Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Hope for Parents of Prodigals

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As we look at the big picture of this next generation coming up, we have to ask why are so many of our children growing up in Christian homes and some of them in Christian schools and yet coming out with little or no heart for God.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, May 1. Moms feel so much heartache when their children are far from the Lord. If you’re in that situation, get some hope from two Psalms that tell us a lot about parenting. Nancy started to describe them yesterday in a series called Leaving a Godly Legacy. She’s here to pick that series back up.

Nancy: One day I drove past a house in my community that had been there for a number of years, and I saw the most astonishing sight. Overnight, literally, the foundation of that house had cracked, had fallen in, and immediately that whole house just sank into the ground. One day it was upright and in good condition, and the next day you drove by and the house was in a total state of disrepair.

It was a vivid picture in time-lapse fashion of what I think is happening in so many of our homes today. Now it doesn’t usually happen that quickly. It doesn’t usually happen overnight, but it shows that if there’s a flaw in the foundation, if the house is not well-built, you may wake up one morning and find that the house isn’t there anymore, that it’s in a state of terrible disrepair.

We’re looking at a pair of Psalms in the Old Testament—Psalm 127 and 128—that talk to us about this matter of building our homes, building our family relationships God’s way. Not only our immediate biological families, but our family relationships. We want to be wise women who build our homes.

We’ve seen that in building our homes there are three word pictures used in these Psalms: that of a workman who builds a house, that of a watchman who guards a city, and that of a warrior who goes out to fight.

These analogies all give us some insight into how to bring up families that will impact the next generation for Christ, how we can pass on our faith (what we’ve come to know and love about God), and the importance of our passing it on intact to the next generation.

Being a parent, bringing up children in the literal, physical sense of the word is an awesome responsibility. But it’s also intended, as we read in this passage, to be a source of blessing and joy. God intended that the process of bringing up families in His ideal should be a means of blessing and joy.

You see that theme throughout both of these Psalms—Psalm 127 and 128. For example, notice how many times in these two chapters you see the word “blessed.” Look at Psalm 128, verse 1: “Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways.” Verse 4: “Behold [after it talks about mothers and dads and children], thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.”

Now we see in verse 5 of Psalm 128: “The LORD bless you out of Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life.”

There’s the description in this passage of rest, of peace, of contentment. Now that doesn’t describe some of the days that we experience in our own families, but we’re looking at God’s ideal, God’s plan and how He designed it to be.

If you look at Psalm 127, verse 2, we get this picture of peaceful rest. “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.” Now that doesn’t mean you can just go to sleep for years and your family will just grow up and be a godly family.

It’s a picture in the midst of building his house, in the midst of vigilance as a watchman, in the midst of a warrior fighting a fight on behalf of your children. There’s another sense in which if we’re in God’s care, under His providence, this should be something that doesn’t stress us out. God intends that in the midst of fulfilling our responsibilities in our families, there should be peace. There should be rest.

You see this same concept at the end of Psalm 128, the end of verse 6: “Peace be upon Israel!” He’s talking about families here, building families. Yet he’s talking about being able to do it with peace, experiencing the blessing of having a Godly family.

We see the concept of happiness. Psalm 127, verse 5, it’s speaking of children being as arrows in the hand of a warrior. It says, “Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.” Some of you have your quivers full and overflowing, perhaps you’re thinking. It’s easy to lose the sense of joy about this. In whatever you’re doing to obey God, it’s easy to lose the sense of joy.

I have a little note that I received from a former pastor that hangs in my study, just a handwritten note. He reminded me that as I’m speaking and ministering and writing and doing the things God has called me to do to leave a legacy for the next generation, to keep pointing people to Jesus in what you do and don’t forget to do it with joy.

There should be joy. There should be freedom. That doesn’t mean every part of what we have to do is joyous. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but if we’re doing it with the power and in-filling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, there will be joy. There will be happiness in the process.

