In my short stint as a father, I have had many opportunities to dialogue with Christian parents. Although the conversations take different forms, the issues remain the same – time, money and children – more specifically, how to have more time, more money and preferably less children. And when the discovery is made that I am in fulltime ministry, with seven young children, and a wife who homeschools and manages the entire household (without a maid!), I am instantly asked, “How do you and your wife manage?!” to which I reply, “We don’t … we rely on God.”
But this is not the answer they want. What they really want to know is how we afford our larger-than-normal family, how we find the time and energy to do all we need to do, and how we manage, nurture and train all the children. Yet, the answer is still the same … “We don’t … we rely on God.”
Like everyone else, we face the same challenges and struggles of parenting. On our own, we don’t and can’t manage anything. It is only in Christ that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us (Phil 4:13).
We don’t stop being disciples. At this point, you may be wondering what this has to do with discipleship. Let me say that it has everything to do with discipleship. When we decide to follow Jesus, it is a commitment that stands regardless our position in life, single or married, with two children or ten. We don’t stop being disciples! To stop means to stop following Jesus, to stop abiding in Christ, to cease drawing from the true Vine.
As such, it’s not about finding more energy to pray or more time to read the Word, but critically recognising the need to pray and to constantly abide in the Word. Serene and I have experienced this time and again – the moment we take our eyes off Jesus, things go crazy around the house and everything falls apart. We have learnt that, truly, apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).
All that we have is from God. How else can we but manage these for His glory? How else can we manage but with His strength and power? How else can we have strength and power but to draw from Him daily? Discipleship is not about knowing how to manage, but knowing who we are in Christ, our Master, out of which flow our call and our priorities.
Disciples know their Master. If I am a disciple, I have a Master. The question is, “Who is my Master?” Jesus said that no one can serve two masters. We will love one and hate the other. Anything and anyone can take the place of Jesus – my wife, my children, my career, my worldly pursuits, even my church. When that happens, I only serve Jesus on Sunday mornings. For the rest of the week, I serve my other masters.
I have come to acknowledge that I need Jesus desperately. My source and strength is Jesus. If I don’t spend time with Him, I have nothing. It is only out of my relationship with Him that I can relate with others. In loving Jesus, I love my wife and my children. In trusting Jesus, I know that my best can never match His best for my family. In following Jesus, my family knows that we are headed in the right direction for the right destination.
My Master is Jesus and I am His disciple.
Disciples know their Purpose. Not everyone may be called to fulltime ministry, but every believer is to be a fulltime disciple. When Jesus says, “Follow Me,” He is inviting men and women to give up everything to be with Him and to learn from Him. And everything includes our families.
To follow Jesus means to have my eyes fixed on Him. Problems come when my eyes are fixed on myself, my wife, my children and our needs. When I yield to the call of these needs, I invariably miss the call of Jesus to walk with Him. In Matt 10:37, Jesus says, “… he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” So do I stop loving my family? No, I don’t love them any less. It just means that I love Jesus more.
We are disciples first before we are husbands, wives, or parents. And disciples are very clear of the purpose of following Jesus – to become more and more like Him. With this purpose and promise of transformation, a true disciple of Jesus makes for a better husband, wife and parent.
Disciples know their Priorities. So many Christians struggle with discipleship because of misplaced priorities. An over focus on needs will lead to a focus on money, job, self-improvement, and career. Soon, worry and anxiety set in, and they wonder, “Where is Jesus in all these?” I believe the Master is still there, patiently waiting. It’s the disciple who has gone missing.
A disciple’s priority must be to do what the Master has called him to do – to declare, establish and manifest the Kingdom of God (Matt 10:7,8). When Jesus sent His disciples out, He told them not to worry about anything for they will be provided for. Their priority was to do His will and to please the Master. The same applies to us today. Matt 6:33 reminds us that between our needs and God’s Kingdom, we are to seek the latter that the former will be taken care of. How often have we got it upside-down? To be sure, the question is not whether God will meet our needs, but if we are seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness.
A disciple’s priority is to look after the Master’s business. The Master will look after the disciple’s needs.
So how do we manage? We don’t … we rely on God. As you can see by now, discipleship, as with parenting, is not merely about methods and how to’s. There’s something more fundamental – it’s relationship.
If you are struggling with being a disciple and a parent, it’s not more steps you need. Instead, you have to determine what is it you find difficult to let go of, for it is that cost of discipleship with which you are struggling. Don’t struggle to be a disciple. Strive instead, to know the Master. For when you know who your Master is, and how faithful He is, you will gladly follow Him wherever He leads. When that happens, priorities become clear and everything falls in place.