This message titled Navigating the Noise: Good News Homes in a Bad News World from Benjamin Watson was delivered at The Gospel Coalition’s 2019 National Pre-Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. The two-day pre-conference was titled Evangelizing the Next Generation: Gospel Guidance for Parents.
The following is a lightly edited transcript; please check audio or video before quoting.
I trust that most of you, if not all of you who are here during these sessions have kids or know somebody that has kids, or maybe you want to have kids at some point. The Bible says that children are a blessing from the Lord (Ps. 127:3). They’re a blessing from the Lord no matter what the world says. They’re hard work but they are a blessing from the Lord. They may make you angry, but they are a blessing from the Lord. They may test your nerves, but they are a blessing from the Lord. That is truth. As believers we adhere to truth. We don’t adhere it to what the world tells us about our kids or about our relationships. We go to Scripture when we want to understand the truth of God’s Word.
Navigating through the Noise of Monster Jam
How many of you guys love something called Monster Jam? I didn’t know much about Monster Jam. I’m the father of five children. We were married for three years and then we went straight “two-minute drill.” We had four kids in four-and-a-half years. We had two girls and two boys and then we waited a little bit and took some time off, took a timeout. Then we had another girl. And now we are expecting identical twin boys in T-minus a couple of weeks. If I have to run off the stage, that’s where I went. We will have seven kids, seven beautiful children, all ten and under. Pray for us; just pray for us.
Monster Jam. Last night in New Orleans (we live in New Orleans) we took the kids to a track meet. Then I saw a sign for Monster Jam that night. So we scramble quickly after the track meet and we went to Monster Jam. And bringing five kids to a Monster Jam is quite a challenge. But the boys wanted to see the truck, so did the girls. So we went up to the trucks. We saw Grave Digger. We saw Monster Energy truck. We saw one truck that looked like a dog—the truck looked like a dog with ears and a tail. And they were feeding the truck Kibbles ‘n Bits. I don’t know what they’re doing with the truck. But we saw all these trucks up close.
And then we went into the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana to go watch the Monster Jam show. And so, if you’ve never been to Monster Jam, let me describe it for you. There are about 50,000 people in the dome. Now, during a football game, there are about 70,000 people; sometimes Monster Jam seats sell out and there are about 75,000 people in there. They’re way up in the top of the bleachers watching these trucks drive on the dirt and do flips. One truck did a total flip. And so we’re going into the dome, and it’s getting loud. These trucks are very, very loud. We’re trying to get to our seats in the dome, and the kids are excited. We had to tell one, “We’re not going to get cotton candy right now let’s keep going.” We’re navigating through the hallways in the Superdome, and people are walking everywhere and bumping into the kids.
If you’re a parent, you understand what it’s like when you’re in a big group of people and you’ve got five kids that you’re trying to watch. There’s always one kid who wants to do his own thing. His name is Judah. You’ve got to watch Judah. Judah’s the kid who will wander off in an amusement park, and you won’t see him until you get back to the car and he’s just sitting there eating ice cream. That’s Judah. So we know that about Judah, and we guide him accordingly. But it’s noisy, the cars, the trucks are loud. You can’t hear anything. They can’t hear us talking to them. Every once in a while, when we get to a place where they can see, they stop and they want to look because they want to see what’s out there. They don’t understand that what we have for them is even better than the view that they’re going to get walking through.
We get to an elevator, and we go to a suite, big money. We go to a suite and they’re able to see everything sitting in the suite. They even have popcorn in the suite. They can eat popcorn and watch the trucks at the same time, but they were willing to settle for looking over somebody else’s seat while they’re walking through the hallways in the Superdome, not getting a complete view but getting a view that was good enough for them because the noise was so loud.
The noise was coming from all directions. It was from people talking, it was from the trucks, and it was from the music as the trucks were doing their tricks. All this noise but what they didn’t understand was that mommy and daddy—if they could just follow us as we guide and led them—would take them to a better place where they will be able to experience everything that we wanted them to experience at Monster Jam.
