One of the greatest things that we can do as human beings is spend time with family. Besides husbands and wives, no place is it more important than parents spending time with their children. Sports has always been an important part of my life…and I am thankful that it has become such for my son. I enjoy our times playing Madden football, although I can barely hang with him…and this is with him playing on the “all-pro” level and me on “pro.” Even more than this, I enjoy going to football games of the real life variety. My own times with my dad were important. He loves to tell fish stories, but the thing is…most of his are true. One story he reminds me of on a regular basis…and I can verify as true…is one time, when I was about Ian’s age, we were raking in the perch on a lake, and I getting bored from the lack of sport. Deciding to exercise some “ingenuity”…I started pulling some foam rubber off of my seat cushion and proceeded to catch even more fish. True story. We had fun. Families are supposed to do so.
Another story of a different sort…it was a Sunday morning and a father sat in his recliner reading the newspaper. He said to his son, who was reading the comics section, “It’s time to put down the comics and get ready for Sunday school.” “But, Daddy, aren’t you going to go with me?” “No, I am not going, but I want you to hurry up and get ready.” “Dad, did you go to Sunday school when you were a boy like me?” “Yes,” replied the dad, “I went every Sunday.” Walking away sadly, the son said, “I bet it won’t do me any good either.” Unfortunately, this story is played out in too many homes. One Old Testament father said…”Not so in my house.” How important it is for fathers and mothers to be…not only the leaders of the family…but, the spiritual leaders of their families. It is God’s plan…one we must take seriously.
God’s leader following Moses is Joshua. And Joshua makes it clear to anyone would listen to him as to his allegiance (24:15). He could not be neutral, nor could he be divided in his mind. He makes a decision to serve the Lord, the God of Israel, when many others are chasing after the idols of the day. If the people, like Joshua, are going to serve the Lord, it is because they are going to respect Him, obey Him and worship Him only. This would mean giving up any idols that are going to keep him from his goal…and to challenge his family to fix their hearts on the Lord, devoting their lives to Him. All of this comes at a price…it comes from having hearts focused in the right manner and on the right things. It is to be focused on being Jesus to one another…on living grace and love with one another. It is a yearning to develop a heart that “wants to” worship the Lord and not simply settle on some “have to” worship Him. Like the young man in the story, our young people will know if our hearts are fixed in the right direction, because the truth of the matter is that our kids are…by and large…going to grow up to be “very much like us.”
Being a wise spiritual leader, Joshua knows that people are going to worship something or someone…whether they realize it or not. This is because humans are incurable religious…we are going to devote ourselves to something. And if the Jews did not worship the true God, they would end up worshipping the false gods of the wicked nations in Canaan. Joshua’s point – you can’t do both! In v.21, they affirm to Joshua at this time that they want to worship and serve only the Lord God of Israel…and they gave their reasons. Joshua also understands that it is easy for people to promise obedience to the Lord, but that it is quite something else actually to do it. His strong words are meant to curb their overconfidence and make them consider their own hearts. Then Joshua said, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD." "Yes, we are witnesses," they replied. "Now then," said Joshua, "throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel." And the people said to Joshua, "We will serve the LORD our God and obey him" (vv. 22-24). The Lord never wanted Israel to be “a house divided,” but, as Joshua proclaims…”a house decided” concerning the Lord.
“Build me a son, Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory. Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of his deeds; a son who will know you…and that to know himself is the foundation of the store of knowledge. Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high, a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who reach into his future, yet never forget his past. And after all of these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength. Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.’” General Douglas MacArthur
I pray that my daughter will grow into a woman who values the thoughts and opinions of people she respects, but also, one who knows her own mind, and trusts herself sufficiently that she feels able to take an unpopular stand. I hope she is always sure enough of her own value that she won't rely exclusively on the approval of others, or define herself by who she knows or what she wears. I pray that my daughter will recognize and respond to the feelings of others around her -- especially those in need of compassion. I pray that she will always value people over things, deeds over words, and the voice of her own conscience over the consensus of the crowd. I pray that she remains loyal to her family, and to her friends -- that she is open to new friendships, but that she never takes her old ones for granted. I hope she will be for her brothers (as I pray they will be, for her) someone they can always turn to, who knows them and loves them with unconditional love. And I hope she will always feel that there is no problem so large, no deed so terrible, that she cannot share it with her father and with me. – Joyce Maynard
Conclusion: Application -- Determine to lead your house for the Lord.
“Believing children” do not just happen…they are developed, grown. If we want our children to be devoted to the Lord, then we must first be devoted to the Lord and his ways ourselves. In a world that offers more distractions than ever in order to keep this from happening, it is going to require some serious commitment, not to mention some sacrifices in order to make this happen. We decided before our children came into existence that our primary task was to train them to be Godly, spiritual people…that it was a matter of eternity. We knew that many other things were going to be important…but not matters of eternity. Our commitment to spiritual concerns had to be the primary focus. We have a great responsibility to our children, and grandchildren, to please the Lord, to help our family and friends to remain unstained from the idols of this world. It does not matter that several thousand years separate us from Joshua’s time…because the principles remain the same. We should take a cue from him and seriously, spiritually determine that our families will seek to serve the Lord. And it is not always the big things, like Sunday school and worship that will make the greatest difference. It is a daily family devotional time. It is a trip to the fishing hole or the football game…the trip to the mall or lunch at an eatery. It is preparing ourselves to be the best spiritual parenting people that we can be.