I think of that verse in Psalm 113:9. It says, “He makes the barren woman to keep house and to be a joyful mother of children” (paraphrased). You may want to ask yourself as you’re in the process of mothering or fulfilling whatever it is that’s the task that God has entrusted to you at this moment, “Am I doing it with joy?”

Now joy is not the absence of problems. Joy is the presence and the recognition of Christ and His power in the midst of those problems. You see the same thought of happiness in Psalm 128, verse 2. It says of the person who fears the Lord, “When you eat the labor of your hands [when you see your family growing up], you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.”

Now having said that, parenting, building a home, building a legacy, building the next generation should be an experience of blessing and happiness and joy and peace and contentment and rest. We all know that for a lot of us, it really isn’t that way. At least not to the degree that its seems to be true in these Psalms. So often it’s not the case.

I’m particularly grieved today as I look today at how many Christian parents are living with heartbreak and the shame and the burden and in some cases guilt, justified or otherwise, of the spiritual condition of their own children. I just want to share with you out of my own heart because this is something that’s been troubling me.

We see so many Christian parents today who are seeking to walk in God’s ways but who, as a woman shared with me at the lunch break earlier today, say, “I can’t figure it out. I can’t understand it. I have one child who has a real heart for God and one child who is just walking very far from God.”

Let me share with you, for example, some of the things that women have written to me expressing this burden. I don’t know that there’s any more frequent burden that women share with me than that for their children who aren’t walking with God and don’t have a heart for God.

One woman said, “My 13-year-old son needs protection from worldly influences. He is so rebellious and angry.” Another one said, “Our 14-year-old son is in major rebellion against us. He knows Jesus but has a problem with anger and authority.” This woman said, “My two adult children were brought up in a Christian home but have chosen to live and walk in the world. My son is 17, but we are drawing apart because of the things of the world. He is a good kid, raised in the Lord, but following the wrong path.”

Another one: “My youngest son was arrested for a DWI. Pray that he will be able to have inner control.” Another one: “My son has walked away from the Lord and is living in a sinful relationship with another man.” And this one: “Pray for my four grown children to come back to the Lord.”

I could go on and on. As I read these, I just hear the heartache, the broken hearts of mothers who are longing for their children to walk with God and to have a heart for God. They want to build a home for God, but it doesn’t seem to be happening.

We have to ask ourselves, I think, regardless of what the situation is in your family, but as we look at the big picture of this next generation coming up, we have to ask why are so many of our children growing up in Christian homes, in evangelical churches and some of them in Christian schools or even being home schooled and yet coming out with little or no heart for God?

Now that’s a tough question. It’s not an easy one to answer. I don’t know that I can provide an answer. I think of a staff member of a large Christian school who invited me to come and speak to the faculty and staff. In extending the invitation, she said that the young people in this school hate God.

Now thankfully there are many young people today that we’re finding who really do have a passion and a heart for the things of God, but I think we all have to be troubled as we look in our Christian homes, Christian schools, Christian churches, and we see how many are coming out who don’t have a heart for God.

To use the analogies that we’ve been looking at in these Psalms, you get the picture of houses that are crumbling. We’re supposed to be building houses, but we see houses falling apart. You get the picture of that house that I saw that had crumbled overnight. You didn’t see it happen overnight, but now you look and there’s just damage everywhere.

You get the picture of cities. They’re supposed to have a watchman, but they’re being overtaken by the enemy. The enemy is just swarming in over the walls, and the walls are broken down and the city is being overtaken.

You get the picture of a battle. We’re supposed to be warriors fighting this battle on God’s behalf, but when I read these kinds of stories from women with broken hearts, I picture a battle in which arrows are flying wildly in every direction. Many aimed not at the world, but even at their own parents. I think we have to agree, as hard as it is, we face ourselves as this adult generation, and we say, “Something is wrong. Something is really, really wrong.”

I believe it’s something that we all bear responsibility for. Regardless of your situation in life, it should matter to us that we have a generation of young people coming up who don’t love God, who are not longing to walk in His ways, who somehow have not seen something in us that makes them say, “That’s what I want. I want to know your God. I want to walk with your God. I want to be like you.”