As my wife and I sat there watching Monster Jam, watching the kids enjoy it, we were actually talking about you all. We were talking about this conference, and talking about learning and being an encouraged and instructed when it came to parenting. And we said, “Wow, this is kind of what it’s like being a parent, isn’t it?” Our kids trust us to lead and to guide them. As parents, we have noise coming from their friends. We have noise coming from media, from TV, from movies. We have noise coming from Twitter or Facebook. We have noise coming from their own flesh. We have noise even coming from people in the church, that aren’t guiding them correctly. We have noise coming from schools, different philosophies, relativism, humanism. We have noise coming from all these different places. And as parents, we are trying to shepherd our children and guide them to a much, much better view. They don’t even know it. And our desire is to cut through the noise and guide them if they will trust us. And we sat there, and we said, “You know what? This is a microcosm of what all parents go through.”
Cut through the Noise by Living What You Believe
Again, my kids are young. Some of you, I’m going to need to talk to you afterwards because I need advice from you because you’re at a place where the girls are teenagers and the boys are teenagers, or maybe you’re a grandparent. But we’ve all been through this time where we are trying to shepherd our children the way God would have us do. A study in 2006 from Barna Group in USA Today said that 75% of Christian young people leave the church after high school. Now, that’s a staggering statistic. And I don’t know if it’s true or not true. The case could be made that maybe those 75% were never Christians to begin with. They simply went to church and went through the motions. And other person will say, “Well, yet they thought they were, but when they were confronted with some different ideas, they decided to turn the other way because didn’t have deep roots.” Whatever the case, we do know that as young people grow and get older, and maybe you’re an example of that, you are challenged at some point in time with your faith. There is going to come a point in time when you have to decide, Is this my faith or is this mommy and daddy’s faith.
Fewer than 1 in 10 Christian families study the Bible together in a given week, fewer than 1 in 10. How can we expect our kids to care about something that we don’t spend the time pouring into them? What if our children never see us praying, never see us studying Scripture, never hear us listening to Christian music? If the only time they get “Christian” from us is on Sunday, won’t they simply do the same thing? Unless the Spirit of the Lord grabs them, which he can.
I believe that there are 30 hours that kids spend in school getting poured into other stuff. They’re downloading all the time. As parents, we have to cut through that and pour into them what is right, what is true, what is just. One thing we’ve done is, at breakfast time we have a devotion. Maybe for some of you it’s at dinnertime. Maybe for some of you, it’s when they get back from practice. Whatever it is, we have to prioritize teaching our children the Word of God. We have to prioritize teaching them spiritual things.
Correct Your Idea of the Home with Scripture
I think part of our problem when it comes to cutting through this noise is that we have a wrong idea of what the home is supposed to be. The world tells us that the home is where you train your kids for success. It’s where you mold them to be the next scientist, or politician, or athlete, or a great mom or great dad, or engineer. They tell us that the home is where you do all those things, but that’s just more noise because that’s not what the home is for.
Those things are byproducts of a home. Yes, we should challenge our children when it comes to expanding their views and when it comes to honing their skills, and placing ideas in front of them for what they want to be. But the primary job of the home is to train our children in the admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). The first, the primary job of the home is, and as parents, is to shepherd and guide our children. That’s number one.
The primary job of the home is to train our children in the admonition of the Lord.
It’s difficult as a parent. I speak to you as someone who struggles with this as well. We have these great visions for our children, and sometimes we lose sight of what we’re supposed to be doing as stewards of the lives and the gifts that God has given us. There are some Scriptures that I’m sure you will hear throughout this week that talk about this specifically but we can go through a list.
In Deuteronomy 6, it talks about these commandments, impressing them upon your children, talking about them when you lie down and when you get up, tying them as symbols, and writing them on your door post. When I was a kid, I loved sports. If you went to my room, my wallpaper would have been a bunch of people playing football. I would get magazines and cut out pictures of people playing different sports, football, basketball, whatever it was, and I’d tape them up on my wall. My wife would not have that at all. It’s a good thing my wife wasn’t my mom because she would have torn all that stuff down.
