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As Christian parents, we want our children to be "successful" in life. We pray for them, teach them right from wrong, and try to set a godly example for them. But what does true success look like for Christian parents? And how should we view it when it comes to our children? In this article, we’ll explore the concept of success from a biblical perspective and offer some advice on how to help our children achieve it.
God's definition of success is dramatically different from the world’s. The world measures success by things like financial wealth, careers, power, and fame. But God’s definition of success is based on obedience, faithfulness, and humility.
When we view success through God’s eyes, we can see that it's possible for our children to be successful even if they don’t achieve the worldly goals we might set for them – either consciously or subconsciously.
The first thing to understand is that God has a plan for each of us. His plan is perfect and good, and it doesn't always line up with what the world says is worth pursuing. Just because we don’t make a lot of money or have a lot of power in this world doesn't mean we're not successful.
The Bible tells us God’s plans for his people are designed for our benefit (Jeremiah 29:11), and based on seeking his kingdom above all else (Matthew 6:33).
Success is following God's plan for our lives, even when it's not the easy path. It involves being obedient to Him, even when that means sacrificing our own desires. And it's living out His purpose for our lives, even when the world tells us we're not good enough. In fact, if we’re focusing on God’s definition of a successful life, we can expect the world to oppose us at times (Luke 12:49-53).
The Christian faith isn't always easy to live out, because displaying grace, hope, and patience sometimes feel like hard work. But by God’s grace, committed Christian parents can give their children the opportunity to benefit from healthy relationships, a dependable family life, and a context where tough questions are encouraged.
Here are some tips for helping your children to be successful according to God’s standards:
- Teach them about God’s definition of success. Help them understand that it is not based on worldly things but rather on obedience, faithfulness, and humility.
- Encourage them to pursue their dreams, but also help them be realistic about what they can achieve.
- Help them set goals that are based on God’s standards, not the world’s.
- Pray for them and with them regularly, asking God to guide their steps and give them wisdom.
- Be a good role model for them, living out your faith in everyday life.
If we want our children to be truly successful in life, we need to help them understand and pursue God’s definition of success.
The world loves to celebrate human achievements like winning an Olympic gold medal, climbing Mount Everest, or becoming a CEO.
But it's not that way in God's Kingdom. Instead, God celebrates the obedience of his children (i.e. Christians). He rejoices when they say, "We will choose to follow your ways, not the ways of this world."
Consider the following biblical definitions of success:
When King David was nearing the end of his earthly life, he gave his son the following advice: “Do what the LORD your God commands and follow his teachings. Obey everything written in the Law of Moses. Then you will be a success, no matter what you do or where you go” (1 Kings 2:3).
When the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he said, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” (Luke 4:5-8).
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?" (Luke 9:23-25).
From these biblical passages, a few things stand out about God's definition of success:
- It is not defined by human achievement or worldly standards.
- It is defined by obedience to God.
- It is often counter-cultural (i.e. it goes against what the world celebrates).
- It requires self-denial (i.e. putting God first, ahead of our own desires).
- It comes at a cost (i.e. we may have to give up things that seem important to us).
But ultimately, it’s worth it because it leads not only to eternal life, but to a full and abundant life here on earth (John 10:10).
As Christian parents, we need to keep these things in mind when it comes to raising our children. We can help by encouraging them to pursue things that are important to God, even if they're not celebrated by this world.
How can we encourage our children to seek God's plan for their lives rather than drift along with culture? As Christian parents, we should wrestle with the answer regularly. But here are a few ideas.
Firstly, encourage them to seek Him through His Word and prayer. They need to ask for wisdom and guidance from Him daily. As they surrender to Him, He will begin to reveal His plan for their lives.
Secondly, teach them to trust God's timing. His ways are not always our ways (we tend to be impatient) but we can be confident that He always knows what’s best for us. Encourage your children to seek God when making decisions and remain patient as they wait for opportunities to present. Do your best to model this approach in your own life, too.
Thirdly, show your children by example that you are walking according to God's plan for your life (this is the heart of Christian parenting). As they see you living out your faith, it will encourage them to do the same.
Lastly, pray daily that your children would seek God's plan for their lives and have the courage to follow it.
When we are obedient to God, we will find true fulfilment in life. Encouraging your children to focus on this perspective will help them stand firm against the pressures of the world and achieve true greatness!
One of the most important things you can teach your children is not to compare themselves to others. Why? Because other children are likely to be following the ways of this world, rather than God's ways.
