Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Temptations When Parenting is Going Well

As I prepared my sermon on parenting last week, I thought of several temptations that come when parenting is going well and other temptations that come when parenting is going poorly. I would like to address the first today and the second later. 

There are temptations we face when things are going poorly, but these temptations are usually obvious. When things are going well and our home is in harmony and everyone is happy we tend to let down our guard. Satan loves to attack during these times. My father always told me that I should be ready for an attack just after a victory. There is a lot of wisdom in that statement. So what should be looking out for when parenting is going well? (Some of you may be saying, “I don’t have to worry about this because my parenting never goes well.” Just humor me and read the post anyway.)

This is the most obvious one, and yet the sin we tend to ignore.  When we are doing well a subtle pride can creep in where we start thinking a lot of our parenting skills. We start believing that we have answers for all those people around us.  

Sign We Are Falling Into this Sin: We become critical of others. A critical, biting spirit is a sure sign of pride. You do not have to say anything to others for this spirit to be present. 

This is more like 1b instead of 2. Pride and self-righteousness go hand in hand. When things are going well we tend to forget God’s grace. We begin to believe it is our hard work that has gotten us here.  We believe we have fixed our children. Our schedule and our discipline are the keys to how well our children are behaving. Our family worship is the central reason we see them loving God. Our great attitude has helped our children have a great attitude. And so on. 

Sign: We stop giving thanks. See below for more on this.

Idolizing Our Children
Our children become trophies of our work instead of trophies of God’s grace. This ties in very closely with the first two.  Christ told us to do good works so that our Father might be glorified (Matthew 5:16). But instead we do works so we might be glorified or our children might be glorified.

Sign: We want other people to see how well our children are doing. We look for men to praise our children and our parenting. If we long for the praise of men there is usually something wrong in our hearts.  

When things are going well we tend to relax, which can lead to spiritual lethargy. That anger, which we worked so hard to keep in check, we let run free. We stop loving our children as we ought to. We stop diligently training them in righteousness. We get slack in praying for them.  We stop pointing them to Jesus. 

Sign: We let our little sins slide.  We excuse and justify our own sins. When we do this spiritual rigor mortis has set in.

Resisting These Temptations
When our parenting is going well how can fight against these sins?

First, we need to give thanks. Thanksgiving is the key to defeating so many of Satan’s strategies. The first three temptations I list are defeated when we give thanks. Giving thanks causes us to recognize God’s hand in all that has happened. If our children are growing in obedience and love for God it is His work, not ours that has brought this about.  We stop seeking the praise of men when we give thanks to God for his work. Thanksgiving is great antidote to spiritual pride and self-righteousness. 

Second, we need to repent. Pride is the death of repentance. If you find yourself not confessing your sins and not asking forgiveness from your children then you have probably fallen into one or all of these sins. 

Finally, we need to remember God's grace to us. To quote Paul out of context, "What do we have that we did not receive?" (I Cor. 4:7) No parent ever merits good children. We do labor for them. We do pray for them. We do work for them.  But in the end, even one day of peace and harmony is a gift of God's grace. 

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Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8