From the Inside Out
By Don Ruhl
I did not baby-sit my children, even as mothers do not baby-sit their children. When a father stays home with the kids while the mother is shopping or something, why do we say that the father is baby-sitting his own children?
Then I read this, “Parents are just baby-sitters for God.”
Psalm 127 shows in that sense, I did baby-sit my children. All fathers and mothers in that sense baby-sit their children, because we are baby-sitting for God! Here is how we know that. “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward”
Genesis 4 shows that three thousand years earlier, Eve saw this truth. When she gave birth to Cain, she declared in truth, “I have acquired a man from the LORD” (Ge. 4:1). When she bore Seth, she again said, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed” (Ge. 4:25).
Genesis 15 shows that Abraham recognized the Lord’s gift of children. When Abraham and Sarah could not conceive, they did not think it was her problem or his, but Abraham said, “Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” He said again, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” (Ge. 15:2, 3).
Genesis 33 shows Abraham’s grandson Jacob, understanding fully that children come from God. Esau asked Jacob about the children, then listen to Jacob’s response. “The children whom God has graciously given your servant” (Ge. 33:5).
Jacob’s son, Joseph, later answered the same thing to Jacob’s question about Joseph’s children.
Isaiah 8 makes a bold statement about the source of children. “Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me!” (Is. 8:18a).
Therefore, C. B. Eavey, made a wise statement, “As a gardener is dependent upon God to grow a plant, so a parent is dependent upon God to grow a life. As baby-sitters for God, we grow lives. Growing a life for God far surpasses any of the things that we parents think we have to do. We get caught in what we want and need to do that we forget God has placed us on assignment, wanting us to grow lives for Him.
How then should I view my children? How shall I bring them up? If they are from God, what should their nature be? God is spirit. Therefore, children must be of the spirit. We train their spirits foremost. Everything else takes a back seat. God says, “Here, watch these children for Me. I expect to receive spiritual children later.”
It Begins in the Heart
Proverbs 4 literally goes to the heart, showing us how to control the issues of life. Parents should follow the teaching of this text for themselves first, then they can see what Solomon meant and they can show their children how to follow this wisdom, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life”
(Pr. 4:23). Proverbs 4:23 and other scriptural teachings convince us that maturity happens from the inside out.
Outward qualities do not make the man or the woman. Not the treasure chest, but the treasure inside makes the person. Make the treasure what it should be, and the treasure chest will be what it ought to be.
First Peter 3 reveals essential principles when considering the true beauty of a woman. The idea that Peter addressed applies to men also, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1Pe. 3:3, 4). My personal opinion is this: Extra outward adornment should begin when children
- understand that they are built from the inside out,
- have begun to develop a godly character,
- want to please God first,
- understand how outward adornment is a frame that enhances a picture and does not distract from the picture; and
- can use it with discernment.
One woman pictured true character perfectly, “True character—character that really makes a difference when the chips are down, manifests itself from the inside out. It’s the wholeness of one’s thoughts, desires, motives, feelings, speech, behavior, habits and the choices one makes. Character is not just doing all the right things. It’s thinking the right thoughts; it’s having the right motives; it’s feeling the right feelings; it’s making the right choices. It’s the wholeness of a person’s inward thinking and outward behavior. It is the quality of the soul as it is revealed in conduct. But most of all, “It’s grace.” It’s God’s power working from the inside out” (Kay Kuzma, Homemade, May, 1991, Vol. 15, No. 5).
Whatever children are and become begins in the heart, soul, and spirit of the children. In Matthew 15 Jesus taught that the heart is the birthing center of the things that defile us. Take this passage with Proverbs 4:23 and you will know that the heart also births the things that bless us, “Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man” (Mt. 15:17–20).
Therefore, concerns for the bodily health of our children should not outweigh concerns for the spiritual health of our children. Give more attention to building Christ-like character than to health, career, clothes, etc.
First Timothy 4 gives the proper emphasis. It does not say to deny one to have the other, but one benefits us more than other, “But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1Ti. 4:7, 8).
