Craig Groeschel - 3 Gifts to Give Your Children
To those of you that are parents, what I know about you is that you wanna give your children the very best. Is that true? Raise your hands if it's true. Online, you can type in the comment section. I wanna give my kids the very best. We wanna give our kids the best. And in fact, scripture even tells us that we want to. When Jesus said this in Matthew 7:11, He said, "You, if you're sinful people," even those of us, we've all fallen short, we've all sinned, "and yet we know how to give good gifts to our children. So, how much more will our heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him"?
We all wanna give the very best to our kids. We have really, really good intentions, and then we get tired. How many of you know what I'm talking about? It's really, really difficult. Parenting has always been difficult. And in today's culture, it is increasingly difficult. And so, we try to do the right things, and then we get worn out. It's even in the smallest things. For example, when you have multiple kids, it's amazing how you lower your standards over time. Like when we had our first child and we gave Catie a pacifier, the pacifier ever fell on the ground, we would boil that thing, sterilize it, before giving it back to her. Then, Mandy came along, and we would just like run it under the faucet and plop it back in her mouth. And then, when Anna came along, I would just put it in my mouth, and then put it back into hers. Then, Sam came along and we would just let the dog lick it clean.
Who knows what I'm talking about? And then, put it back in their mouth. We got to our fifth kid. You wonder what we did with the fifth kid? Whenever he would drop the pacifier, we'd say like, too bad, Stephen, you're on your own. Cry yourself to sleep or get your own pacifier. Find your own. And so, he did, 'cause we wouldn't give it to him. This was Stephen who created his own pacifier and this was Stephen with a pacifier with his breakfast on his head. Why did he do that? I don't know. We didn't even give him a plate, because he was the fifth kid in the family. But we love to give our best to our children, because we really want them to be happy. So, we put 'em in the best schools we can. We get 'em the coolest shoes that we can afford. We get 'em the trendy jeans if we can afford them, so they're gonna fit in. We'll get 'em the latest phone. We wanna give our kids the very best, but what if what we give them actually hurts them?
So, often with our best intentions, we wanna try to help them be happy. So much so that we may even worship at the altar of happiness. And I would suggest to you that when it comes to our children, we need to worry less about today's happiness and more about tomorrow's readiness. We need to do more to prepare them to be faithful to God in a very complicated world. And so, what I wanna do is I wanna show you three different times and ways that with good intentions, our giving might actually hurt them. I'll give you three different examples. The first way that giving hurts, number one is when we give them things they didn't earn. We do this early on. It generally happens, we break down maybe for the first time in a grocery store when our kid is throwing a fit and everybody is judging our bad parenting.
Have you ever been there? They want the toy or they want the lollipop. And so, finally, we surrender and say, here's the toy, here's the lollipop. And we give them what they want. And then, society reinforces the entitled mindset with everything from like participation awards. And I hate to be the old guy with the bad attitude, but I am the old guy with the attitude when it comes to participation awards, because when you give a kid a trophy for just showing up, it creates a very entitled mindset. And I'll just say it, nobody should ever be rewarded for showing up. Yeah. That's the baseline. That is the expectation. And that's why as parents, we need to recognize one of the best things we can do is give our children the blessing of earning the blessings. One of the best things we can do is give our children the blessing of earning the blessings.
For example, if they wanna play video games, we're gonna say, we want you to play video games and you can play video games after you do your chores. Or you wanna get a car when you're 16, we want you to get a car, but we might say you pay for half of it and if we can afford it, we'll match the other half. Same with phones. I had a friend of mine who did this with their children, I thought it was very brilliant. They said, "Okay, you want a new phone? You can borrow my phone". And the kid's like, "No, it's my phone". And the dad said, "Did you pay for the phone"? And the kid said, "No". And the dad said, "Well then, it's my phone. I'll let you use my phone, but you're borrowing my phone. And therefore, if I want my phone back before you go to bed, I can get my phone back, because this isn't your phone. It's actually mine".
If you wanna buy your own phone, then you can have your phone. But at this point, it's my phone. And a kid's ain't gonna say, that's not fair. You're so mean. And some of you kids are getting really mad at me right now, 'cause I'm giving your parents ideas that you're not gonna like. And then you're gonna argue with them. And to the parents, I just wanna remind you that your children are never your peers. Ooh. You are the parent and they don't get an equal say in every single decision. We don't wanna create an entitled mindset. We wanna create a good work ethic with a grateful mindset. And so, the first mistake that we often make is we give them things that they didn't earn. The second big mistake, and this is so common in our culture today, is we give them praise they don't deserve. We love them so much and we wanna build their self-worth.
So, we tell 'em, you are the smartest kid in the world and you're the prettiest person, and you are the best of the best of the best. The problem is they're not the smartest, they're not the prettiest, and they're not the best. And studies are very, very conclusive of how overpraising actually hurts our children. And the challenge is that when praise is cheap, it robs our children of confidence. And overpraising actually creates anxiety, which is a little bit what happened to me when I was growing up. People said, you're special and you're special and you're smart and you're the smartest. And I thought to myself, okay, then to be loved, I've gotta be smart, but when I look around, I don't feel smart. And so, therefore, if I'm not gonna be smart enough, I'm not gonna be loved. And it created this real internal tension. And that's what we often do to our children, robbing them of putting their faith in God or having confidence in what God put in them.
And that's why if you're taking notes, you may wanna write this down. It's better to praise the process than to praise the person. It's better to praise the process of what they're putting into it than to say you are the best or you're the most special. So, instead of saying like, you are the smartest kid, because you made an A, we're gonna say, oh my gosh, you worked really hard on that paper. Congratulations. You honored God by bringing your best and earning an A. Instead of saying, you're the very best one out there, you're faithful and you've got a good work ethic. And you may say, but isn't that kind of like works righteousness? No, no, no, no. We love our children for who they are, but when we praise them, we actually praise them for what they are doing that honors God. And there's a big, big difference. We don't wanna give them the wrong things. And the challenge is we often do. We give them things they didn't earn, we give them praise that they don't deserve.
And the third challenge, and we all do this, is we give them freedoms they can't handle. Yeah. We give them freedoms they can't handle. It is crazy how sometimes we're like massively overly protective in some ways, and then we're foolishly naive in others, right? We'll say to your 12-year-old, you can't cross the street by yourself and we're overly protective. And then, we naively give them full access to a cell phone. Yeah. We give a middle schooler this device and say, good luck. Hope you don't get addicted to porn. Hope no one sex you on Snapchat. Hope you don't battle with FOMO and feelings of ongoing isolation and depression and anxiety as you scroll mindlessly through TikTok. We give them too many freedoms in ways that they're really not prepared for.
So, what do we do? Well, as a side note reflecting on last week, our goal, because our children are dependent on us. When they're babies, that they need us for everything. Our goal is to gradually transfer dependence from us onto God. We're helping them to learn to trust in God. Less in us and more in God, less in us and more in God. And then, as they become more trustworthy and as they become more responsible, then we give them more freedom, because they've been growing into it. The challenge is culture programs us to mindlessly parent. We create entitlement by giving them things they didn't earn. We create insecurity by giving them praise that they don't deserve. And we create kids caught and bonded in sin, because we give them freedoms that they can't handle. So, what do we do? If we want our children to truly love God, what are the gifts that we can give them to help them become fully devoted followers of Christ?
Well, what I wanna do is I wanna look again at the Shema. We talked about the Shema last week. We're gonna look at the most recited and most essential prayer prayed in Judaism. And we're gonna look at the Old Testament and let this speak to us in our New Testament lives in Deuteronomy chapter six, starting in verse four. And scripture tells us this, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one". What are we to do in our families? What are we to do as parents? What are we to encourage our children to do? "To love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts," scripture says. "Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength".
What are the gifts that we can give our children to help them love God? Let me tell you about three gifts to give your children. We're gonna talk about them today through God's Word. Number one, we're gonna give them a community worth having. Number two, we're gonna give them a standard worth achieving. And number three, we're going to give them a faith worth sharing. Let's all say it aloud, all of our Life.Church locations, what are we gonna give them? We're gonna give them a community worth having, a standard worth achieving, and a faith worth sharing. Let's start at the first ones. As parents and as a church, we wanna give the emerging generation and we all do this together, not just mom and dad, this is what we do as the body of Christ, is we give them a community worth having.
Deuteronomy 6:4 says, "Hear not person, not individual, hear, O Israel," God is speaking to the community of His people, "love the Lord our God, the Lord is one". An Old Testament Jewish family often viewed themselves very different than a modern day family would view themselves. To an Old Testament Jew, the family was way more than the immediate family like us four, no more. The Jewish family community, it consisted of the parents, the children, the children's spouses, the grandkids, the cousins, the nieces, the nephews, even the workers that worked in the family business. The family community would've consisted of up to as many as 80 people. This was a community worth having.
If you ask me, Craig, or you ask Amy, what one thing did you all do as parents to help set your children up for lasting spiritual success? We both would answer that we worked to help them create, to build, and to be a part of an intentional Christ-centered community. If there is one thing that we did above anything else that helped our children thrive spiritually, it was to get them involved, to plant their roots deep in a very intentional Christ-centered community of like-minded friends. In fact, it was so important to us that we chose our Life group not based on who the parents were. It's much on based on what the families valued. It wasn't just like who do we like, but it's who do we want our children to be like? And created a community and joined the community intentionally based on helping them have roots planted deeply in Christ.
Remember the principle from last week? We talked about that who and what you expose your children to will shape who they become and what they believe. It's ridiculously important who we expose them to, what we expose them to. It shapes their beliefs and it shapes their attitudes. Most of us as parents, our philosophy is this, have fun at school. Good luck. See ya. And we just send them out. One of the best things we can do is intentionally help them find, build, create a Christ-centered community. And we know this is so important, because whatever you did growing up, whether good or bad, you rarely did it alone. If you did something good, you probably did it with a good friend. If you did something stupid, you probably did it with a stupid friend. That's right. Raise your hand if you ever had a stupid friend. Don't point at 'em right now. That's really, really rude.
Raise your hand if you ever were the stupid friend. I was a stupid friend. When I went to college, I got mixed up with the wrong friends and I actually became a wrong friend and a bad influence to other people. And what did I do with the wrong friends? Lemme tell you what I didn't do. I didn't treat girls with integrity with the wrong friends. I didn't love God with all my heart with the wrong friends. I didn't have an other sinner, generous kingdom mindset with the wrong friends. Here's what I did with the wrong friends. I drove very, very drunk with the wrong friends. I got in fights with the wrong friends. I actually got arrested with the wrong friends. Put that on your I'm a preacher resume. I got arrested. And this is something that is grounded in spiritual truth.
Proverbs 13:20 tells us, "Walk with the wise," and what happens? What happens? Say it aloud. You become wise. Associate with dummies and what happens? You get in trouble. But you're gonna say, but I'm just a mama and I'm just a dad and I've got no control over who my kids are friends with. I'm totally helpless. They just go out into the world and I can't do anything about it. True, they have a lot of freedom, but you have to remember, even though you can't pick your children's friends, you can influence the environments you put them in. Come on. You can't always pick who they're gonna choose, but especially in the earlier years, you have a great deal of say at where they go and the types of environments they're gonna associate in.
And so, let me just remind you, parents, if you really want your children to be spiritually grounded, let me just remind you, ready for this. This is one of the greatest things. You may wanna write this down, because some of you don't know this. But Life kids meets every week, Come on. Yes. every single week. It's always there with other people with a heart to help your children be fully devoted to Jesus. And also, Switch, it meets on Wednesdays. And you have some degree of control if you want to have your child be around other like-minded, faith-filled teenagers or just give it the luck of the draw and send 'em out wherever. When summer comes around, you still have some influence. And so, if you can afford it, you may send your children to a Christ-centered camp. Or you may say, hey, this summer, how about going on a mission trip to serve the poor? Or you might say to your high school, hey, what about being an intern at the church?
You can't control who they choose, but you have some degree of influence who they're going to be around. And I'll give you an example that was a pivotal time in one of my son's life. Both my boys were exceptional soccer players and one of them was on the one of the higher level competitive teams. The problem with that team is many of the other players were heading in a very, very wrong direction. And as a good player who wanted to fit in, my son found himself vulnerable to the direction some of the other kids. And so, we looked at it, best team and bad influences. What are we gonna do? Because we love our kid, we wanna be great at soccer, he loves soccer. We want him to be great. And we had a serious family discussion. Came to the very difficult decision to move him off of the good team onto a lesser team that was filled with great God-honoring athletes.
