Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Purpose of Your Family

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says every mom asks questions like these:

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: “Does what I’m doing really matter? Does it matter as much as what some other woman may be doing? Am I making any difference with my life?”

Leslie: It’s Monday, April 30th, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

What purpose does your family serve? According to today’s advertising, your family exists to consume fast food and purchase toys and cleaning products. Is there more than this? Nancy will take you to the Bible to find a greater purpose for your family in a series called Leaving a Godly Legacy.

Nancy: This past week I was reading a chapter in a book. The chapter is by Carolyn Mahaney, who is a pastor’s wife and a mother of several. She says, “I still clearly remember the weekend when I hit mothering meltdown.” I hadn’t heard that phrase before, and it was intriguing to me. Mothering meltdown: Here’s how she describes it.

My two older daughters were four and five. My youngest was still an infant. And CJ [her husband] was away on a ministry trip. The older girls promptly came down with a vicious stomach virus, and I spent a solid 24-hour period cleaning up behind them. Of course, they missed the bucket nearly every time. I was simultaneously changing dirty diapers and doing endless loads of soiled laundry. There was no relief, and I was utterly exhausted.

I remember thinking, "Really, is what I’m doing all that important? There are women out there working nine-to-five who seem to be doing something much more important than this.”

Now, as a wife and a mom, do you ever find yourself with some of those thoughts? Perhaps you’re getting caught up in the “dailyness” of life and missing the big picture, losing sight of what this is all about.

Maybe you find yourself wondering at times, as Mrs. Mahaney did, “What’s the purpose? Why am I doing this? Am I doing this right? Does what I’m doing really matter? Does it matter as much a what some other woman may be doing? Am I making any difference with my life?”

There’s a wonderful pair of psalms in the Old Testament, Psalm 127 and Psalm 128, that I think address those kinds of questions and issues. I want to look at those two psalms—look at them as a pair—and see what we can learn about God’s heart for our families. What’s the purpose? What’s involved in fulfilling God’s purpose for our families?

You’ll notice in most of your translations, at the beginning of each of these psalms, that they are called “a song of ascents.” Some of your translations may say “a song of degrees.” These are actually two of a set of psalms—or Old Testament hymns, if you will—that were sung by Jewish pilgrims as they were taking their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is set up, as many of you know, on a hill. So as they would be ascending up to the holy place, the temple, in Jerusalem, they would sing these psalms. And these songs—these psalms, these hymns—many of them are hymns of praise, but they also deal with such practical, earthly matters as having a family.

That says to me that God intends that being a family member—a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, or whatever your role is as a family member, or in the many roles that you may have—that that is to be a part of our relationship with God, part of our worship. Even as we’re driving to church, so to speak, or going about our daily responsibilities, we ought to be turning our hearts toward God and getting His perspective on these daily aspects of our roles.

I want to read these two psalms—they’re short—and then we’ll unpack them and see what they have to say to us.

Psalm 127: “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 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.

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

And then Psalm 128:

Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.

The LORD bless you out of Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life. Yes, may you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel!

Keep in mind that this was to be sung. You may not have ever thought about singing songs about God’s plan for the family. But God is interested in these aspects of our lives being part of our worship and our relationship with Him.

As we begin in Psalm 127, there are three word pictures for these Jewish pilgrims that the psalmist used in this psalm. I want us to look at them in an overview and then look at each one individually—and see what these word pictures tell us about bringing up families that have a heart for God.

The first word picture is in the first verse of Psalm 127. We see here the image of a workman, someone who is building a house, a builder. Then, in the second part of verse one, we see a reference to a watchman, someone who is like a security guard guarding the city or guarding the site. A workman and a watchman. Then we come to verse four, and we see the picture of a warrior—a workman, a watchman, and a warrior.

Now, being a woman, these are not word pictures that I immediately gravitate toward. I have to tell you that. And yet there is a sense in which each of those words applies to men or to women in our roles as homebuilders.

You remember that wonderful verse in Proverbs 14, verse 1, that tells us, “The wise woman builds her house.” Every wise woman, whether or not she has physical children that she has borne in that home. Every wise woman in some sense is building a home, building a house, building a legacy to leave for the next generation.

So I, as a single woman, have a responsibility and a privilege to be building a home. Some of you who are empty-nesters, your children are grown, and you’re still in the process of building a home. You see, a house has to do, obviously, with our immediate relationships—fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and extended family relationships. But any place where our lives are touching other people is in a sense part of the home that we are building.

As women, if we are wise women, we are building our home—our obvious, physical, biological family. But also we have a home at church. We have relationships in the body of Christ, the family of God. If we are wise women, we will be building those relationships.

And many of us have relationships and a spirit of influence in our workplace. If we are wise women, we will be building a legacy—building relationships, building a home environment—in that workplace, in our communities, with those whose lives we touch.