It's natural to want to compare ourselves to others. We live in a world that promotes comparison constantly. As Christian parents, we also need to be careful not to fall into the trap of comparing our children to other children.
What should they (and we) do instead? Follow the example of Jesus, who perfectly reflects God’s image and embodies His fullness (Colossians 1:15, 19). Encourage your children to keep striving to be more like Jesus every day.
You could also encourage them to study the lives of people who lived, or are living, according to God's ways. This could include Bible characters, heroes of the faith (such as martyrs and missionaries) and godly contemporaries such as ministry leaders.
The influence of others
All people, including our children, are influenced by other people to varying degrees. Parents, extended family members, friends, pastors and teachers ... all play a role in shaping our children's beliefs and opinions.
It's good to have people in our children's lives who can help them grow in their faith and challenge them to think more deeply about what they believe. After all, Christian parenting is a team sport!
But there's also a downside to this. Just as they can be influenced for good, they can also be influenced for bad. If they're not careful, they can start to believe things that aren't true – simply because someone else told them they were true.
So how do we protect our children from being led astray?
By encouraging them to choose their closest friends wisely, by staying close to God, and by being diligent in their study of His Word. When they do those things, they'll be much less likely to be influenced by others in a way that takes them away from Jesus Christ and their Christian faith.
The Christian life is not about seeking fame or fortune. It's about serving God and others. As Christian parents, we should be encouraging our children from an early age to aim for humility instead of popularity.
It's important that they learn to draw attention to Jesus, not themselves. This can help them avoid the pitfalls of pride and ego, and instead focus on living a life that is pleasing to God.
If you want your children to grow up as humble disciples of Jesus, start by teaching them these important lessons early on. Help them understand that fame isn’t worth striving for. Instead, encourage them to focus on being servants of Christ. Only then will they truly be able to make a difference in the world, now and for generations to come.
Most Christian parents understand this instinctively, but it's worth stating: What’s most important is not what your children end up doing in life, but who they are.
Of course we want our kids to make a difference in the world. But more than anything, we want them to be people of character.
People of character display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (the "fruit of the Spirit"). They care about others and work for the common good.
So how can we, as Christian parents, help our children develop strong character? First, by modelling it ourselves. Our kids learn from us more than anyone else. If we want them to be people of character, we need to show them what that looks like in our own lives.
We can also help by having open and honest conversations with our kids about character. We can talk about what it means to be a person of character and why it's important. We can share stories of people who exemplify strong character traits and discuss how we can apply those same principles in our own lives.
Finally, we can provide opportunities for our kids to practice being people of character. We can encourage them to volunteer in their community, or take on leadership or support roles in school or church. By giving them chances to put their beliefs into action, we can help them develop into people of character who make a difference in the world.
Ideas for helping kids develop strong character:
- Encourage your kids to read stories or watch shows that feature characters with strong moral values. This can be a great activity to do as a family.
- Point out examples of good character traits whenever they are displayed. For example, "I noticed that you didn't get upset when your sister took your toy without asking. That showed patience and kindness."
- Teach life lessons through stories or role-playing exercises about how to handle difficult situations with integrity. For example, "What do you think is the right thing to do in this situation?”
The ultimate way to make sure your children are pursuing the right kind of success is to encourage the deepening of their faith.
The more they adopt the "mind of Christ", the more they'll chase after the type of success that pleases God. A child's life should reflect the character of Christ, even if only in an embryonic way during their early years.
There are a few key things we can do to help our children develop and maintain a vibrant faith. Here are a few suggestions:
- Encourage them to spend time in God's word every day. This is the best way for them to grow in their understanding of who God is and what He has done for us.
- Pray with them and for them regularly. This will help them to see the importance of communication with God and dependence on Him. The impact of responsible adults modelling prayer is significant.
- Model a life of faith defined by God's love. Our children learn so much from watching us and they will be more likely to follow our example than our words alone.
- Encourage them to get involved in their local church. Church involvement will help them to develop Christian friendships and see the body of Christ in action.
- Talk to them about their faith regularly. This is a great opportunity for us to answer their questions and help them process what they're learning.
By taking these steps, we can help our children to develop and maintain a vibrant faith that should last a lifetime.
Parenting is hard work, but it can be even harder when you feel like you're doing it alone. Thankfully, there are tons of great Christian parenting resources out there to help you feel more equipped.
Best Christian Parenting Books
- Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp
- Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Became Parents by Gary Chapman & Shannon Warden
- The Life Giving Home by Sally & Joanne Miller
- Parenting: The 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp