Robert Jeffress - Say Goodbye To Parenting Regrets
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". One of life's greatest challenges and most rewarding endeavors is raising godly children, but sometimes we get so caught up in the minutia of daily life, that we lose sight of the big picture. Today I'm going to give you four foundational commitments you can make right now to avoid any parenting regrets. My message is titled, "Say Goodbye to Parenting Regrets" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Let me just say a couple of words of warning or disclaimer. First of all, the purpose of this message is not to heap a pile of guilt upon you for mistakes you've made about as parents. You know, the title of this series is "Say goodbye to Regrets". And the theme of the series is simply this, while we can't erase yesterday, we can make changes today that change our tomorrow and our eternity. And that's true about parenting. You can't erase the mistakes you made as a parent. But what you can do is make some decisions today that will change how you relate to your children and your grandchildren. Before we talk about how to have no regrets about your parenting, I want to look at a case study in regret and it's found in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2. Really, these two chapters are a contrast between godly parents who raised godly children and some godly parents who raised ungodly children.
Let's look at the godly parents who raised a godly child. The parents name were Hannah and Elkanah. You remember the story, Hannah had prayed that God would give her a son, and after a long time of praying, God answered her prayer, gave her a son that was named Samuel, which means "God has heard". He was an important priest and judge in the land of Israel, and Hannah and her husband Elkanah not only prayed for Samuel, they dedicated him to the Lord. They sought to realize God's purpose, not their purpose for his life. They were even willing to give him up to a priest named Eli to be mentored. Hannah and Elkanah were what we would think of as perfect parents. They would have made a great couple to interview on "Focus on the Family". They seem to do everything right because Samuel was dedicated to the Lord.
Interestingly, the priest who became Samuel's mentor was a good priest, but he was a lousy parent. His name was Eli. And we find this word about Eli in 1 Samuel 2, verse 12, about his sons. "Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord". What is it that made these two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, worthless? Well, the Bible says they were engaged in sin, two sins. Specifically, they stole sacrifices from the altar of the Lord to use themselves, and they engaged in sexual immorality. As a result, God said to Eli that his two sons would die on the very same day. And I want you to note the reason that God pronounced this judgment against Eli's two sons. It's found in 1 Samuel 3, 13 and 14. "I have told him," that is Eli, "That I'm about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and Eli did not rebuke them. Therefore I've sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever".
Now, the big question is why would Eli, a man who knew better, not rebuke his own sons when they sinned? I think we find the answer to that in Eli's reaction to the news of the death of his sons. The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 4 that the Israelites went out to do battle with the Philistines. And in that battle, 30,000 Israelites were killed, including Eli's sons, Hophni and Phinehas. It was also during that very same battle that Israel lost the Ark of the Covenant. The Philistines stole it. Now listen to the news when it reached Eli, how he reacted to the death of his sons and the stealing of the Ark of the Covenant. 1 Samuel 4:17, "Then the one who brought the news back to Eli replied, 'Israel has fled before the Philistines and there has been a great slaughter among the people, and your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, they are dead and the ark has been taken'".
Now, look at verse 18, "When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate and his neck was broken and he died, for he was old and heavy". How would you like that to be the epitaph on your gravestone? He was old and heavy. But I digress. That's not the point. The point was he was so old and he was so heavy, when he heard that the ark had been taken, he fell over backwards and died. Thus, he judged Israel for 40 years. What I find interesting is what sent Eli over the edge, so to speak, was not the news that his sons were dead. It was the news that the Ark of the Covenant had been stolen. You think, well, that just shows what a great and godly man he was. He cared about the things of God. He was more concerned about the things of God than he was about his own sons. You know, that's called misplaced priorities. He was more concerned about his ministry to others than his ministry to his own sons.
And the story of Eli reminds us that the road to parental failure is often paved with good intentions. We can be trying to do the right thing with our kids and make many mistakes. I imagine Eli, as he looked back over the years with his sons, had a number of if-onlys when it came to raising Hophni and Phinehas. Using that story as a background, I want to suggest to you today four foundational and, more importantly, biblical commitments we have to make if we're going to eliminate, reduce the number of regrets we have about our parenting. Commitment number one is this, I will spend time with my children. I will spend time. Every other thing we're gonna talk about this morning requires time, both a quantity of time and a quality of time.