These analogies of the workman, the watchman, and the warrior all speak to our calling as adult believers to influence the next generation in their walk with God. And those analogies, those word pictures, give us some practical insights, I think, into what is required and what is involved in passing on a heritage of godliness to the next generation.

Now, let me just say that this is something that every one of us has a responsibility to do. Some of you have children and grandchildren, and you’re doing that in an obvious way.

But even those of us who are not married and do not have children still bear a responsibility as adult believers in Christ to pass on the baton, the heritage, the legacy of God’s way of thinking and living. Not just to keep it for ourselves and enjoy it for ourselves, but to pass on God’s ways, God’s heart, and our faith—to pass it on intact to the next generation.

The first word picture that we see in this passage is that of a workman or a builder. It’s interesting that the Hebrew words for son, for daughter, and for house all come from the same root word. It’s the word banah, and it means “to build.” So whether you’re building children—sons and daughters—or a house, building a home, there’s a sense there of building.

I remember a number of years ago when I built my home. Well, I didn’t build the home; I decided to have the home built. There was quite a process involved there. I had never owned a home before, and I had no idea of all that would be involved in building a house.

I wanted the house to be attractive. I wanted it to be designed in a way that people would enjoy being in it. They would enjoy seeing it. I didn’t want to be ashamed to show it to visitors or guests. I wanted it to be well-built. I wanted it to last a long time. Some of you who know me know that I have lots of company in my house. I wanted this house to be built to last a long time. I wanted it to be able to withstand storms and pressures.

I had to trust a builder, to choose a builder that came well recommended, and to trust someone to work with me in that process. I needed the help of a builder. And the Scripture tells us that as the children of God,we are building homes. We want them to be attractive. We want them to be well-built. We want them to withstand pressure, to last a long time. And we need the help of a master builder.

Now, having lived in that house for nine or ten years or so, I’m very thankful to have partnered with a builder who knew what he was doing. I have to tell you that we did make some mistakes along the way. But, thankfully, I was under the watchful eye of a builder who knew what he was doing and knew how to help correct those mistakes as they came along.

The process of building a house was an interesting one to me because there were some phases that went very quickly. For example, after the hole had been dug and the walls started to go up, that part went very quickly. All of a sudden, you’re seeing this construction go up in front of your very eyes. It was just very exciting to watch that part of the process. You could see progress almost hour by hour, certainly day by day.

Then there came the parts of the process that were much more tedious, much less exciting. You know, the dry walling, the putting up of trim—the parts that you’d go back to day after day after day, and it didn’t look like any progress had been made. But the builder knew that even these slow parts of the process were an important part of the process.

The exciting thing was to stand back at the end of the process—to look at this beautiful home that God had provided, with the help of so many capable workmen—and say, “Mission accomplished. It’s completed. Now it’s a place where I can live and where others can be ministered to and blessed.”

As we read this psalm, and we read about a workman building a house, we realize he’s not just talking about building a physical house. He’s talking about building a home, building a heritage, building a godly family line that will take the heart and the ways and the faith of God into the next generation.

I think we all know that building that kind of home is a lot more demanding, a lot more exacting, and sometimes a lot more exasperating than building a physical house. One of the reasons is that there’s so much more at stake. Building a house—well, you know I don’t want it to crumble, but if it does, I can build another one.

But when you talk about the home—when you talk about our family relationships, our relationships in the Body of Christ, and what’s at stake in passing on the baton of God’s ways to the next generation—this is something that is very important. It’s something that we can’t afford to not do well. It’s something that we need God’s grace for in as great a way as we need it for anything else in our lives.

We’re talking about building lives. And in these psalms that we’re talking about this week, Psalms 127 and 128, we’re talking particularly about building the lives of the next generation—our sons and our daughters.

The goal is to build new lives, new homes, churches, and a culture that will be worshipers of God and that will reflect His glory to our world long after we’re gone. To leave behind footsteps in which they can walk, to leave behind a model of godliness that they will choose to embrace in the next generation.

We’ve seen the image here of a workman. There’s another image that’s used in this passage, another word picture, and it’s that of a watchman. The Scripture says, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

We have here a picture of a sentinel, a guard, someone who’s been assigned and has accepted the responsibility of standing guard over a city. He can’t go to sleep on his shift. He’s got to stay alert and awake. He’s responsible for looking out for danger. And he needs discernment to recognize when it’s an enemy or when it’s perhaps a friend. This person is in the role of a protector.

We’re going to see, as this psalm unfolds, that not only are we building a house, but we have been given the responsibility, the assignment, of being watchmen, protectors, looking out over the city that God has entrusted to us.

There’s a third picture in this passage, and that is the picture of a warrior. You find this referred to in verse 4 of Psalm 127: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.”

The picture here is of a battle, a battlefield. We see that our children, our young people, our sons and our daughters, are ammunition. They are arrows in that battle. They’re not intended to stay in the quiver. Rather, they are to be released, to be sent out into the culture, to be sent out into our world to pierce and to penetrate the world around us.

