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Leaving A Truly Lasting Legacy
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV).
I think most of us are interested in leaving behind a “legacy.” I see this “legacy” term used in many applications. Non-profit religious and secular organizations often court donors to donate money to establish a “legacy.” This concept of having something, particularly something intrinsically good, that lives on after we are forever healed is appealing to most men.
Your legacy is not contingent on the amount of money that you donate to any organization, including your church. Yes, we are to do all the good that we can but with the knowledge that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
If you have been blessed as a father, then you been given the greatest opportunity to leave a legacy by living out Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” A child that loves God will become an adult that loves God and will rear children that love God. Your Christian legacy continues through your heirs for eternity.
Many fathers do not place God first, love their wife as Christ loved His church, or make any effort to seek His face. Their legacy is one of sin. Scripture is very clear that the sin and iniquity of fathers that do not follow God will be passed on to the children for three and four generations (Exodus 20:5, 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9).
The phrase, “the sins of the father” reminds us that God’s law has been established with blessings, as well as judgment. We cannot live in violation of God’s commandments and expect those closest to us to experience no effect from our sin. We see this truth manifested in the inheritance of alcoholism, sexual prevision, abuse, etc. This reality should stir us to obedience to God’s word. In the Prayer of Confession and Pardon in the United Methodist Church, we ask our Lord to, “free us for joyful obedience.” This concept of obedience is essential to those seeking a “Closer Walk With Thee.” Ephesians 6:1 reads, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” We are all children of the Father, and our obedience to our earthly parents is one way we honor and obey our Father in heaven.
We can all agree that proper training of children is essential for their future development. The disagreement occurs when we discuss what is proper training. I would never proport myself to have all of the answers on raising children. I have raised two children and am very proud of them both but acknowledge that I made some poor choices as a father.
Scripture teaches us that “nothing can separate us from God’s love” (Romans 8:38). The Father has modelled for us in His love for us as to how we are to love our children. It is imperative to understand that discipline is not an action we take instead of love but rather is love in action. Proverbs 13:24 reads, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24). Wisdom is a result of discipline, and an undisciplined child will not make wise decisions. This connection between discipline and wisdom is evident in Proverbs 29:15. “A rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
The brain of a child is not fully developed. Their understanding of the world is limited, and their focus is typically immature and inward. Parents do their children a disservice by treating them as adults. Children are children and should not be robbed of their childhood by adults that want children to help them make important adult decisions, engage in adult conversations, etc.
All parents want to ensure that their children are happy. The easiest way to attempt this is to give the child what they want. So, many parents consistently give their children what they want (candy, toys, expensive clothes, etc.) and withhold items and activities that they don’t want (meeting new friends, cleaning their room, eating a healthy diet, etc.).
Some parents also withhold one big item – discipline. As a result, they fail to heed the warning of Proverbs 22:15. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.” Discipline is so important because it puts us on the road to making good decisions. One really good decision is to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Proverbs 23:13-14 reads, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die. Punish them with the rod and save them from death.”
Discipline is the key to yielding good fruit in your children and leaving a true legacy. As fathers, we must realize that most lessons are caught rather than taught. So, our actions are important because our children are constantly watching us. We exasperate them by using arbitrary discipline. We confuse them when our actions conflict with our words. We demoralize them when we do not recognize and affirm their achievements.
Yes, discipline is important but so is grace. Children of all ages will make mistakes. Do you recall how the father welcomed back the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32? As fathers, we show God to our children when we show grace. My mind is drawn to Malachi 3:3, “He will sit as a refiner of silver.” I think God is using a mixture of discipline and grace to work out our sanctification. I cannot think of a better method to help our children to do likewise.
The right next step here is for all of us to consider what are we showing to our children by our words and actions. Are we setting a good example? Are we serious about raising Christian children? Do we want our sins passed on for three or four generations? In short, where do we want to store up our treasure? I pray that all of us can find our response within the God-breathed words of Joshua 24:15, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for the blessing of children. Thank you for modelling for us how to be a father. Grant us wisdom and discernment on when and how to offer discipline and grace. Help us to leave behind a legacy of children that love you. Amen.
Meet the Author
Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
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