The world’s truncated view of success is wrong and damaging to the soul. But God invites us to pursue success as defined in the Bible and to rear our children to be as successful as possible. How? By creating an environment in which our children can grow in favor with God and in favor with man.
To grow in favor with God, children need to develop character and godliness. Psalm 1 beautifully captures the successful person as one “who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (vv. 1–2). The psalmist here paints success not in terms of money, possessions, and power but as holiness and fruitfulness: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither” (v. 3). To rear our children for success of this nature, we must model the life to which we call them. Children need to see us trusting God during times of testing, forgiving people who sin against us, repenting of our sins, loving our neighbors, practicing integrity at work, sacrificing our resources, serving our church, and putting the needs of others above our own. They need to hear our prayers and our stories of God’s faithfulness. They need to be members of a healthy church. Finally, children need reasonable limits, clearly defined rules, and firm, consistent consequences when they disobey. This kind of environment nourishes the fear of God. As the Spirit applies the means of grace to the hearts of our children, they grow in favor with God.
To grow in favor with man, children need to learn skills that help them prosper in the world and bless other people. It is good to give our children opportunities to develop a talent, such as art, music, dance, sports, cooking, or writing. Each child can master a hobby that brings joy to his or her heart and fills an empty space in the world. Children need to learn the value of hard work and to earn rewards for jobs well done. They need an education that equips them to think, read, write, reason, lead, and cooperate with others. They need to learn to solve problems, take appropriate risks, and participate in causes that bless their community. Because the crafty “achieve no success” (Job 5:12–13), children should learn respect for authority, honesty, compassion, and sacrifice. They need to apologize to those whom they wrong and forgive those who wrong them. As children grow in favor with man, they flourish and succeed in life.
Above all, of course, we must love our children. We must be like the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep, knows His sheep, and will not let them go. We cannot control our children’s destiny, but with God’s help we can create a space in which they are loved and cherished. Our children will fail, just as we fail. When they do, they must know that we love them still. Ironically, it is when our children feel safe enough to fail that they will grow in favor with both God and man. That is true success.