Those arrows have to be prepared. They have to be carefully shaped and formed. And they have to be shot in the right direction toward the appropriate target. Our effectiveness as warriors, in many senses, determines the effectiveness of those arrows. If they’re crooked, if they’re not shaped correctly, if they’re sent in the wrong direction, then they’re not going to fulfill their purpose.

So we see a workman, a watchman, and a warrior. The psalmist tells us here that there’s a house to be built. There’s a city to be guarded. And there’s a battle to be fought. In that building process, in that guarding process, in that fighting process, we need workmen; we need watchmen, and we need warriors. Each one of those roles has a significant responsibility in the process.

If the workman cuts corners, if the watchman falls asleep or gets distracted while he’s on his shift, and if the warrior fails to show up for battle, we’re going to have problems. If any one of these people fails to fulfill their responsibility, lives can actually be endangered. If my builder wasn’t meticulous about the way he built that house, we could ultimately have a situation that proved to be deadly. These are strategic, vital roles.

The psalmist applies each of these word pictures, each of these various roles, to the building of a home, the building of a heritage, and ultimately to the advancing of the kingdom of Christ.

You see, when you think about your family, it’s not just a matter of, “Will my kids make it?” It’s not just a matter of, “Will we have a good family? Will we have an intact home?” There’s a much bigger picture here. There’s a lot more at stake than what most of us remember from day to day. We’re talking about the kingdom of Christ. He is building His kingdom. His kingdom will prevail, and we are workmen with Him. We are watchmen with Him. We are warriors with Him.

The purpose of God for our families, our homes, our relationships, is that through our little part of building we should be contributing to a much larger building of the kingdom of God. It’s through this means that we leave a legacy of godliness for the next generation.

If you lose sight of that vision, then you’re going to get weary in well-doing. You’re going to find yourself in that mothering meltdown, saying, “What’s the purpose? This is exhausting. This is depleting. I don’t think I want to keep doing this.”

Now, that’s not to say that there won’t be those times, there won’t be those feelings. But you can lift your eyes upward and say, “What’s the bigger picture here? What’s God’s idea?”

God intended that our children—not just our own children, but the next generation that’s been entrusted to us as a generation of adult believers—our children and the next generation are a blessing. They’re a gift that’s been entrusted to us by God. They are a sacred stewardship from the Lord. And you and I, as adult believers, one day will have to give account to God for the spiritual condition of the next generation. Now, that’s a sobering thought.

That’s not at all, by the way, to diminish their responsibility. They will have to give account to God for what they did with what we gave to them. But we will one day stand before God—married, single, children, no children—and give account, I believe, to God for how we built, how we watched over the city, and how we fought the battle on behalf of the next generation.

Leslie: A watchman, a workman, and a warrior. These three images in the Psalms speak powerfully about what it means to be a parent. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been helping us understand how these images and these psalms apply specifically to us as women. She’ll be right back to lead us in prayer.

Your children need a watchman, a workman, and a warrior helping them grow and develop into the person God wants them to be. Launching the next generation is one of the most awesome responsibilities we have. I hope you’ll listen all week to Nancy’s series Leaving a Godly Legacy. It’ll help you learn how to engage with your child’s heart over spiritual things.

To help you remember the things you’re learning in this series, we want to send you a beautifully designed bookmark that lists some of them. In fact we’ll send you five bookmarks—one for you and four for your friends. Just ask for them when you call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com to order yours.

When you visit ReviveOurHearts.com, would you take a look at the newly redesigned Revive Our Hearts tote bag? Our last tote bag was released during a series based on Colossians 3:12. It says, “Put on . . . compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (ESV). That verse was printed on the bag, and women loved them and ordered all that we had.

So with summer approaching, we created a new bag based on the same design. It’s sturdier in its construction, but will still remind you to put on compassion, kindness and all the other attributes found in Colossians 3:12. We’ll send you the tote when you make a donation of any amount.

We’re nearing the fiscal year end at Revive Our Hearts, getting ready to close the books and evaluate the type of ministry that will be possible for the summer and beyond. So your gift is important at this time. You can make your donation by calling 1-800-569-5959, or by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com. Don’t forget to ask for your tote bag when you make your donation.

Imagine a young person who is immersed in church activities and attends a Christian school, yet they don’t have a heart for God. You probably know someone like that. Tomorrow Nancy will talk about why that happens. Now she’s back to pray that you and I would leave a godly legacy.

Nancy: Father, it’s a sobering thing to think of our responsibility as workmen, watchmen, and warriors, and all that’s at stake. We confess that we really don’t know how to do those jobs very well. We need You.

Lord, our heart’s desire is to be able, one day, to stand before You and with joy to give account for having passed over the baton, having raised the torch, having raised a new generation that loves You. That’s our heart’s desire. Lord, would You show us how and do the work in us and through us, for Jesus’ sake, we pray, and for the sake of Your great kingdom, 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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