I remember reading that a century ago, parents would spend 54% of their waking hours with their children. You know what the figure is today? 18% of our time is spent with our children. Now, you can rationalize that and say, well, people are a lot busier today than they were 100 years ago. Not really. If anything modern technology, whether it be things like microwave ovens or washing machines, meaning we have more free time than people did 100 years ago. It's how we spend that time. If we're going to eliminate regrets, we need to spend more time with our children. I hear that from parents. If they have any lament at all, it's looking back and saying, "I wish I had spent more time with my kids".
How do you do that? How do you direct more time with your children? Let me give you a few ideas. First of all, learn the go home principle. Learn the go home principle. You know, very few productive things happen in an office after 5:30 or 6 p.M. In the evening. You can shuffle papers around, talk on the telephone, but learn to go home when the day is over. If you have to attend an evening meeting, stay for the meeting, but don't take, stay around chewing the fat afterwards. Go home to be with your family.
I remember reading an interview with movie director and producer Steven Spielberg years ago, and he talked about this. He said his wife allowed him to work, when they had small children, with this condition. He had to be home at 5:30 every day. Now, he could find all kinds of reasons for not to be home at 5:30, but he went ahead and followed that principle to be home with his small children and his movies didn't suffer a bit. He's still the most successful producer and director in history.
Secondly, negotiate with your boss for a flexible schedule. A growing number of corporations are adopting flex time policies that are more family friendly. If that's a possibility, negotiate for it. Third, and this is so key, refuse to allow other people to set your schedule. A mentor of mine used to say, you better determine what your priorities are or somebody else will determine them for you. And if spending time with your children is a priority, build that into your schedule. What I'm saying to you is you've got to be as committed to spending time with your kids or your grandkids as you are any other important tasks that you have, refuse to allow other people set your schedule. Fourth, stay focused with your children, stay focused with your children. You know, it's possible to be with your children physically and be someplace else mentally and emotionally.
Spending time, the commitment to spend time with your kids. Commitment number two for regret free parenting is this, I will create lasting memories with my children. I will create lasting memories with my children. It's important that when your children are gone, they'd be able to look back at the time they spent with you as a museum of wonderful memories. How do you create lasting positive memories with your children or your grandchildren? Author Stephen Kramer explains what he calls the three Rs of memory making. Let me expand on them for just a moment. The first R is routine, these are things that you do daily or weekly with your kids. It may be a meal, one meal a day, breakfast or dinner that you have together as a family without smartphones or television or computers. It may be the way you close the day together or begin together, reading a Bible verse or having a prayer time together. It may be weekly, having a family night or having a game night. Just remember to get the checker board before you try that. But things that you do day in and day out, these are routines.
Second R is ritual, ritual. You know, it's interesting that the Jews had so many special days and holy days. God gave them these special days for a reason that even when they were separated from their homeland, they would find stability in these rituals. Special days. Have those kind of rituals with your family, holidays, birthdays, vacations. And then the third R stands for the ridiculous, it ought to be just fun things you do as a family to provide excitement in your family. And they don't have to be elaborate or expensive.
Dr. Kent Hughes in his book "Common Sense Parenting" says that he and his wife would put their children to bed, turn off the lights some nights and about 15 minutes later they'd walk in, turn the lights on and yell out "Pajama ride," and they would all get in the car in their pajamas and drive to the local dairy queen to get a blizzard. And then some nights they would yell "Seconds," and they'd get in the car and go across town to another dairy queen. Those kind of things provide excitement in a family. We're gonna look next time at a verse Ecclesiastes 9:9 that relates to our relationship to our mate. Solomon said you only have a short time on this earth. Why not devote your time and energy to the one you love most dearly? That can also be expanded to your children. You only have a short time with your kids. Why not devote the energy and time you need to the children you love?
Commitment number three, I'll spend time with my children. Secondly, I'll build lasting memories with my children. Number three, I will discover and develop my children's gifts. You know, one of the most often quoted but least understood verses in the Bible about parenting is Proverbs 22:6. Most of them you can say it by memory, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he was old, he will not depart from it," most people misinterpret that verse and they end up disappointed. They think that verse is a blanket promise that if you take your kids to church, and read the Bible to them and train them, they will never depart from the Christian faith. We know that's not true. We all can think of examples. We may have examples in our own home of children we've poured spiritual truth into, they wander away and never come back.
