Summary: The price of a successful family life is a watchful eye over the essentials.

August 11, 2002

My daughter, Jennifer, sent me the story of a king in Africa who had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) and remarking, "This is good!"

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the guns for the king. The friend had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, for after taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was blown off. Examining the situation, the friend remarked as usual, "This is good!" To which the king replied, "No, this is NOT good!" and proceeded to send his friend to jail.

About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake. As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone who was less than whole. So untying the king, they sent him on his way.

As he returned home, he was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend. He went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend.

"You were right," he said, "it was good that my thumb was blown off." And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. "And so, I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this."

"No," his friend replied, "This is good!"

"What do you mean, ’This is good?’ How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year?"

"If I had not been in jail, I would have been with you."

The story teaches that we should look for the blessings in everything! Now that is not a bad thing – especially if your attitude is a little negative. You would do well to dwell on the lovely things. However, it is a better thing to look for God’s way than His blessings.

Many Christians today want to center on blessings, blessings, blessings. Blessings aren’t bad, but they are not the center of the target here. Blessings are a by-product of obedience and watchfulness over our Christian lifestyle. They are not the end we seek – they are the serendipitous overflow of a life lived under obedience to the direction of God.

An example of this showed up in a recent article of the Florida Baptist Witness about Fathers:

…[a] study, reported in the Journal of Marriage and Family, concluded that conservative evangelicals make better fathers than their secular counterparts. The study suggests that evangelical dads are far more likely to read with their children, eat dinner with them and engage in outside activities together. The Boston Globe reports that, according to the study, fathers in a nuclear family with "strong religious and community ties" are "most likely to show up at dinner and put their kids to sleep reading ’Goodnight Moon.’" Of course, this data leaves some secular academics scratching their heads.

"Evangelical Protestant fathers, including Southern Baptists, are very involved with their children, which I found surprising, given their tendency to embrace traditional gender attitudes," University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, who conducted much of the research for the study, told The Washington Times.

Dr. Wilcox’s reaction is predictable. Secular observers seem to wonder how people hold to such bizarre understandings of male headship and the complementary roles of men and women in the home. The sociologist asks himself why such "oppressive" views of gender roles and family life shouldn’t produce homes seething with resentment and neglect. After all, wouldn’t one expect that conservative evangelical dads would dismiss childrearing as "woman’s work," while they attend Billy Graham crusades or uproot South American rain forests, or do, well, whatever it is that evangelical men do?

Perhaps there is another explanation. Perhaps evangelical fathers are more committed to their children, not in spite of their biblical understanding of the family, but because of it. (1)

The point here is that following God’s method of being a father as a man of God first will provide the kind of home kids need. In the end that is the biggest blessing a father can have…children who are loved, and in the end respond well to him. The blessing of having loving children who love you, Dads, is not the target; setting the example so they will grow up as strong followers of God is the target. But in the process they come back and bless you. Bonus on top of joy!

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