Christ is our righteousness and only hope as we rapidly come to the close of earth’s history. Jesus is coming soon!
The Most Important Mission field Close to Home
By Ted N. C. Wilson
Of all the gifts God has given us, two of the most precious come from the Garden of Eden: the Sabbath and the family. These special gifts center on relationships—with God, and with the people closest to us.
It’s interesting that Satan concentrates some of his most vicious attacks on these two special gifts. What God has meant for our greatest happiness, Satan attempts to turn into misery. Let’s look specifically at the family.
"Let the family be sent off in the morning with prayer, and at night conclude with prayer."
When God created Adam and Eve, He didn’t just create two individuals to coexist side by side. No! Instead, he created a beautiful blending of the two into one special unit—the world’s first family!
“Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:23, 24).
What a beautiful, loving picture! How God longed for this closeness, this love, to exist in every family since the beginning. But as we are painfully aware, sin reared its ugly head, bringing misery and sorrow.
But all is not lost. Our Creator is the almighty helper, restorer, and keeper of all things committed to Him (see 2 Tim. 1:12). God can still help families today experience the warmth, love, and closeness He intended. Inspiration promises, “The presence of Christ alone can make men and women happy. All the common waters of life Christ can turn into the wine of heaven. The home then becomes as an Eden of bliss; the family, a beautiful symbol of the family in heaven.”1
Practical Ways to Strengthen Families
What are some practical things we can do to strengthen families? Here are six recommendations:
1. Take time each day for family worship. Have a family worship that is not overbearing or long, but something short and uplifting. When our girls were young, we did a lot of reading. When they were very small, we used pocket-sized Bible stories called “Little Fish” books. At the age of 2 our eldest daughter memorized them. Later we read My Bible Friends, followed by The Bible Story, by Arthur S. Maxwell. The girls sometimes did Bible charades, and of course, we read from the Bible itself.
Then we prayed together—and the children would pray. Prayer was very much a central part of worship, and we wanted the children to feel comfortable with prayer. Now that they are grown, Nancy and I focus on various ways to provide for worships, including Bible reading, yearly devotional books, exchanging an impressive quotation from the Spirit of Prophecy, and always making prayer together a focal point in the morning and at night. For both of us, our daily personal devotional time reading the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy is an absolute. This ultimately reinforces the atmosphere in our expanding family of children and grandchildren.
Pray always with your children, in the morning and at night. Pray with your children and your spouse. Make sure they are placing their day in God’s hands. Let the family be sent off in the morning with prayer, and at night conclude with prayer.
When I was a university student, my father took the time to send me a handwritten note with the following quotation:
“Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first work. Let your prayer be, ‘Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee’”2
I’ve never forgotten that act of kindness, and I try to consecrate myself every morning.
2. Talk with and pray for your children. Parents, it’s vital that you talk with your children. Ask them about school, their social lives, their spiritual development. Talk with them. Talk. Talk. Talk. Even as they grow older, you can still call or text them—or write them a letter. Don’t badger or annoy them, but make contact.
Engage them in conversation and bring in spiritual thoughts—but not in a demeaning or condemnatory way. Bring in words of encouragement. Tell them you’re praying for them. Pray with them on the phone or in person. Prayer helps your children know that you rely on God. And when you model prayer, it tells them that they too need to rely on God.
3. Affirm and value your children. Show your children that you appreciate them, and that they are individuals in their own right. Give them direction and encouragement toward something of eternal worth—both personally and for their lifework.
A huge factor in affirming and valuing our children is telling them that you believe in them. So many people have a lack of self-worth today. There are many reasons for this, including media messages telling us that if we’re not doing this or don’t have that, then we’re not worth anything.
So tell your children that you believe in them and that you’re proud of them. Take every opportunity to find a reason to affirm them. Don’t berate them, but point them to the Lord as the source of all good things and encourage them in this direction.
I can’t overstate the importance of affirming your children. Don’t stop doing that once they become adults. It’s important to encourage and affirm them all the way through life.
4. Plan special times together. Plan far in advance for special family activities—whether it’s a picnic, a family night at home, or taking your spouse to dinner. If you’re not intentional about creating activities, you’ll go through life without much interaction with your family. Plan family vacations well in advance, and let everyone help plan a happy and joyous time, rather than stress-filled events with no time to enjoy each other.
Plan some spiritual outreach activities together—such as giving out literature or singing to those in nursing homes or hospitals. Doing something together for others is a great inoculation against the temptations of the devil.
5. Be the change you wish to see. Families were instituted by God Himself, and they are to be a protection against the inroads of cynicism, skepticism, and discouragement. Families were meant to encourage, not to discourage.
Think back on a recent family gathering. Were you annoyed by certain family members? Did you get disgruntled by comments made? Realize that in the family there is great love, but unfortunately there can be great animosity. Learn to forgive, embrace, and encourage your family, even if they are discouraging to you. Reach out to them in the spirit of Christ’s sermon on the mount (see Matt. 5).
In many parts of the world there are extended families, which involve multiple members of the family who live in close proximity and are part of the daily life experience. This can provide encouragement for family members who are in difficult straits. Unfortunately, in the twenty-first century more and more people live far from their families. They can become spiritually disconnected from their spiritual roots and can fall into patterns of living that are far from what Christ has in mind. Family members, reach out to your loved ones, even if they are halfway across the country or world.
6. Be your brother’s keeper. Families are under enormous attack, and this often results in fractured homes with single parents. To those who find themselves in this situation, take courage from the Lord, for He will fill in the blank spots in your family. He promises, “I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy” (Hosea 2:19).
The question Cain asked—“Am I my brother’s keeper?”— is answered by Christ as He showed an interest in everyone. This extends also to the church family. We are part of a worldwide family of 18 million brothers and sisters—each with a responsibility of spiritual nurture within this wonderful family.
To Parents Whose Children Have Left the Lord
Never lose hope. Never stop praying for your children. Rethink your approach to them so that you don’t appear condemnatory. Instead, portray the loving-kindness of our heavenly Father, who, through the Holy Spirit, is always wooing us to Him. Recognize that through small efforts and a long-term, continuous demonstration of your interest and love in your children, there will be, by God’s grace, some changes in their attitudes. Pick up on every opportunity to make a positive comment. Take every opportunity to show them that you care.
For Families Facing Challenges
Don’t stop talking with each other, but talk in quiet tones. Too often we hear only what we are saying and not what the other person is saying. As the Bible says: “Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to be at peace, rather than having a fortress mentality of always sticking up for your opinion. Let the Holy Spirit melt your heart, and in doing so, He will melt the heart of your spouse and children. Let there be a sweet spirit in the home, claiming the promise “Every home should be a place of love, a place where the angels of God abide, working with softening, subduing influence upon the hearts of parents and children.”3
Let’s keep our eyes set on eternal realities. When we get to heaven, God won’t ask us about how much work we did in the church, or how many pamphlets we handed out. As good as those things are, that won’t be the primary focus. Instead He will ask, “What did you do with your family? Where is your little flock?”
A Great Resource
Each year the Family Ministries Department of the General Conference creates resources to help strengthen families. I invite you to visit their Web site at www.family.adventist.org and download their Revival and Reformation e-book, Building Family Memories, edited by Family Life directors Willie and Elaine Oliver. This book is a great resource for anyone interested in strengthening their own family, as well as families in the church and community.
1 Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1952), p. 28.
2 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 70.
3 E. G. White, The Adventist Home, pp. 18, 19.
Ted N. C. Wilson is president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.