Today’s AMI Quiet Time Devotional is written by Pastor Ryun.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
“The Meaning of Raising Three Little Munchkins” (Part 1)
1 John 4:20-21
If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God.
Note: Today’s devotional is an updated version of what I first wrote in 1998 when my children were eight, five, and one years of age.
As all parents already know, raising children is very hard work. That could be one reason some folks opt to not have any kids. One aspect to raising children—that is a real stinker (for me, at least)—is the constant feeling of guilt. An undeniable truth is that children do many things wrong. Just the other day, I told Joshua that if he does to another person what he did to his sister when he is grown up, he might end up in jail. (Now, some 20 years later I have no clue as to what Joshua did; therefore, I am thinking, If it was that serious of an offense, how come I don’t remember any of it? Maybe I over reacted.) Only a few days earlier his sister got an earful from me for saying mean things to Joshua. (Again, I don’t remember what she said.) In both cases, they got disciplined pretty severely! But afterwards, I wasn’t sure whether I went about it the right way in terms of the severity of the discipline. Then I heard Ephesians 6:4a echoing in my ear: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” I couldn’t help but wonder whether I did that.
Then there are times when I mercifully let go of bad things they did, and then wonder whether I should have disciplined them for it. In such times, I hear Proverbs 13:24 echoing in my ears: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” Then I began to wonder whether my children will now grow up to be criminals or something, all because of my misguided act of mercy.
Well, this is 2018 now and my kids aren’t children anymore. How are they doing? There isn’t anything definite to report, since their lives continue to unfold in their twenties. But one thing I have learned thus far: We don’t have to be perfect parents for our children to do reasonably well with their lives. That is to say, it is not entirely up to us—it is up to God! If not, how do you explain Jonathan, an uprights son who stood by his unprincipled and unreasonable father Saul until death.
I would like to believe that many of my worries over my children then were an overreaction that came from not realizing that God can overcome my mistakes as parents. Perhaps I should have shown mercy instead of disciplining them, or vice versa, but God knew my heart. “We [can] set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us [because] God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20), including that I loved them and continue to love them.
Parents, before figuring out what to do between discipline and having mercy, love them first.
Prayer: Dear Lord, as You love us conditionally, help us to love our children unconditionally. Help us to love them for who they are, not because they can do things that makes us feel proud of our ability to parent. Father, please remove such delusion from us so that we can humbly ask You to help us to raise your children given to us for a time. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 1 Timothy 5
Lunch Break Study
Read 1 Samuel 20:30-34a, 31:1-2: Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? 31 As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!” 32 “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. 33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David. 34 Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger . . . 31:1 Now the Philistines fought against Israel; the Israelites fled before them, and many fell dead on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines were in hot pursuit of Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua.
Questions to Consider
- Based on Jonathan’s exchange with his father Saul, how would you characterize Jonathan and Saul, respectively?
- How did Jonathan show his love and loyalty to his father?
- What does this say about parenting? Do parents hold all the cards in ensuring that our kids turn out perfectly? (For reference read Ezekiel 18:1-24).
- Jonathan was a selfless man who, once recognizing God’s will that David—not him— was to succeed the throne, did all he could to defend his friend at the cost of his own life. On the other hand, Saul, wanting to keep the throne in the family, did everything to oppose God’s will, including trying to kill his own son (an irony, indeed) and later David.
- Jonathan, having left his father in righteous anger, returned to his father to fight along with him in what turned out to be their final battle. You and I know that many of us wouldn’t have done that. We have heard cases where adult children don’t call their parents forever after a big fight that happened years ago.
- Of course, parents are responsible to do their part in raising them in accordance to biblical ways (Eph. 6:4; Prov. 22:6), but they don’t control all the factors. Therefore, they shouldn’t get too much credit if their children turned out godly, and they shouldn’t get too much blame if their children turned out to be like Prophet Samuel’s sons, who “did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice” (1 Sam. 8:3).
This is for parents and future parents. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” What’s the first thing that comes to your mind with respect what you want your child to model after? Going to church Sundays? That’s good. Not using profanity? Okay. How about apologizing to people (including your spouse and children) after making a mistake? How about being humble, loving and kind? There’s so much to pray about—pray for your child before going to sleep. Pray that you will be that humble and kind person your child wants to emulate (much like Timothy imitated the sincere faith of his mother Eunice).