Do not forget the message of the Book of Ecclesiastes, that all is vanity with one exception. Whatever I do for my children, let this one thing, that is never vanity, be the guiding principle in everything, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ec. 12:13, 14).
What are we about? God created us to fear Him and to keep His commandments. Why did God create us and give us children? If He created us and gave us children to be comfortable on earth, we would live here forever. Yet, we do not live here forever. He wants us to join Him, but only the qualified join Him. Do you want your children to join Him? Do everything you can to make sure it happens.
In Matthew 12, Jesus again taught that whatever goes on in the heart determines what we do and what we are. He used trees to make His point. What kind of trees are we making out of our children? “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things” (Mt. 12:33–35).
From the Inside Out
Let us go back to Proverbs 4. All these things being true, Solomon urged his son to build his character from the inside out. Notice that right in the middle of this passage on spiritual character is verse 23, my driving text for this message.
See what Solomon did to build his son’s character from the inside out.
1. Solomon urged his son to listen attentively (v. 20), “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.” Solomon did not intimidate his son. He used gentle persuasion.
2. Solomon encouraged his son to meditate on the word of God (v. 21), “Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart.” There is no psychological manipulation or magic trick to substitute for keeping the word in the midst of the heart. Psalm 119 demonstrates what helps our children best. Think of it. What will happen to our children if the word of their Creator resides in their hearts? “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Ps. 119:9–11). Saturate the heart with the word of God, then evil will not come out, but every good thing God put into the word!
3. Solomon told his son of the benefit of Scripture-meditation (v. 22), “For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.” How much time do we devote to their earthly education? We devote much time because we know it helps them live. Yet, godliness is profitable for both earth and heaven.
4. Solomon instructed his son that the life we lead begins in the heart (v. 23), “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Therefore, guard the heart with all your effort and strength, exercising self-control, regulating the thoughts, etc.
5. Solomon went on and commanded his son to avoid an evil tongue (v. 24), “Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you.” We have already observed from Jesus that the tongue reveals the heart. If children learn an evil tongue, let it be said they did not learn from us.
6. Finally, Solomon advised his son to concentrate on the way of holiness (vv. 25–27), “Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.” We know the concentration required to keep ourselves on the highway of holiness. Think on these last three verses and how you can teach the thoughts to your children.
Value Spiritual Qualities
To convince our children that they are built into men and women from the inside out we must show them that we value spiritual qualities, such as the Beatitudes, the Fruit of the Spirit and the Christian Graces, over worldly success and standards,
- by our example,
- by our reaction to:
- the things they do,
- things others do,
- what you admire,
- by what you emphasize in their education,
- by what you emphasize for their future or career,
- by the approval you show for their friends of various social levels and character qualities.
Matthew 6 has a goal for our lives as Christian parents. If we live by what Jesus declared here, we shall automatically value the spiritual qualities our children need to see. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt. 6:33). Our children observe whether we live this verse in the ways stated before and in an infinite number of other ways. For example, How do we approach Bible classes and worship services? What do we talk about most? How do we spend our money?
Ezekiel 16 reveals something that we believe is true for what we see in other people’s children. Do we see it in our children? “Indeed everyone who quotes proverbs will use this proverb against you: ‘Like mother, like daughter!’” (Ez. 16:44).
Ephesians 5 shows how behavior comes from what is inside. The outward behavior merely shows the inward nature. What do we train our children to be on the inside? What do we emphasize and value? “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ep. 5:18–21). When we fill ourselves with the Spirit it shows in three ways.
- We sing spiritual songs to the Lord, showing our attitude to our children.
- We thank God for all things, showing our children that we keep God foremost in the mind.
- We subject ourselves to the brethren, showing our love and intentions toward the brethren, creating love in our children’s hearts for members of the church.
These things show our hearts, making us pleasant people and desirable to be around, causing our children to want to grow up to be just like us.
What does your heart contain? Does it pump with the word of God and the thoughts of the Spirit? Get filled up with the word of God and the Spirit of God, then your children shall see true spirituality.