When you walk into your home, think about your home. What would someone say is important to you when they walked into your home? I’m not saying you have to have Hebrew, Greek written all over your walls. I’m not saying that, but what I am saying is that when someone walks into your home, would they say your house belongs to the Lord? Is it obvious that “for me in my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). Would that be evident? Your children understand what’s important.
Study Your Kids to Train Them Well
In Proverbs 13:24 it says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” This goes to the idea of training. Training should not only be corrective and reactive, but training is also proactive. We discipline ourselves for whatever we want to do in life. We discipline ourselves in our various occupations. We discipline our children so that when the time comes and they are challenged, they will know the proper way to respond. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” The challenge here is that training should be personalized for each child. I have a lot of personalization to do with seven kids. But each of them has different personalities. Each of them will have different challenges. Each of them will respond differently to correction. As we cut through the noise, as we are good news homes, we need to be parents who are willing to be in essence, students of our children. We need to understand what challenges they have.
Training should be personalized for each child.
For one of our daughters, her biggest challenge is, “Do you love me? Am I worth it?” I have another daughter who loves to communicate verbally. The other one wants you to write notes to her. They’re different in so many ways. As parents, it’s incumbent upon us to be students of them so that we can train them the proper way. Another verse in Ephesians, “Bring them up in their training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
Train not only by your words, but by your actions. I remember one time I was mad at my kid. I know you guys never get mad at your kids, it’s just me. But I was really upset at my son and I yelled at him. “Isaiah, I said stop it,” or whatever I said. I yelled at him in a way that was not loving. It was reactive. There was anger there. There wasn’t love there, trying to correct. I had to go to him and ask for forgiveness. It’s tough doing that sometimes with your children. But that is how they learn what forgiveness means. If daddy is able to humble himself, if daddy’s able to admit what he did was wrong, not only to a child but to a spouse, that is showing them what we tell them.
Cut through the Noise by Living on Mission
I believe that good news homes navigate the noise by being mission-minded. Our homes should be homes that bring the good news, which is the gospel to the world. That should be our ultimate goal. We should parent in light of eternity. We should parent in light of the deity, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t parent with simply what’s in front of us the next test or the next job opportunity or the next soccer game or the next track meet, we should parent as parents who have eternity in sight. Our goal is to take the children that God has given us, train them so that they in turn can do the same thing. Our goal is to let them go.
We should parent in light of the deity, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t parent with simply what’s in front of us the next test or the next job opportunity or the next soccer game or the next track meet, we should parent as parents who have eternity in sight.
I don’t really want to let my baby girl go. I’m already thinking about that. She’s only three right now. In 15 years, I’ll be saying goodbye, and I don’t want to. She’s the youngest girl. But that’s the point, isn’t it? The point is to train your children so that they can go and do what hopefully you have done.
Ultimately, with an eternal perspective, the goal is to train children who love the Lord. Train children whose eternity is secure in him. Train children who are out making disciples of other people on their teams in their classrooms. Train children who are going to possibly go around their neighborhood or around the world or wherever it may be, wherever God calls them. Train children to be able to hear the voice of the Lord and not simply hear the noise of the culture. That’s our goal as parents. That’s our goal. That’s our call. That’s truly our mission.
A couple of weeks ago, we were in church and the pastor was preaching through the book of Colossians. And he may be in a book for a year. I didn’t know Colossians had that many verses. But he will read through each single verse and each single word in this book, and I love it because of the depth there. So he’s going through the book of Colossians, and he’s talking about how Paul was writing this letter to this church. And in verse 24, Paul talks about his suffering, and he talks about the reason why he’s suffering for the sake of this church.