You may say, “I don’t know how good a warrior I’ve been, but we seem to be losing this battle.” I’m looking into the eyes of some women who have known what it is to have grown sons and daughters and grandchildren who don’t have a heart and a hunger for the things of God. In your heart you say, “Why? What is it?”

I talked with a woman earlier today. She said, “We find ourselves saying what did we do wrong? Was it our fault?” She said, “We know we haven’t been perfect as parents, but is there one of God’s conditions that we haven’t met?” It’s easy for parents to beat themselves up and to say, “I should have done something differently.” We’re not here to put a guilt trip on anybody, but we’re here to say, “What is God’s plan? What is God’s ideal?”

Even in situations in this room where perhaps you’d have to say we haven’t done it God’s way, some of you didn’t come to know the Lord until you were already building your family. There were already some cracks in that foundation. Now you’re living with some of the repercussions and consequences of that.

Yet as a body of believers, we still have to go back to the standard of God’s Word and say, “What are the basic principles of God’s Word that we need to commit ourselves to?” What resources does God give to us for building the lives of our homes?

Some of you may be thinking, “It’s too late for my family.” Let me say there’s always mercy. There’s always grace available when we come in humility and brokenness and dependence before God. That’s not to say that there won’t be pain. There is.

Again, as I look around the room, I see some of you that I know have experienced enormous pain in your families. I think you’d probably be the first to acknowledge that God has an ideal and a plan that we need to commit ourselves to and trust Him as we obey Him to bring up this next generation in God’s ways.

My parents would be the first to tell you that our home was far from perfect, that they did a lot of things wrong. My parents were first generation believers. They didn’t grow up in godly homes. There was so much about the ways and the Word of God that was new to them. But they did walk by faith and they did find themselves depending on the grace of God.

As I look back on my growing up years, there are several characteristics of building a home, leaving a legacy of godliness that stand out to me out of my growing up experience. They’re found, referenced at least, in these twin Psalms that we’ve been looking at, Psalm 127 and 128.

Now let me say, these seven aspects of building a godly home that we’re going to look at over the next few sessions are not the only important ones. There are many others that we could touch on. I think these are ones that are frequently neglected today. So I want us just to ponder God’s ways when it comes to building homes, building another generation for God.

The first thing that stands out to me in this passage and as I think about my family as I was growing up is that we must make this a top priority. Building godly homes, godly relationships, passing our faith on to the next generation must be a top priority in every one of our lives.

We don’t just live for ourselves. The goal in life—in your life and mine—is not to be happy. Our goal is to serve God’s purposes in our generation. One of those purposes is that when we are gone, we will have left behind steps that will lead them to God.

Raising a generation of young people who are serious about living out their faith is a high priority to God. It must be to us as well. The fact is you and I can be a success at everything else we do in life. You can be a success in your workplace. You can be successful in your recreation and your play and your hobbies. You can be a successful friend and neighbor. But if we fail at this calling in our homes, we’re going to end life disappointed.

This is very important. To be a workman, a watchman or a warrior, as we’ve seen these word pictures in Psalm 127, requires great diligence. The workman has to keep working hard at the task until the house is built.

I’m so thankful when I built my home that the contractor didn’t stop midway and say, “Okay, here’s your house.” I’m glad he didn’t stop until the roof was on and the trim had been finished and the doors were hung and the windows were hung. I’m glad that he finished the house. It took a long time. It took a lot longer than it seemed to me that it should take.

Building a home for God, building a generation that will love God and follow after Him takes time. It takes diligence. It takes vigilance. The watchman on that city wall has to stay alert, has to keep his eyes open. He can’t just stay awake for the first three hours of his watch. He has to stay alert and tuned to what is going on around.

