I love being able to wake up in the morning before anyone else in the house is awake. That quiet time is a precious investment into my personal devotional and prayer life. Here lately I have had a harder time waking up early enough, so I’ve switched to having that time at night after the girls go to bed. It’s still quiet. It’s still personal. It’s alone with God. These are part of every Christians survival. These are the disciplines that allow us to weather the world. They are what empowers us to be in the world impacting it, but not be of the world, living in a way that is disobedient to God. I try to model my life this way.
But something very real occurred to me today.
While that quiet, alone time with God is vital, no one is seeing it. No, I’m not concerned that I have some sort of bragging rights – that I am some sort of “more holy than you are” kind of attitude. I think most know that’s not me. But I am concerned that my family does not see me modeling what their private devotional life should look like. This got me thinking…do I keep my private devotional life too private? I don’t think so. The purpose of that time is for me and God. No one else.
But that doesn’t give me a good response to my quesiton…how can I model that for my family, yet still protect the aloneness we all need with God?
That’s a good question we all ought to consider. And I have a great idea that I cannot take credit for. It’s actually a great idea that’s been around for a long time that we can all glean from. And it comes from a guy that knew well the value of that alone time with God but also knowing the need to “show your example.”
And you know what else…it’s incredibly simple! I like simple!
Paul, I think, was a simple guy! Brilliant for sure! But I think he did his best to simplify!
He could take most issues and give real simple ways to apply truth to our lives to address them. And most of the time they were not hard to understand. Maybe a challenge to apply, but definitely not difficult to understand. That’s what I find so amazing about the guy.
Paul gives us a great application for my concern. In 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, Paul writes an admonition to the church. Within this admonition he talks about prayer, remaining faithful, having personal disciplines, and he even gets into some church discipline with an “unruly brother”. But I would like to focus in on a single idea captured in verses seven and nine.
“You yourselves know how you need to imitate us because we were not undisciplined when we were with you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:7 CEB
And in verse nine he echos a similar sentiment…
“We did this to give you an example to imitate, not because we didn’t have a right to insist on financial support.” 2 Thessalonians 3:9 CEB
This verse is sort of hard to hold on to without some context to it. Paul is responding to the church in Thessalonica about how, when Paul was ministering there, he refused to be supported financially by them. This wasn’t a pride thing. He wanted them to know financial support wasn’t his reason for doing what he was doing. He was doing to give them an example – a model to imitate. This example to imitate could be referring to his making his own way of living while ministering. And I think that is true. But I also think that Paul was wanting them to follow his personal life example as well. He lived and worked with them. And while he was there, he put his example out there for them to see. He modeled what he desired them to do (which is what God desires Paul to do also!).
My family and your family are a mission field. This applies whether you are a parent of a teen, a preschooler, or a grandparent! Your family is our greatest mission field. And the single most important thing you can do is show your example as Paul describes.
It does two things.
First, when you model what you want someone else to imitate, you do it the best you can! You don’t do it opposite of what you want them to do. You do it how you desire them to do it. That is an immense concern for Paul. In showing his example, he places upon himself accountability! In other words, if he shows his example, he has to live by his example. He has to do it authentically. When we purpose to intentionally show our example to our family, we set ourselves up to also live by that example. We do the things God desires us to do because we desire our family to also do them!
Second when you model what you want someone else to imitate, you make an impression on them. One of the Greek connotations for the word model is an impression or a stamp, a mark. We not only show our family what we desire them to do, but we leave an impression on them, a mark, that our hope is eternal.
So what does this mean to my concern? I still need my one on one time with God. Well, the answer is simple…
I do both.
I still keep my alone time with God. But I also make sure that my family sees me engaging the Bible. I don’t do this for show. Please don’t misunderstand. I do it to be a model. If my desire is that my family engage the Bible on their own, then they need to see me engage the Bible. That means I do it when they are around.
And its not just reading the Bible. They need to see me do that. But they also need to seem me model application. They need to see me asking for prayer. Look at the opening verses of chapter three…Do you see it? He asks for prayer.
The character of Paul in Scripture is immense. He’s a pretty mature important Christian! Yet his request for prayer reminds me that even the great Apostle Paul did not see himself so mature that he moved past the need of prayer. Rather, he saw prayer as crucial to his life, the life of those he led, and to the ministry he conducted. Prayer included both God and people in his life.
Our family needs to see us pray. They need to see us asking for prayer. They need to see us model the fact that we are human, with weakness, flaws and can be vulnerable. It lets them know that they too can let their guard down.
Think about this – how would your family be different if you modeled this for them? Sure, keep your alone time. That is essential to a believer’s life! But you can also model these disciplines! Let them see you doing, serving, engaging and applying!
I believe with everything in me that what we do makes a greater imprint than anything we say. So show your example! Let them see you doing this thing called Christianity!
It’s what I’ll be working on!