And he says, “Now, I rejoice in what I’m suffering for you. And I fill up in my flesh what is lacking in regard to Christ afflictions” (Col. 1:24). And then he goes on to say that, “I have become a servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness” (Col. 1:25). He goes on to say that he is the one talking about Christ (Col. 1:27). “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end, I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” (Col. 1:28–29). Paul says that Christ is the one we proclaim. He says that we want to present each other fully mature in him. And he says that we strenuously contend, we persevere. And guess what? It’s all not in Paul’s power but in the power that Christ instills in him.
My wife and I looked at each other after the service and said, that’s what we want from our parenting. As parents, my wife and I said, we want to proclaim him. We went to think eternally and present our children fully mature in Christ. We want to persevere because, as a coach told me one time, “The days of parenting seem long, but the season is very, very short.” So we want to persevere. And we also always want to realize that it’s only in his power that we’re able to do the things that we are called to do.
We Proclaim Jesus
First of all, proclaiming him. That means knowing him. Yes, it’s speaking about him, but our goal is that our kids know him, that they know God and have a relationship with him. That is more than simply, “Now lay me down to sleep.” That is more than, “Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub.” That is more than going to church and going Sunday school where they eat crackers and juice. They need to understand that they serve a God who cares deeply for them. They need to know that they serve a God who loves them unconditionally even when mommy and daddy fall short.
They need to see that they serve a God who has performed miracles parents’ life. When was the last time you told your kids, “God did this for us. We were there, and now we’re over here.” When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, God told them to build a monument to stack stones on top of stones so that when the kids look back and say, “Hey, why is that altar there? What happened here?” Then their parents could tell them that God brought them out, that they crossed the Red Sea, that they crossed the Jordan River. Stacking up the stones allowed them to tell the story of God’s faithfulness. When was the last time you told your children about God’s faithfulness?
Pastor Voddie Baucham in his book, Family Shepherds, says that, “Disciplining our children is not about teaching them to behave in a way that won’t embarrass us,” although that’s important. We’re working towards something much more important than that. We’re actually raising our children with a view toward leading them to trust and follow Christ.”
There will be times when you’re out in public and your six-year-old is eating the bread and putting the butter on with his hands in the restaurant. You smack his hand because he’s embarrassing you. That’s part of discipline yes, but really, as we talked about before, disciplining is in light of raising them to understand a relationship with Christ. It’s not simply about making you look good or teaching them the proper way to act. It’s not teaching them etiquette. We are parents because of an eternal perspective, as I said before.
So we proclaim Him, we admonish, we teach. We teach scripture. We teach forgiveness. We teach humility. We teach the fruits of the Spirit. How are you teaching Scripture to your children? When was the last verse you guys learned together as a family?
This summer, I came downstairs to eat breakfast and my wife is sitting at the table and she has on the wall the book, a section from 1 John written on the wall. And they were reciting verses, and I got kind of uncomfortable because I thought, “Man, I don’t even know this verse. I need to get my game up.” Over the course of several weeks, we learned four or five, six verses or whatever. And it was amazing the conversation that it opened. It was amazing to challenge not only our children, us as parents as well. Hey, if we’re going to ask you to do it, we need to do it too. When was the last time you went through some Scripture to learn as a family or maybe talk to your kids?
We Present Our Kids to Jesus
Secondly, we need to have the idea of presenting. As Paul talks about presenting everyone mature in Christ, our ultimate goal as parents is to present our children mature in him. We are all continually maturing as Christians, not ever reaching a final goal. We need to have the goal of presenting them mature.
Psalm 127:5 talks about our children being a gift, and our children being arrows. Anytime somebody says to me, “Man, you know, you’ve got all those kids. You know why that happens, right?” I’m like, “Yes, that’s why I keep having kids.” And I say, “Guess what? I’m going to have seven arrows to shoot at you and you only got a couple. So I’m going to win.” Our children are arrows that we shoot into the culture as we train them up, teach them, struggle with them, discipline them, and admonish them. Ultimately we are sharpening up little arrows that God has given us that can be shot into the culture to change the world for him.
