Do Your Best
My son Joseph was probably six years old. It was his first season of coach-pitch baseball. And he was at the plate and actually got a hit and had advanced to second base. There was no one on first base. As the next batter came up behind Joseph and stepped to the plate to take the pitch from the coach, Joseph sat down on second base to watch. Sure enough, the next player got a hit and sprinted to first base, and Joseph sat on second base, and when his teammate was safe, clapped. Julie and I were dumbfounded. Sitting in the stands, I kind of twitched a little bit. And I waited for Joseph to get back to the dugout after his time on the base paths was finished, and I didn’t want to squelch his enthusiasm for the game, but I was curious. I said, Joe, buddy, you know, you could have run to third and been safe there when that guy got a hit. And he goes, Daddy, there was nobody on first. I didn’t have to. Can’t argue with that. It became clear in that moment that Julie and I were going to have to find something to motivate Joseph beyond the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. It was going to take something intrinsically deep down inside of him. And that was really the beginning of a process that we have continued as parents to teach both Joseph and his older sister, Emily, do your best. Whatever you do, just do your best. You don’t have to be the best at everything, you don’t have to make straight As. Just whatever you do, do your best.
You know, Julie has a background in special education and is a first grade teacher, and she brings to our parenting repertoire an incredibly helpful question that every time we apply it, it helps. Every time we avoid it, it hurts. And the question is this. Where our kids are concerned, if we reach a particular kind of parental predicament, the question is: What does this behavior look like five years from now in our kids? What does this behavior look like 10 years from now? And based on our best guess answer to those questions, do we kind of feed the fire of this behavior, or do we Barney Fife it and nip it, nip it, nip it in the bud? Do we do what we can to kind of curtail this behavior for their sake? When it comes to doing your best, we’re working diligently with some success and some failure to teach and equip Emily and Joseph that their lives will work when they work, that work is just one of those things that is built into us as human beings created in the image of God. This is part of our responsibility.
Now, last weekend, we started this series called Parental Guidance. And I want to remind you that you may not be a parent. You may be a student, you could be a single adult without kids, you may be married with no kids. The fact of the matter is when we talk about parenting in particular, it is relevant to every single one of us, because as we discover more about what God says for parents, about God’s guidance for parents, we discover more about ourselves on the way to discovering more about who God is, about how he operates and how a relationship with him is designed to function. I want to go back and pick up our theme verse for this whole series. It’s from Proverbs chapter 22. It’s in your bulletin on the little message outline that’s included there. And I want to remind you what it is that parents are ultimately all about. This is kind of a mission statement for every parent in God’s economy. Proverbs 22, verse 6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” Remember that word train in the original Hebrew is hanak. It means to dedicate or to set aside as holy.
So parents, we are in the business of dedicating our children — what does it say? In the way they should go. Remember? The end game of parenting is to work ourselves out of a job, because our kids should go. They should leave and get out of the hizzy. We should all at one point be empty-nesters at some point in our lives because we are training them to go as God created them to go. That’s the deal. And when we talk about work, it’s imperative that we understand what it is and how it is that we’re to equip and train our kids for work. It’s just one of those things that if we understand and if we’re intentionally incorporating that into the lives of our kids, their lives will be better for it. Their faith, their relationship with God, if God leads and they get married, their marriages, their children, our grandchildren, their churches, their careers will all be better served, will all be enhanced and improved if they have an appropriate, God-honoring work ethic. But work ethic is one of those things that does not just happen. It doesn’t just kind of spring up organically. You’ve got to be intentional about creating a work ethic. And work ethic is borne out of work ethics, out of the values of work that God gives us Biblically.
The first thing that we need to understand about teaching and equipping our kids to work is that work pleases God. Understand that from the jump. Work pleases God. Look at Exodus chapter 20. You’re probably familiar with Exodus 20, even though you may not know it. Exodus 20 is where God gives us the 10 commandments. The big 10. First and 10. The 10 commandments. Not the 10 suggestions. The 10 commandments. And in the 10 commandments, the Bible says this, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.” Now, every time in my life until this moment, this week, as I was preparing for this message that I have gone to this passage of scripture and I’ve thought about the 10 commandments, I think about having a Sabbath, making sure that there is a day in my week that is set aside for rest, for recharge, and making that a priority. But I want you to notice the subtext here and the assumed behind the commandment. Look at what it says. Remember the Sabbath day, keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. God expects us to work. He expects us to work diligently with everything that we’ve got.
Now, it’s one thing to put that out there as a principle and for you to sit there in your brown theater seat this morning kind of, hmmm, yes, yes, work pleases God. I get it, I get it. Okay. Very good. Thanks. There’s one. What’s two? I hope every time you hear a principle, whether it comes from me or from someone else who’s teaching or speaking wherever you are that you always ask, so what? Okay. So there’s a principle. There’s the truth. So what? What does that mean day in and day out? What do I do with this principle? Well, I’m so glad that you asked that question. Work pleases God. So schedule time for work and play.
As a parent, you and I are responsible, accountable before God for how we schedule our kids’ lives. And I want you to underline and circle and star the word play. Play does not include organized sports, music lessons, dance, cricket, or chess club. Play is play. It’s not the travel prep soccer team, it’s not the recital in Dallas. Those things are fine and good. I’m not saying that they’re bad necessarily. But our kids, like you and I, need time for play. So much of their imagination is cultivated and developed as they go play. Give them the opportunity to create and invent games. Particularly where boys are concerned, monitor the games, because then you’re going to burn time going to the emergency room. But give them time to create games. Girls, too. Girls can get hurt and have fun just like everybody else. But they need to be able to create games. Find a stick, create a world. Just that time to play.
This is something that Julie and I are working at. We don’t have this down. We don’t have this completely whipped. But everything in our culture is crying out they need to do this, they need to do that, but then they won’t be ready for high school softball. Okay. Is that fatal? But he may not make the football team. Hey, if he’s that good, he’ll make it. He’ll make it. Jerry Rice went to Mississippi Valley State University. You couldn’t find Mississippi Valley State on a map if your life depended upon it. Jerry’s in the hall of fame. If they’re that good, the coaches will find them.
See, a lot of what we schedule into our kids’ lives is about us, it’s not about our kids. It’s about us needing to be validated. Well, they have this opportunity. That doesn’t mean they ought to do it. Everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial. Just because they can doesn’t mean they should. Give them down time. Give them time to just be. Let them hang out. Number two, work proves capacity. As our kids learn how to work and apply themselves, they discover more about who they are and what they’re capable of. They’ve got to have a sense of like whoa, I can do that. They also discover what they’re not good at. And that’s important. Work proves capacity.
Last year, Emily, my daughter, was wrestling with one particular class that just did not come naturally. It’s not a natural aptitude that she has. And she was really, really wrestling with this class. And I’ll never forget the day she came in from school. I got home from work, and she was beaming, lit up, I’m talking Las Vegas at night, because she had done well on a test. I don’t remember the exact number, but it was upper 90s. And this was an aberration in this class, okay? This was not norm. And she was like, Daddy, I’m sorry, this is the best I could do. And she handed it to me, and I said, Emily, I am so sorry for you, honey. She goes, What? This is a good grade, Daddy. I said, I know. And now momma and I know what you’re capable of. She goes, That is so rude. And she stayed lit up. It wasn’t about Julie and me. It was about her discovering what she was capable of when she really and truly applied herself, when something didn’t come naturally, when she didn’t have an aptitude for it.
Look at Ecclesiastes 9. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” We get one shot. One shot at this life. We’ve got to do our best with it. And as we do our best, as we work diligently, we’re going to discover our capacity. Our kids are going to discover what they’re capable of. Now, what does that mean? Because work proves capacity, allow for figure-it-out moments. Allow for figure-it-out moments in the lives of your kids. Give them the opportunities to figure stuff out. Don’t tell them how to do everything.
Julie and I were living in Dallas, brand-new into ministry, brand-new newlyweds. And there was a family who had students in our youth ministry. The McQuistons, John and Jan McQuiston. Had three children, Amy, Randy, and Carlie. Randy was about 13 years old and built like a Labrador puppy. He was about 6′ 3″, 110 pounds, feet out to here. Just a great kid. Every weekend they would go out to their family farm and work it. And one weekend, Randy got the John Deere tractor and the hay trailer somehow wedged between two trees. He was backing it up, trying to get it where his dad wanted it to go, and it just got stuck. Couldn’t go forward, couldn’t go back. He went and found his dad. Dad, I got the tractor stuck. I need your help. I’ll never forget what his dad said. His dad looked at him and said, Randy, you go figure it out. Randy goes, I tried, and it’s stuck. He goes, I don’t know how to get a tractor unstuck, either. I would have to come figure this out. You got it stuck. You go figure it out. You know what happened? Randy figured it out. Julie and I didn’t have kids at the time. I tucked that moment away and went bing, bing, bing, bing, bing. That is a great parenting moment. Give them the opportunity. Tell them what you need them to do, but then let them go figure out how to do it. Understand it’s going to take longer. It is. And when they come to you and ask you for help, if their physical safety’s not at stake, don’t tell them how to do it. Let them figure it out. That’s part of a work ethic. That’s part of figuring out how to do something right and well. Allow for those figure-it-out moments.
