Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
A former neighbor had an absolutely stunning garden. From my upstairs deck I often enjoyed the variety of foliage, colors and wildlife. She worked non-stop — planting, pruning, weeding, and watering.
A few years later, she moved, and we enjoyed the friendship of new neighbors. I was stunned, however when they told me about the condition of the inside of the home when they moved in.
What I’d observed outside did not extend indoors.
As a mother, I’m concerned with the external appearance of my children. From personal experience, I know appearances make an important first impression on others. But while milk mustaches, ripped jeans, and jelly stained shirts are important to address, it would be a great disservice to my children if I spent all my efforts training my boys on external appearance, but not on their heart.
In 1 Samuel 16: 7, the Lord tells Samuel:
“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
The heart is critically important. But what exactly, is God looking for?
The Bible says we are to:
Look for the Lord with all your heart (Deut. 4:29).
Serve the Lord with all your heart (1 Samuel 12:24).
Love the Lord with all your heart (Matthew 22:37).
Trust in the Lord with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5).
Seek the Lord with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).
Return to the Lord with all your heart (Joel 2:12).
Work with all your heart as though unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23).
Rejoice with all your heart (Zephaniah 3:14).
Know with all your heart that God’s promises do not fail (Joshua 23:14).
Walk in all his ways, obey His Commands, serve Him, and hold fast to the Lord with all your heart (Joshua 22:5).
Obey the Lord with all your heart (Deut. 30:2).
It’s serious business to train our own heart – let alone the heart of a child!
We are told that Eli, a priest in the Lord’s tabernacle, had two sons who were “wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12). Eli’s apparent lack of involvement to properly train his boys’ hearts leveled great consequences, according to 1 Samuel 3:13. The Lord said:
For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible and he failed to restrain them. I Samuel 3:13
Eli’s line was forever cursed because he did not correct his children who did evil in the sight of the Lord. While God may or may not choose to similarly curse a family line today, one thing is certain: our sinful choices today impact untold generations. We only have the power to stop the chain reaction when we ask for God’s help through prayer. Only God can give us the strength to first correct our own hearts – and then train our children.
Dear Lord, I know you expect us to take care of ourselves on the outside because this is an act of stewardship. However, how much more you expect us to tend what is on the inside! Show me the areas in my own heart that need attention today, and help me train my children in a way that honors you. May our hearts turn toward you in all facets of our lives. Amen
Ironing it Out:
It’s the last day of 2012. Perhaps you have written or mentally made note of things you’d like to change, adjust or improve about yourself this year. Will you consider adding this one? “Heart Work.”
When we work on our own hearts and tuning them with God, our families will notice. The list above is a lot to bite off in one year, so pick just one or two to focus on and go after it — with all your heart:
- Begin your own bible study journey to seek and understand what it means to… return…rejoice…serve…work…etc. Using great (free!) resources like Blue Letter Bible, do a word study, search for it in different versions and read commentaries.
- Tell a friend (or your spouse) about your personal area of conviction and ask her/him to hold you accountable.
- Talk to your children about it, teach them what you are learning and correct them you see behavior contrary to what you know the Lord expects.