Was that easy? It was incredibly difficult. And I'm an athlete, but remember this, as much as I love sports, I would rather have my son great at honoring God than great at playing soccer. At some point, at some point, if you don't make a difficult decision like that, you may years later wonder how things could have been different, because who they're with shapes who they become. And so, we wanna work really hard to give them every opportunity to be in a spiritual community. And this is why it matters so much as Ecclesiastes says, that said that two are better than one. Two are better than one. Two people standing for Jesus are better than one. If one falls down, the good friend can pick 'em up. If one is vulnerable, the other one can have their back.
And so, that's why when your kids are in a spiritual community, it's not just like, oh, you're so weird. You don't drink. No, I don't drink, but we don't drink either. I've got other friends that are weird like that too. Like, oh, wait a minute, you're saving yourself for marriage? No, it's not just me, but there are others of us that are saving ourselves for marriage. And so, what happens is it's not your child out there all alone trying to fight off all the temptation. That they're not serving Jesus by themselves, they're in a community of other people serving Jesus. And suddenly, it's not just your faith they have, it's not just their faith, but it's our faith of people that are around us. And that's why we wanna give them a spiritual community worth having.
The second thing we wanna give them is a standard worth achieving. A standard worth achieving. What is the goal? When it comes to parenting, what do we want for our children? We want them to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and strength. Not just part of their heart. Not just when it's convenient. Not when no one's making fun of 'em. Not when they're at youth group, but not with their other groups of friends. With all their hearts all the time. How are we gonna help them do that? It's not by lowering the standards. An Old Testament Jewish family, whenever a child would turn 12, do you know what that child would have done by the time they're 12? They would memorize the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They would memorize the first five books of the Bible. And you're saying, I can't even get my kid to make the bed.
And let me remind you, if you don't expect much from your kids, you won't get much. If you think it's acceptable to not even hit this baseline standard, you're not gonna get the baseline standard. But if you believe they are capable of more, they will likely believe they are capable of more. If you believe they could actually memorize a book of the Bible, they might not only make their bed, but they might grow spiritually. So, how are we going to help them love the Lord, the God with all their heart, mind, and soul and strength? It's probably not gonna come by just making their TikTok videos their devotions as they're watching somebody else on a 30-second clip. We're gonna raise the standard and say, in our family, we're people of the word.
So, we're gonna do a YouVersion Bible plan together as a family. And once they do it with their family and they're in a community, they might start doing it with their friends. And they're so grown with God, they don't just have one plan, but they've got like four or five. Right, Joy? 'Cause Joy's got several groups of friends you gotta do it with. And they're growing in God's Word. And then, you might say, we actually memorize God's Word. We need to hide His word in our heart, so that we don't sin against Him. Why did I say that? Because that's actually His word. That when we know His word, we become stronger. The stronger we are in Christ, the weaker the attacks from the evil one will be against us With our spiritual armor. We're gonna raise the standard.
My dad before, he was a committed Christian. He said, "Groeschel, don't get your girlfriend pregnant". That's a standard, but we could raise it. Instead of don't go hook up, what we might say is, let's honor God with sexual integrity. Come on. Let's guard our eyes and guard our minds and let's treat the person we're dating as if they're someone else's spouse, because they probably will be. And let's treat ourselves, honor our bodies as if they belong to God, because they do. Instead of listening to whatever music is popular, if it's got lyrics that take your mind into a place that's unhealthy, let's just be weird enough to replace it with worship music that helps us connect with God.
Instead of just going to church every now and then, let's see ourselves as the church. Let's help our 13-year-old engage by serving every week. It's gonna mess you up, 'cause if she's serving, then you actually gotta be here more than once a month. And if you wanna be a fully devoted follower of Christ, you probably need to be in the house of God more than once a month. I'm just saying. And so, we're raising the standard. Our goal isn't to raise the best player, but maybe one of the strongest witnesses. Uh-huh. We don't want our kids just to fit in. We actually may want them to stand out Come on. for their faith in Jesus. How are they gonna do it? Not alone. They have to have a community, a strong spiritual community. And we need to raise the standard and say you're actually capable of doing more. You don't become a strong Christian or minister once you're 21. You can be eight years old and be a witness right now.
Come on. We're gonna give 'em a community worth having. We're gonna give them a standard worth achieving. And number three, we're gonna give them a faith worth sharing. A faith worth sharing. When it comes to the truth of God, what do we do? We have to have it in us, parents. It starts with us. And then, we're gonna impress this truth on our children. We're gonna talk about God's truths. When you sit at home and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you get up, we're gonna make conversation about God and faith and spiritual things the most common and normal topic in our homes. It's not like, oh, it's Sunday now, we gotta go put on our God face. No, it's when we wake up and it's over lunch on a Saturday and it's over dinnertime and it's on the way to the dance classes. And it is a normal part of what we do, because we want our children to have firsthand faith. It's not secondhand, it's not ours.
And so, we need to have it in ourselves. And this becomes a challenge, because if it's not in you, they'll see it. Come on. Because there's one thing you know about your kids is if anything that they hate, they hate fake. This generation despises hypocrisy. They hate fake and they have a fine, I'll call it this, they have a finely tuned fake detector. Come on. If it's not real, they'll sniff it out. Who faked? A little potty joke there for my sixth grade boys, right? And this is the very reason why we're not gonna be just what culture calls a normal cultural Christian family. There's a lot of people today that would by names say, yeah, we're Christians, 'cause we're not something else. Yeah, we kinda believe in God. That's a cultural Christianity.
What we wanna be is we wanna be a Christ-centered family. Because Jesus is not a part of our lives, He is our lives. He's not gonna be a part of our family that we add on whenever it's convenient, we call on whenever we're in big trouble. It's like this is the driving force of who we are. It is everything. And this is what it is to me, because of who He is and because of what He's done. I'm called by God. Everything in me wants me to impart to my children, to my children's children a spiritual legacy. I want them to know who they are in Christ. So, when the devil tells 'em they're not, and they can't, they say, no, through Christ, I can and I am.
Whenever temptation draws them away, they stand, no, no, no, no, no. I have the full armor of God, the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the belt of truth, the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. And my feet are planted firmly in the peace, the gospel of this peace. So, I wanna give my family, and it is not gonna happen accidentally. I wanna give them, we have to work at it. And it may take some time and it's never gonna be perfect. But we wanna give them a spiritual community worth having. And then, we wanna raise the standard. We believe there's more in you. We wanna give them a standard worth achieving. And we wanna give them a faith, the good news that you can't work your way to God, that you'll never be good enough for God. But anyone who calls on the name of Jesus, you would be saved, forgiven. That is a faith worth sharing.
I told you last week that we took our family, 17 of us. There's 17 in the down line with in-laws. That doesn't count dogs. There's like 19 with dogs. But anyway, we took 17 on a family trip and I told you how it was really amazing until it wasn't. And they got in pretty big fights with each other. And a lot of you said that made you so happy that you liked that, which hurt my feelings. But I'm glad that my family troubles brought you joy. And they said, "We're so glad, Craig, we're so glad your family's screwed up too". And it's funny, because I was about to teach on parenting and I felt so much shame. Like, what did I do wrong? I called everybody in for a family meeting. It's pretty bad when you're calling 28-year-olds in for a family meeting. Sit up, shut up, sit down, I gotta talk to you.
And we went home and Amy and I were reflecting on it, and my son, Sam, called up, and he said, "Dad, I just wanna thank y'all. Wanna brag on you". He goes, "You and mom are such great parents". Like, what? I go, no, no. I said, no, I suck. He's, "No, no, you're great parents". He said, "Hey, you brought us in and you reminded us of who we are. And then, the next day, we were all crying and praying and apologizing and seeking God together". I go, you were? I didn't see that. I didn't know that. He was like, "Oh, yeah. Isn't it amazing how God works through families? All families fight, but Christ-centered family fight through it". I was like, ah. Yeah.
So, what's so interesting is how, what felt like a low to me was actually an environment where spiritual roots were planted deep and the fruit started showing. Yes. If you're in a place that it feels like there's a low right now and maybe you feel like you've failed, you've fallen short, you're not there yet, the good news is there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And you just start today and you can, you apologize and say, I'm sorry I haven't led toward Christ, but we're gonna do it. And you're not always gonna get it right. Not always gonna be perfect. But as we're being perfected, as we're being changed, we can actually point toward Jesus.
And what's amazing is sometimes, the most powerful moments are not when we get it right, but when we get it wrong and we apologize and we see forgiveness. And that's at the core of the gospel is a God who loves imperfect people. And so, we can't get it all right? But we can't fully surrender to Jesus. So, what are we gonna do? We're gonna raise the standard. We're gonna love the Lord our God with our heart, mind, soul, and strength. And with God's help, not just with God's help, but with your help with the church, we're gonna offer the next generation, our children a community worth having, a standard worth achieving, and a faith worth sharing. We need you to be a part of this, so let's do it together.
God, we ask if Your Holy Spirit would do in families what only You can do, help us be-centered around Your son, Jesus.
As you're praying today, nobody looking around, I don't care if you're married, not married, kids, no kids, dogs, no dogs, cats, even cats. Those of you who say, I wanna be Christ-centered in the way I live. Would you lift up your hands right now? Online, you can just type in the comments section, help me be Christ-centered. Go ahead and lift up your hands again. I know you put 'em down. Just lift 'em up for a moment. Almost as a prayer toward heaven. Just leave them up if you will.
Jesus, we honor You. We put You first. God, help us to do what Jesus said in Matthew's gospel to seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness. And then, we thank You that You'll add everything to us. God, help us. We need help. We're not great at this. We can't do it on our own. Help us. Give parents wisdom, give us grace. Give our children wisdom. Give our children grace. And, God, even for those that aren't parents, God, help us to see we are a part of Your body. We are discipling one another. Help us to put You first in all that we do.
You can put your hands down now as you continue just praying, nobody looking around. There's some of you, you're gonna recognize that you are like I was growing up, like my mom was, my dad was, we were just cultural Christians. We believed in God, but we didn't really know Him. We weren't Jesus-centered. And Jesus says, if you want to follow Me, you lay down everything. You leave it all behind. He actually gives a metaphor. He says, you pick up your cross, meaning like you die to yourself, and you follow Him. There are some of you today, I wanna tell you about a faith that is worth sharing. It is a God that loves you so much. He loves you, He loves you. He loves you so much that He sent Jesus, His son, the Lamb of God who is perfect in every way, who died on a cross, the holy one, as a replacement, as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
He died in our place. He took the punishment for our sins. And God raised Him from the dead, so that anyone, and this includes you who calls on His name, you would be saved. This isn't a, hey, I go to church. I try to be a good person. No, this is a, He is Lord and I follow Him. He's my king. Some of you, you're not even a cultural Christian. You're like, you've been far from God, but all of a sudden, you're going, oh my gosh, there's something here. What is that? That is the power of the Holy Spirit. And that is a good God that is loving you. And in one moment, no matter what you've done, when you call on the name of Jesus, His name is above every name.
Our God will hear your prayer. He will forgive your sins and He will make you brand new today, wherever you're watching from, those who say, I need His grace, I want His forgiveness, we're gonna step away from our old life and we're gonna say, Jesus, I give my life to You. If it's you today, you need His forgiveness, you need His grace, you're ready.
Today is the day. You say, Jesus, I surrender. I need You. I give my life to You. That's your prayer. Lift your hands high right now, all over the place. Lift up and say, yes. Praise God for you guys, saying yesterday, as we have people in all of our churches calling on His name, we thank God for you. Online, just type in the comment section, I am surrendering my life to Jesus. Type that in the comments. I'm surrendering my life to Jesus. And as we have people being made anew, would you pray aloud wherever you are, pray:
Heavenly Father, take my life. Jesus, forgive my sins. Make me new. Fill me with Your spirit, so I could know You and love You and honor You with my whole heart. Thank you for new life. I give it all to You. In Jesus' name, I pray.