How can I get in the habit of leading my family in devotions?
For years I wanted to consistently lead my family in times in God’s Word, teaching my children Biblical truths and instilling in them a love for my heavenly Father. I wanted to confidently fulfill my responsibilities and to live out Deuteronomy 4:9: “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.”
I pictured the scene in my mind: A family gathered in a living room, the morning sun pouring in. A sense of peace fills the room as a confident and prepared father leads his family in learning from the Word of God. His wife smiles—she is content, rested, and supportive. The children are not just attentive, but fascinated with their father’s instruction. Unity abounds and time stands still as children ask questions and everyone enjoys their time so much that they forget all about moving on to the rest of the day.
In spite of my high hopes, each time I resolved to live my desires out, I became besieged with interruptions, complications, and deteriorating enthusiasm. Too often pressing business needs, home repairs, or other issues sabotaged my good intentions.
Getting to the Heart of the Dilemma
Can you relate to my continual frustration? Maybe the tyranny of the urgent dominates your life too. Small children, business needs, ministry and church involvement, household chores and livestock care—I kept hoping that as soon as we worked through the current big project, the next looming event, or the latest obstacle, I would get into the habit of actively teaching my children and loving my wife as I dreamed of doing.
Perhaps you also have many small children, own a business, or are heavily involved in church or ministry. Maybe your issue is a shortage of initiative, and although you spend time painting wistful dreams of being an excellent husband and father, you forget to do something about those dreams for weeks or months at a time.
These are all reasons for my own failure in this area, but upon examining my heart closely, I found that the real reason I couldn’t live out what I knew was right was because I didn’t take God’s commands to fathers seriously. Taking leadership and demonstrating sacrificial love were really good ideas, something that I knew should do. However, I obviously didn’t really believe that God thought training my kids in His Word was essential to their daily lives, because I wasn’t doing it. The smaller projects and responsibilities that could have been put off somehow always took precedence over what I knew in my heart was my responsibility.
Making a Life-Changing Decision
By December 2006, I was so frustrated with myself that I knew something drastic had to be done. Whatever it took, I had to begin leading my family on a regular basis. These years with my children are too precious to throw away because I’m busy, distracted, and preoccupied with business. The heart of my wife is too beautiful and important not to pursue every day. Future generations will be affected by the choices I make today.
After careful consideration, I made a personal commitment that some might think foolish, but I knew it was the only option if I were to seize the time God has given to me as a husband and father. I sensed that God wanted me to take leadership in six areas that were important to Him, and for any day that passed without my pursuing and fulfilling God’s calling in these six specific areas, I made a commitment to fast and pray through a meal the following day. (I’ve never fasted and prayed so much in all my life as I have since that December!)
I did not make this commitment lightly, and I entered knowing it would cost much to keep it. Yet, just as my children should receive prompt and appropriate punishment when they disobey, I needed an immediate consequence when I failed to keep my promise to God. The Holy Spirit convicted me that I always set aside the time to eat three meals a day, but I didn’t think twice about allowing my children to go for a day without receiving spiritual food.
Leading family devotions brings nourishment to my family’s innermost hearts. The time spent in God’s Word acts like water and sunshine for young souls who are growing to understand and love their Creator. It is my responsibility to proactively pursue these vital times of concrete teaching. I hoped that God would be able to speak of me as He did of Abraham in Genesis 18:19: “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment ….”
Becoming Feasible, Predictable, and Flexible
My six daily goals are pretty simple to list, but they are a challenge to live out, and the enemy seeks to hinder them on every possible occasion.
- Pursue my wife’s heart. (This is at the top of the list for a reason: it’s the most important of these six things.)
- Read the Bible together as a family.
- Pray as a family.
- Sing together—music is one of the most powerful mediums of communication.
- Focus on wisdom—we are currently reading the Daily Success e-mails.
- Study character so we can develop it in our own lives—we use The Power for True Success and Achieving True Success.
We have found that a key to making these goals work out practically is to have enough structure to make our time as a family predictable and feasible, while staying flexible for days when we aren’t able to meet together. When we can’t spend time together in the morning, I try to take an opportunity later in the evening.
We generally meet at 7:30 in the morning in the family room, after ranch chores and breakfast. All but the smallest children come equipped with their Bibles and journals so they can record what God shows them individually. This year we are enjoying reading through the Bible with a yearly plan, and the journals are becoming treasure chests where the children store the truths God reveals to them.
I know that our daily time, roughly 30 minutes to an hour in length, is going to influence future generations. This is time in which I am passing on my love for God’s Word. It is time in which we seek God as a family for things that concern us. It is time to build bonds and create memories that will strengthen each one of our nine children for the rest of their lives.
Reaching Toward the Goal and Reaping the Rewards
My commitment and our daily routine does not mean that I have all of this down without any problems. I wrestle with my schedule every day. We are still a family of eleven, living on a ranch with many animals, and we still juggle interruptions. The goal in all of this is not that I reach some mystical state of perfection. The goal is to live out a heart attitude of love for my family. It is about embracing the challenge God has given me as a father. It is about living the mission, the adventure, the challenge, the delight, and the purpose God has given me. It is about walking before God with a clean conscience, knowing that my choices are pleasing to Him.
As this year progressed, I’ve seen God’s hand of blessing at work. I’ve never been so successful in business, and my relationship with God is growing by leaps and bounds. The most important blessing however, is the new desire in my children’s hearts to grow in their relationship with God. With delight I watch their enthusiasm when we discover something wonderful in our reading together. My wife has also seen a vast difference in our children. She mentioned recently that when I spend time with the children, they are far more peaceful and obedient during school time.
Proactively Following God’s Calling
If the leadership of your family is an area where you want to make some changes, may I share from my own experience? Instead of patterning yourself after another father, seek the Lord for His best for your family. Ask God for wisdom to know which direction to take and for the creativity to live out the course in which He leads you.
Once you have set the course, consider staying accountable with your wife. You are a team working toward the same goal. When your wife knows what your priorities are, her support and prayer can take the place of condemnation when you fail. If you struggle with walking in the way God directs you, pick a consequence that really costs you something. This is not about doing what is easy. It’s about doing whatever it takes to follow God’s direction in your life.
One thing I have learned this year is that I must be proactive in meeting my goals as a father. Otherwise, the circumstances that surround me will dictate what I end up doing with my family.
As fathers, we are always teaching our children, whether or not we intend to do it. To teach or not to teach our children is not an option. Their eyes are always open, watching our choice of words, examining our motives, noting our reaction to every situation. Whatever is in our hearts comes out, and we communicate that to our children at some level. Therefore it is essential that we live and walk according to the Word of God. If His Word fills our minds, if His thoughts are precious to us, if we love Him more than anything else, our children will see it as it flows through every crevice of our lives.
I am with you in the trenches of fatherhood and pray that what God has done despite my inadequacy will be an encouragement to you. May God grant you courage to embark on the incredible adventure of seizing the days He has given you as a father and husband.
Related Command of Christ
This testimony illustrates the command of Christ to Feed My Sheep. (See John 21:15–16.) Dan understood his responsibility as a father and “shepherd” of his family, and he made fellowship in God’s Word a priority in his home.