamentally different human being now, than she would have if she had grown up with a hole in her heart where her father was supposed to be. By the end of his life he will have a title that means much more to him than Rock Star. The title is "Dad!" The Bible says a leader ‘…must manage his own family well…’ (1 Timothy 3:4 NIV) And that doesn’t just apply to leaders, it applies to all of us!