It was one thing for my mother to parent seven children when we were all little, but now that we’re all grown and most are married and many have children, the job isn’t finished. Now that she’s Nana, the grandmother to those ten children, the responsibility still goes on of praying and making this family a priority. You can never stop working at it. To build godly homes, to leave a legacy for the next generation requires that we be purposeful, that we be intentional.

I was with a couple for lunch yesterday who are expecting their third child. I said to my friend as we drove away from that lunch, “One of the things I appreciate about Wes and Carrie is that they’re intentional about their marriage and their parenting.”

They’re a young couple with young children. They’re just getting started in this process and the Lord only knows how it will go as these children develop. But one of the things I appreciate about this couple is they’re taking this task seriously.

Now they’re having fun at it, too. It’s not that they’re just all grim and sober about it. They’re enjoying their marriage. They’re enjoying their children. But they’re working at it. They’re intentional about the time they spend with their children and what kind of books they want their children reading and what kind of things they want their children exposed to.

They’re going to learn, if they haven’t already, that they’re never going to be able to stop being vigilant at that task. It doesn’t just happen. You see, you can get so caught up in the daily-ness of surviving as a family, as a wife, as a mother, that you lose sight of the big picture, of the long term, of the long haul. It requires time and sacrifice and effort and determination to build up a legacy for God, to leave a next generation who have a heart for God.

So as we look at each of these characteristics, the first being that this must be a high priority for us, a top priority and focus for us, I want to ask us a couple of questions just to help us evaluate where we are in each of these principles. So I ask this question: Do you and I feel a personal sense of responsibility for the spiritual condition of the next generation?

I ask you that question whether or not you have your own children. Do you feel a personal sense of responsibility for the spiritual condition of the next generation? Then are you and I making a conscious effort to ensure that they walk with God?

Now we’re going to see in the next session that we can’t ensure that, but we can make the effort. We are workmen. We are watchmen. We are warriors. Are we being vigilant? Are we being diligent? Are we consciously expending effort to make sure that that next generation has been handed all the resources that they need to choose God’s way?

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray. I don’t know about you, but after hearing today’s message, I’m ready to pray more intensely for my kids. If you feel the same way, would you act on what you heard? Don’t forget how important it is to invest in the next generation.

To remind you to pray for your children and invest in their lives, we want to send you five bookmarks at no charge. This bookmark is newly designed in a beautiful sepia tone. You’ll read Psalm 127 on one side and comments from Nancy on the back.

We want to send you five just in case you’re simultaneously reading five books at the moment, or you could share them with other moms who could use the encouragement. Ask for the bookmarks at no charge when you call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Another way to remember what you’re learning this week is to listen to it again. The best way to do that is to order the teaching on CD. You’ll get more out of the programs the second time through. You can also re-listen as your kids move through different seasons of life. If your kids are already grown, would you consider ordering the CD for a younger mom as a gift?

If you want to make the gift even more special, deliver it in the new Revive Our Hearts tote bag. These were very popular last time we offered them, so we kept a lot of the design elements and improved the quality of the bag. It still lists the attributes found in Colossians 3:12. It says, “Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” We’ll send you the tote bag as our thank you when you send a gift of any size to Revive Our Hearts.

Summer months are usually lean financially since people are on the go and have less time to donate, so would you help us prepare for the summer by making a donation now? It’s easy to do. Just call 1-800-569-5959 or donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com. Either way, make sure to order your tote bag. It’s our way of saying thanks for your gift.

In a message like the one we’ve been presenting this week, it’s tempting to offer easy solutions. Take these three steps and your children will turn out okay. But life isn’t like that. It’s difficult and it pushes us to God. Tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts, find out what it means to do less and trust God more when it comes to our children.

Now let’s pray with Nancy.

Nancy: Father, we acknowledge that this is a top priority to You. That we should build into the next generation and create in them a sense of hunger and thirst and longing after You. That we should show them how to walk and we should lead them in the right paths. So, God, increase our desire, our longing, our sense of purpose and intentionality about building up a generation that will seek after You. I pray for Jesus’ sake, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

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