A recent study said about 90,000 people every year are persecuted in the world. Part of us sharpening our children is them understanding that they should expect to face opposition at some point. We believe the lie many of us in parenting that the biggest goal of being a parent is to make sure everybody’s comfortable. We think we have to make sure everybody has their own room, everybody has their own bathroom, everybody gets to play every sport that they want to play. I’m not saying any of that stuff is bad. I’m not saying that at all. What I am saying is that there’s a lie that says that the most important thing is our kids’ happiness. The most important thing for us and for our children is not their happiness but their holiness. That’s the number one thing. When those two come into conflict with each other, one should win every single time.
The most important thing for us and for our children is not their happiness but their holiness.
And as we think about our children and presenting them to God, we want to do our best that they are sharpened arrows ready to go into the culture and make change. You want your children to be set apart to spread kindness, righteousness and justice to a world that is unrighteous, unkind and unjust.
You want your children to be set apart to spread kindness, righteousness and justice to a world that is unrighteous, unkind and unjust.
We Persevere in the Battle
The third thing is persevering. Paul says, “I strenuously contend.” I’ve only been in it for ten years. Some of you guys are looking at me like, “You have no idea.” And I understand. I know that there’s a lot more strenuous contention coming up in the next decade with my children, but I do understand a little about strenuously contending with your children.
Sometimes people say that people are born good. I say, “Well, you must not have any kids. They came out of the womb selfish. What are we talking about here?” It is a constant struggle. It is one that has to have perseverance. It is one that as we talk about the church and encouraging each other and families need to bind together to encourage each other in disciplining and raising their children, it is hard to do it on your own.
Sometimes I’m too tired. I’ve said this before, I’m too tired to discipline you. It is a constant struggle. Are we willing to fight the battle not just so that we win and we get them to go to bed on time? No. The battle’s bigger than that. We battle not against flesh and blood. The battle with our children is much larger than simply what time to go to bed or what to eat, or having the proper etiquette. Lives are at stake. Their lives are at stake, and possibly the lives of their friends are at stake. We need to persevere as Paul did in this verse. He persevered because he understood the importance of his work for the souls of the people that he was set to shepherd and to steward.
We Do All Things in the Power of Jesus
Lastly, everything is done in his power. We fail at times as parents. Admit it, you’re not perfect. There are no perfect parents. You will fail at some point. You will blow up. You will be too tired to do something. You will miss an appointment or a practice. You may say something that you shouldn’t and have to ask for forgiveness. You may prioritize a trophy over teaching your kids some truth. We will fail as parents. But as Paul says, he says, “Look, I do this not on my strength. I do it in the strength that Christ gives me.”
Are you praying for Christ to give you strength specifically when it comes to parenting? I know I pray for a lot of stuff. I pray that God would help me when I go do this or that he provide this opportunity for me, or that he keeps me safe as we travel, or that he provide this, that or the other, that he would heal this person or that person. I’ll pray for this leader, or that leader. But am I praying that God would give me perseverance to parent my children, and that he would give me wisdom to parent them and to teach them. Do I pray that he would give me wisdom as I lead my house? Is that what I’m praying for? I’m convicted of that often.
We Can’t Give Our Children What We Don’t Have
Finally, a few kind of takeaways when it comes to this. Number one, we can’t give our children what we don’t have. I played 15 years in the NFL, so sometimes people will come up to me and say, “Hey, Ben. Look, little Johnny here, he really wants to be in the NFL.”
I say, “Okay.”
He says, “What should I tell my son about making it to the NFL?”
And I look at dad, and dad is 5 foot 6. Dad is 165 pounds soaking wet. And he doesn’t look very fast. And I say, “Mr. Wilson, I hate to break it to you, but Johnny’s not going to get what you don’t have to give him. You can’t make him into somebody that is NFL caliber athlete if you and your wife aren’t putting something in him to work with.”
Take him to the spiritual level. We can’t give our children what we don’t have. You can’t sit here and say, “I want my kid to love the Lord with all this soul and his might and his strength. I want my child to stand for what is right in a culture that’s telling him to go one way. I want them to stand firm,” but you’re not doing any of it. You can’t put that into your child when you’re not willing to spend time in the Word, you’re not willing to attend church on a regular basis, you’re not praying, you’re not memorizing Scripture, you’re not asking for forgiveness, you’re not confessing your sins, and you’re not rightly ordering your life and your relationships. [You can’t avoid all these things and] then expect your kids to do something totally different.
I know plenty of people whose parents were heathens and proud to be so, and the children turned out to be something totally different. That happens. God is merciful. He is sovereign. But standing on this side of it, we can’t give them what we don’t have. Make the things you want for them a priority for you.
Create an Atmosphere of Inquiry and Transparency
Secondly, create an atmosphere of inquiry and transparency. Allow them to ask questions and encourage it. It’s okay to say “I don’t know” sometimes. Sometimes my kids will come home from school and they’ll ask a question about you name it, science, evolution, faith. Sometimes I say, “You know, I don’t have a good answer for that. I’ll look it up. I’ll come back to you,” or sometimes I have an answer for it but the most encouraging part of it is that they are willing to even ask. We’ve created an atmosphere where they are willing to ask us questions that have to do with faith. They are willing to ask us things that they’ve encountered either at school or on their teams, and they know where to go. Do your children know where to go to for truth? Somebody’s going to offer them something. A teacher, a phone, a friend, a teammate, somebody will offer them an answer. Are you creating an atmosphere where they feel comfortable coming to you?
Are you anticipating some of the questions that they’re going to get? What’s the evidence that there is even a God? Aren’t all religions the same? Daddy, why would a good God allow evil? What about faith and science? Which one is more important, do they go together? Are they compatible? What about evolution? It doesn’t matter as long as two people love each other, right? How do we even know that the Bible is true? The Bible talks about a lot of stuff that’s not right. There’s slavery in the Bible. There’s this, that and the other. How do we know it’s even true? How can we trust this? Do your kids feel comfortable having those types of conversations with you? If not, I challenge you to create an atmosphere where they do. Have conversations that are intentional in nature about spiritual things. The way we cut out the noise, the way we are good news homes in a bad news world is by having intentional conversations about things that are spiritual.
Anticipate things they will come in contact with, and have those conversations and ask them questions on purpose. It may be at breakfast, it may be at bath time, it may be after practice, it may be on the ride to ballet recital, whatever it may be, but use those occasions to intentionally engage in these conversations.
Mind Your Marriage
Lastly, I will say that, when it comes to the home, the relationship between mother and father is what gives our children the most security, and also what shows them and demonstrates to them what it means to be a follower of Christ. Our marriages are of utmost importance. One of the most important and the easiest ways for Satan to disrupt the next generation is by destroying the union between man and wife. You don’t have to be a believer or a Christian to understand that. Strengthen your relationship with each other.
One of the most important and the easiest ways for Satan to disrupt the next generation is by destroying the union between man and wife.
The family is deteriorating on two levels, husband and wife and parents to children. But as believers, we understand that it’s our job to proclaim Christ. We understand that it’s our job to present our children. We understand that we do all this through the power of God. And we understand that it’s going to take some perseverance.
So, God bless you as you try to do that not only for your children, but understand that what we do for our children will extend to numerous and multiple generations afterwards. Let’s pray.
Lord God, we thank you for our children. We thank you for this time. And Lord, I thank you for everyone who is here. I pray that you meet them. Lord, I pray specifically for those who are parenting young children right now. Give them patience. Lord, I pray for those who are parenting older children, teenagers. God give them wisdom. Lord, I pray for those who are grandparents or they’re worried about a child who is off at college. I pray that you would give them perseverance as they pray. I pray for breakthroughs, for maybe a child that is here listening, God. Oh Lord, we thank you that your Word is a prescription for everything that we need, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
God bless you all.