My Dear Friends,
In recent months, I have attended the funerals of two dear friends and much-respected ministers of the gospel. Both their funerals were deeply moving occasions, as hundreds gathered to honour the lives and ministries of two of God’s choicest servants. As I have reflected on their funerals, one feature common to both has indelibly impressed itself on my mind and heart. At both funerals, one of my friends' children gave a tribute to their dad. With a genuineness that was palpable, the children (both young adults) spoke warmly and touchingly about their fathers. To hear children speak so affectionately about their fathers was, at least to me, deeply moving. To these children, and their siblings, their fathers were loving, caring dads, who always had time for them in the midst of busy (extremely busy) ministries. More than that, their dads were their fathers in Christ, their spiritual counsellors, their examples of all that was godly and good in the Christian life.
Perhaps already you are wondering quite what all this has to do with you? I hope at least some of you, however, have grasped what all this has to do with you. It is often said that the hardest place to be a Christian is at home. At home, our wives and husbands and children see us as we really are. They see us at our best and at our worst. They see our inconsistencies more clearly than do any of our fellow believers. They see our lives in the round and not only in organised Christian gatherings, where most are on their best behaviour. They are not blind to our sins and failures; indeed, they see them more plainly than anyone else. And yet, with a genuineness that was altogether unaffected, the children of my two, now glorified, friends, spoke of their fathers as men who were at home all that they were, and more, in the public gaze. Their fathers were consistent Christians, men who lived “coram deo.”
The question that arose in my mind as I listened to these two tributes was this: Could my children speak of me as Jeremy and Alison spoke of their dads? Could your children speak of you as warmly, as tenderly, as thankfully to God, as these children spoke of their dads? Do our children see that what we are in the church, we are in the home? Do they see that, despite our sins and failures, our lives betray a consistency of love to Christ and his cause that cannot be denied? Do they see that their spiritual welfare matters more to us than life itself? Do they see that we love our wives and husbands unfeignedly? Do they see that the glory of God is the passion of our lives?
Perhaps you are thinking, Ian, you are expecting the impossible! I think not. I know only too well how inconsistent and sinful the best of Christians are. I know only too well how far we fall short of our own poor spiritual standards, never mind the perfect standards of our Father in Heaven. And yet, does the Lord not promise to honour those who honour him? Does he not promise to bless the faithfulness of his children, even when it is stained by sin? As Christian parents we have a covenant-keeping God who embraces our children within his loving care. With this glorious encouragement, we are summoned to “bring up (fondly cherish) our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” remembering that they are his before they are ours. Parents are God’s ordinary means for influencing their children for Christ. May the Lord give us all the daily grace to be the best we can possibly be for His sake first and foremost - but also for the sake of our children. May they rise up and call us “Blessed.”
Yours as ever in the fellowship of the gospel,