It seems increasingly difficult to live for God in our culture today, especially as parents. My husband, Scott, and I began the parenting journey more than five years ago with no clue of how God would be involved in our family. We've learned so much about God and have seen his supernatural power at work with each choice we have made in obedience to him. Each step of the parenting journey has been a yielding of our own desires to God as we strive to obey him; to live in a way that pleases him; and to love him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
After my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, I deeply questioned God's love for me and his power to intervene in my life. We prayed and trusted God to grow our family without pursuing infertility treatments. Following were two long years of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual anguish. As the waiting progressed, I spent more time reading the Bible and praying in search of understanding. Each time I struggled, God would give me hope through the Bible, during time alone with him, or through teaching on Christian radio, to remind me that he cared. My faith became stronger, and I lived each day expecting God to answer my prayers for children. In time, God revealed his power and we were blessed with our first son, Isaiah Nathanael. Two years later, God gave us another son, Caleb Samuel.
The Sacrifice of Obedience
I resigned from my job to be a stay-at-home mom, not realizing how difficult it would be to take the path God had laid out for me. Our household income decreased by more than $50,000 between my leaving the workforce and my husband taking a pay cut when he chose a different career path as a CPA in order to stay near our families. We had downsized to one car the previous year and also made a commitment to give back to God the first 10 percent of our income. With great apprehension, we plunged forward and chose to trust God for what we could not see. God's faithfulness had us in awe and we began to believe that he was surely in control! His provisions always came in unexpected ways in the form of bonuses, insurance payments, gifts from family, and even part-time work from home for me at various times. He continues to entrust us with more, and we are now tithing 14 percent on one income!
Choosing God's path has not been painless or effortless! We have had times of doubt, questioning, and self-pity. Daily, we are bombarded with the temptation to have bigger, better, newer, and more things as we see our family, friends, and neighbors accumulate "stuff." Teaching our boys the truth and standards of God is challenging when the world wants to ingrain in them an attitude of self-sufficiency instead of a dependency on God. We've had to learn discipline in order to live differently.
The Discipline of Obedience
I believe God wants us to live disciplined lives so we can model Christ to our children. Discipline is not pleasant and requires full submission to Jesus as Lord of our lives. Without it, we blend in with our culture and are contaminated by its values instead of being the salt that preserves God's truth. When we are not disciplined in applying God's Word to all areas of life, we will give in to the temptations of the world. The practice of discipline teaches us to obey God while providing focus and purpose to our lives. Obedience and discipline are ongoing processes.
When I gave up my salary and the mobility of a second vehicle, my self-worth and freedom were lost. I became wholly dependent upon God and discovered my identity in him, not my work. Living on one income and a budget requires discipline, training, and intentional effort, but it forces us to trust God as the ultimate provider. My husband and I are continually learning to use resources in a way that honors God.
As I obey God, I've been able to use his time, resources, and talents in living out my passions of encouraging people to follow God. Not working outside the home has allowed me time to show my boys the realness of God through teachable moments and to teach them through example how to apply God's instructions to life. They see me make time to invest in building relationships with my neighbors for the purpose of leading them to Jesus. At times, my sons make visits with me to those who are weak, hurting, and ill so we may encourage them in their faith. Our family chooses to forego expensive vacations, to live on a budget, to not buy into materialism by keeping up appearances with our neighbors. We have placed our security in Jesus, not things. We use God's money for his church, to extend hospitality to unbelievers in order to build relationships, to care for the needy, and to nurture the spiritually deprived through Christian radio. It brings us great joy to be able to give because we know God owns everything and he will provide for all our needs. Our peace comes from trusting that God is in control and we have contentment as we view life through God's perspective.
Practicing and Living Obedience
Here are some practical ways our family has incorporated discipline to ensure that God is first:
1. Invite Jesus to be the Lord and ruler of our lives and our home.
2. Pray individually and as a family for the desire, wisdom, strength, and diligence to follow God. Then spend time daily studying the Bible to know how to live God's way.
3. Keep one another accountable to the commitment to follow God and not the world.
4. Share with children how God is involved in decisions and how he has worked in each situation.
5. Focus time, effort, and resources to love others and build relationships by applying God's truth to life situations. Then make choices based on God's priority and not on societal pressure.
6. Thank and praise God always for his goodness, protection and provisions.
As Christian parents, we must strive to follow hard after God and to show our children, through real-life experiences, how to live for God. Our greatest desire should be to bring glory to God in how we live by modeling a disciplined life of obedience to our children and the world around us. We must not compromise God's truths but allow the Word of God to be alive in our lives, consuming all our thoughts, penetrating every area of life, and permeating through the world so that Jesus will be revealed as the God people are searching for everyday. I pray our highest goal will be to reproduce strong and faithful disciples as we live out our faith by choosing God above all else!
A refugee from Vietnam, Phuong Schuetz came to the U.S. in February 1980 with her parents, 4 siblings, and maternal grandmother after escaping communism in May 1979. She is currently a stay-at-home mom and has a passion for encouraging people toward the healing power and life-changing truths of Jesus Christ. She writes encouragement articles for her home church's monthly newsletter and blogs for WCTL, a Christian radio station in Waterford, Pennsylvania. Phuong resides in Erie, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Scott, and two boys, Isaiah and Caleb.