Now, it's true, if you train your children in the principles of the Lord, they have a better chance of coming back than if you don't. But there are no blanket guarantees in the Bible. That's not what this verse is about. What is the meaning of this verse? The key is train your child in the way he should go, the way he should go. A legitimate translation of that Hebrew phrase is train up a child according to his bent. In other words, recognize the uniqueness of your child, his unique gifts and interest, and maximize those because he's always gonna return to those. If your child is bent toward athletics, he's always gonna be pulled toward the soccer field or the football field. If your child, boy or girl, is a leader, they're always going to be pulled to places of leadership. That's their natural bent. Every child is hand stitched by the Lord, not mass manufactured in a sweatshop. So remember your children are unique, and to understand their uniqueness, number one, ask the right questions.
I've given you a list on your outline of ten questions Dr. John Maxwell says every parent should be able to answer about his or her child. That will help you discover whom your child really is. Ask the right questions. Secondly, make the necessary sacrifices to develop your child's unique bents. You know, one of the things I'll always appreciate about my parents is the sacrifices they made for us to discover our unique interest. And thirdly, if you're going to train up your child according to his bent, accept the results. Realize your children may not turn out like you envision. They may go a different direction. That's okay. You know, one of the greatest ways to avoid regrets as a parent is to be able to look back on your years with your children, and say I accepted, I discovered, and I maximized my child's unique bent.
Fourth, how do you engage in no regret parenting? The fourth commitment is this, I will exercise appropriate discipline with my child. I'll exercise appropriate discipline with my child. As Eli looked back on his experience with Hophni and Phinehas, I imagine most of his if only's dealt with this area of discipline. Let me help us learn positive lessons from Eli's failures. Let me point out four mistakes Eli made in disciplining his sons. First of all, he didn't begin early enough. He did not begin early enough. Again, 1 Samuel 3:13, God gives the reason for killing Hophni and Phinehas. Why this judgment? Because Eli did not rebuke them. And yet that seems unfair because in fact, Eli did rebuke them. We find in 1 Samuel 2:25, Eli said to his sons when he heard the news of their disobedience, "If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him: but if he sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him? But his sons would not listen to the voice of their father, for the Lord desired to put them to death".
Do you see the conflict there? God says, "I'm judging you, Eli, because you didn't rebuke your children". And yet we have a clear case here where he did rebuke his children. How do you reconcile that? Here's the problem. Eli waited too long. He waited until his sons were young adults to try to correct them. And by then it was too late. He didn't begin early enough. Jot down Proverbs 13:24, Solomon says, "He who withholds his rod hates his son. But he who loves him disciplines him diligently". You know what that word diligently means in Hebrew? It means literally at early Dawn. That doesn't mean you wake up your children at 5 a.M. To beat them to death. That's not what he's talking about. It's talking about early in life. You begin this discipline as children. If you don't, you will have waited too long. The second mistake Eli made was he was not consistent in his discipline. Notice there were two things the boys did wrong. They stole from the altar of the sacrifice of the Lord and they committed sexual immorality. Yet when Eli screwed up the courage to confront them, all he mentioned was sexual immorality. He never mentioned the stealing from the Lord's altar. Why is that?
Now, this is just speculation. Could it be Eli was guilty of that same sin? So he dared not say anything to his boys about something he was guilty about. Was this the chink in his own spiritual armor? We don't know the answer to that. But what we do know was, he let his boys get by with one thing without mentioning the other thing. He was inconsistent in his discipline. What are the mistakes Eli made? Thirdly, he was not observant about his children's behavior. He wasn't observant about his children's behavior. How did you find out about their misbehavior? From other people. Look at 1 Samuel 2:22. "Now Eli was very old: and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of the meeting," and then when he confronted his sons, what did he say to them? Verses 23 and 24, "Why do you do such things? The evil things that I hear from all these people? No, my sons: for the report is not good which I hear the Lord's people circulating," the Lord's people were gossiping about it. Did you hear about Hophni? Did you hear about Phinehas? Have you heard what they're up to?
You know, again, this is a little bit of sanctified imagination, but I think it's pretty accurate here. Eli seems to be more concerned about what people are saying about his sons than what his sons are actually doing. Have you heard what other people are saying? What other people are saying? He should have been concerned about what his sons were doing, not the report others were circulating. And again, I think it's another case where Eli was more concerned about his position as a priest than he was in his responsibility as a father. Finally, Eli's mistake, and this is the foundational mistake. He did not teach his children to fear God. Ladies and gentlemen, the most important thing we can teach our children, our grandchildren, is that there is a God. He is always watching. He's always evaluating. He's always judging. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Our most important ministry is to our own children and grandchildren that God gives us. If we lose our children to the kingdom of Satan, we have lost everything.