Rising to the Foundational Calling in Life
In the last Chariot of Fire, I defined a calling in life. A call is an act of God much like God's calling creation into existence. Furthermore, when God calls someone, it involves a special relationship with specific responsibilities, privileges, and promises between the parties that produces hope and purpose. The recognition and stewardship of each call is important because each calling of God prepares us for the next calling in life. Do you recognize the callings of God in life?
Although we might speak of "callings" in life with reference to our occupations or ministries, I want to keep our attention focused on those callings of God that are considered irrevocable according to His Word. In subsequent issues, we'll discuss the calling to be sons of God, the calling to a marriage partner, the calling to be fathers or mothers, the calling to be grandparents, and lastly, the calling to Glory. In this article, I want to ask you to think about your first calling in life.
Calling #1: As a son or daughter of your father
Seldom do we think of a birth anymore as an act of God, yet there are very few experiences in life that evoke a sense of divine reverence as the birth of a child. When God "called" you forth from your mother's womb, you entered into your first calling. It was not your choice, of course. You didn't determine who your parents were going to be -- God did! When God called forth each aspect of creation he either "called" it by name or brought it to Adam to name. We do the same thing when a child is born. We name it in order to establish and distinguish a special relationship between the parents and the child. Typically, according to the biblical pattern, the child bears the father's last name in order to identify the "calling" of the child. Certainly this is not to belittle the importance of the mother's role in parenting, but reflects the original command of God to Adam to be fruitful and multiply.
The Foundational Calling
As sons or daughters of our fathers, we embark on the foundational calling in life. How our parents teach us about this calling, how they recognize and fulfill their responsibilities and privileges of their calling as our fathers, how we respond to this calling will impact the rest of the callings of our lives. This may give new insight into the Proverb, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6).
What if parents don't teach about life's callings?
If parents don't teach their children about this calling (which they wouldn't if their parents or the Lord Jesus didn't teach them), what occurs? First, the idea that one's self is the center of life isn't clearly exposed for what it is. Children are programmed by their sinful natures to think that everyone around them is "called" to serve them. It is vital that a child learn very early about his "calling" to be a son or daughter of his or her father. The child must learn that it is not only a physical call, but a calling that has spiritual ramifications as we shall discuss in a future newsletter.
Second, if a father doesn't teach his child about his calling, as the child gets older, he or she will not understand the hope of their calling. Now, granted, if a father and mother don't recognize or teach their child about the calling, they won't know to give hope to their child. What hope can a parent give a child for learning and practicing attentiveness, obedience, and self-control if their only reason for them is, "BECAUSE!"?
Third, when the child who doesn't understand life's callings reaches the adult years, he or she may not view relationship with God, marriage, or parenting as an irrevocable call of God. Consequently, those relationships may be entered into without adequate preparation and haste resulting in spiritual apostasy, divorce and remarriage, and abdication of parenting responsibilities.
Fourth, a child who doesn't understand the importance of the callings in life won't know to teach it to his or her own children. So, the ignorance and destruction cycles through another generation in that family.
What if parents do teach about life's callings?
When a parent understands the callings in life, the child can be told that the entire vision for this season in the child's life is preparation for all of life's callings. They are building a foundation from which they can experience the blessings of God such as hope, freedom, joy, faith, love, and success throughout all of life for the glory of God. They may be told that their relationship with God, their marriage, their families, and the latter years of life will bring glory to God as they understand and respond to their "calling" as your son or daughter -- if you lead them in God's ways. A child growing up under a father with such vision will evidence peace, security, and contentment uncommon to children whose parents don't have any vision.
God made our hearts to hope. We yearn for it. The one who gives the child the most hope is going to have the child's heart. The reason many parents loose the hearts of their children is that they don't understand the power of hope. Although Paul prayed that the Ephesians might see the hope of their "calling" as sons of God, it emphasizes a need that all children have. If our heavenly Father knew it was important for us to see the hope of our calling as His sons, then we earthly fathers have good reason to offer hope to our children also. It is hope that produces faith and love in the relationship between parents and children.
A Call to a Special Relationship
To what special relationship has God called a son or daughter? God has called them to honor their father and mother above all other adults. It's a relationship they can know that God honors and sanctions! It is through this relationship that the child is to learn the concept of holiness. Treating someone as holy is to set someone apart from that which is common to a position of special honor. That concept will be applied in one's relationship with God, one's marriage, and in parenting.