Number three, work produces resources. We need to teach our kids that the green stuff comes from God through work. We’re talking about possessions, things, money, cabbage, doughnuts, greenbacks, skins, dolares. They need to understand how that all operates and works. Now, we’re going to talk about money in a couple of weeks and the role that that plays in our kids’ lives and our responsibility as parents, but they need to understand that hard work is where resources come from. They don’t just get handed stuff. Takes work.
Look at 2nd Thessalonians chapter 3. I love this verse. It’s in the New Testament. You know, a lot of people think, well, the Old Testament was so harsh. Law, commandments. I like the new. Grace, love, forgiveness, greet each other with a Christian kiss. Watch this. “We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy, they are busybodies.” Paul’s going Old Testament on them. “Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.” Elsewhere, he said if a man will not work, he shall not eat. He’s not talking here about people who can’t work. Don’t jump off on that train. He’s talking about people who choose to just hang out, just be a good guy. If you’re going to eat, you’re going to work. That’s God’s economy.
Now, watch this. Because work produces resources, correlate an appropriate value of the work/money relationship. Correlate an appropriate value of the work/money relationship. Folks, you and I live in a culture, the United States of America, more particularly, Austin, Texas, more particularly where our church is situated, west Austin, Texas, where the correlation between work and money is warped. It’s whacked out, wrong, messed up, sick, illin’. We have to develop first of all an appropriate correlation between work and money, but then teach our kids that. We’ve got to help them to understand what’s going on. So we need to teach them that. Show it to them. We’re talking about chores around the house. Don’t rob them of the opportunity to do stuff. Emily and Joseph, they would tell you — now, I’m not talking about, you know, cracking the whip and being ridiculous about it.
But you know what? We have three big dogs at our house. Big dogs. The smallest one is 80 pounds. We found one, it was about four weeks old that turned into a Great Dane-lab mix. Our backyard is chock full of land mines. It’s dangerous. Emily and Joseph clean the backyard. They scoop. They don’t like it, but they do it. They enjoy the dogs. They enjoy playing in the backyard. They understand how that works. So we’re talking about doing stuff, about chores, about sometimes an allowance, teaching them how to manage God’s stuff.
That’s the first step — I’m going to steal my own thunder from two weeks from now. The first step in teaching your kids a healthy perspective on money is to teach them it’s not theirs. It’s God’s. Everything you have, everything I have is God’s. He just lets me hang onto some of it. Sometimes you get a big pile of stuff. Sometimes it’s a little pile of stuff. And no, I’m not talking about the dogs now. Sometimes it’s a medium pile. Whatever size pile of stuff God gives you, it’s his. And you just say thank you, God. I’m going to do my best to take care of it. That’s what we teach our kids.
Number four on the work ethics is that work provides fulfillment. Work provides fulfillment. Look at Ecclesiastes 2. “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work.” Now, just stop right there, and you kind of go, well, that’s kind of secular, that’s kind of materialistic. Watch how it goes. “This too I see is from the hand of God. For without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” Work provides fulfillment. God-honoring work provides fulfillment. Jesus said I have come that they might have life and have it to the full, abundant, overflowing. One of the ways that that abundant life happens is through fulfilling work. So create opportunities to discover the joy of a job well done. Give your kids the opportunity to feel that fulfillment, to experience it. Work provides fulfillment. And then fifth takes us to the heart of the whole thing, the whole thing. Work praises God. Work ethic is ultimately an expression of worship, of communicating your opinion, of my communicating my opinion of who God is.
Colossians 3. This is also New Testament. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Because work praises God, because it’s ultimately about worship, my job as a parent, your job if you’re a parent, is to make our kids’ work about their personal relationship with God. Make their work about their relationship with God. Not about pleasing mom and dad, not about making squillions one day out in the real world, not about straight A’s all the time, just about praising God, just communicating to God what you think about him.
See, that’s ultimately what Jesus is all about. The whole Christian faith ultimately comes back to work. Did you know that? Not my works, not yours, but Jesus’. See, a lot of people think that the Christian thing is about doing good things, being a good guy or a good girl, it’s about what I do instead of realizing that it’s about what Christ has done, what he did on the cross that provides forgiveness for my sin, and through forgiveness access to God. It’s the work of Christ on the cross. And because of what Christ accomplished and worked on the cross, I work. I want Emily and Joseph to do their best, to discover that life works because Christ works in us.