A child from the time he arrives in the family until he begins his own family will have daily opportunities to practice holiness. It will be challenged the most, however, in the teen years when there are temptations to identify with their peers, other adults, and cultural celebrities. Many teens treat their parents as common or unimportant and honor the words and values of someone else because they do not understand their "calling". Why should they submit to their parents? Why should they learn about life from their parents as opposed to some other adult? Why should they make their relationship with their parents in the teen years the most important relationship in their lives outside of relationship with God? The answer: Because it is a call of God that is foundational to all other callings in life.
Never too late
Although it is never too late to learn the importance of this calling as a son or daughter of one's father, the earlier it is learned and consciously practiced, the more blessing and hope there is for the child. If your child doesn't understand his calling to you, you may eventually have a teen with a rebellion problem or an independent spirit. That may have happened to you!
If you are facing the challenge of a wayward older child, your child may be waiting for a reason to submit his self to you that brings more hope than submitting himself to the desires and values of the world. Telling him he should obey because it is right, because he'll be happier, or because he is shaming you won't satisfy his inner need for hope. Explaining the importance of this foundational calling in life and the benefits of handling it properly does offer hope for the future. It gives the "why" behind the duties and responsibilities of being your child.
At what age should you begin teaching them about their calling? I think as soon as you notice conscious disobedience, it's time to teach him about is calling. It is his calling that requires obedience. He may not be ready for a full explanation until he is old enough to understand that what he does today is going to impact his marriage, his children and grandchildren, and most importantly his relationship with God and eternal destiny he's ready to be taught about his calling as your son.
As you "call out" your son or daughter, you are providing a rich example of someone who is rising to his calling in life as a father. You are pointing the way for the next generation of fathers or mothers who will enter their callings with knowledge and wisdom. Isn't that hopeful? What does that do for your heart and desire to parent for the glory of God?
Perhaps you have a son or daughter who has left home and is suffering in his or her callings in life because you didn't know this when they were at home. Is it too late? Praise the Lord, No. God promises to turn the hearts of children to their fathers if the father's heart turns to the children (Malachi 4:4-6 and Luke 1:17). There is no age limit to that promise! Why not test the Lord in this, and contact your child? Take responsibility for not teaching them about their callings in life.
As you humble yourself, turn your heart to them, and show them how the problems they are dealing with in life now are a result of not knowing how to handle the foundational calling in life, perhaps God will restore that relationship. Until it is restored and repentance brought forth for ignoring or denying the calling of God, there will be little hope for your child to be a good steward of the rest of the callings of God in life.
Consider a completely new approach. It may catch them of guard! Perhaps they are used to being told what's wrong with them and how they are disappointing you. What a change of approach for you to come to them and take responsibility for disappointing them! How do you think they would respond if you asked their forgiveness for not "calling them out" to be prepared for life's callings? How would they respond if you confessed that you didn't know how to handle your calling in life as a parent because your parents didn't know to teach you the importance of the callings in life? Do you think they'll be able to see that they are destined to repeat the same thing with their children if God doesn't reveal the truth to them?
Perhaps you could share a Chariot of Fire with them as a start. Another thought would be to introduce them to the Equipping Men Series (see website for info). This series talks about the calling out of sons and the affirming of daughters. One man sent a tape at a time and a letter saying, "Please listen to this tape and see what I didn't understand or know to do." God used it to turn the hearts of his older children back to the Lord, their wives, and their children. It's never too late!
A Family Exercise
I've wanted these articles to stimulate your thinking and to encourage you in your family times. In the next issue we will consider the duties, responsibilities, privileges, and promises of the calling as a son or daughter. Perhaps you might get a head start this month and see if we come up with some of the same things. As a family, why not make this a matter of discussion. Here are a few questions to stimulate that family time.
1. What duties and responsibilities does the Bible give to children with regard to their parents? Look up verses and state those responsibilities.
2. What privileges does your child have that other children don't have?
3. What promises can you make to your children because of the way God is leading you as their parent? What are the conditions of the promises?
4. What character qualities do you wish you had learned in your first calling as sons or daughters that now you see would have been of great benefit in your present callings? How can you incorporate these into the duties and responsibilities of your children so they can practice them?
5. Can you think of a Bible character that was a good steward of his first calling as a son of his father? How about one who was not a good steward of his calling?
Until next month, may the Lord Jesus guide you by His Holy Spirit as you teach your children God's ways.