The body of statistics for topics like this is huge. In fact, there are websites that are dedicated to publishing this kind of thing on a daily basis; it can be mind-numbing. This post simply asserts the conclusions of one group of studies. If you are interested in more of this data, go to familyfacts.org and you’ll find it.
Consider these conclusions about parent’s influence on the sexual behavior of their children:
- “Adolescents whose mothers discussed the social and moral consequences of being sexually active are less likely to engage in sexual intercourse.”
- “Children whose parents monitor them closely are less likely to be sexually active when they are in their teens.”
- “Teenagers who feel their parents strongly disapprove of their being sexually active are less likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection.”
- “Teens whose parents watch television with them more frequently and limit their TV viewing are less likely to be sexually active.”
- “Adolescents whose parents talk with them about standards of sexual behavior are more likely to be abstinent.”
These conclusions mirror those of author Christian Smith in his book, “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers” by Oxford University Press. There, Dr. Smith tells us that parents are absolutely vital in the lives of their children. Perhaps parents begin to believe over time that their children are far more likely to follow the influence of their friends or other adults. Both the Bible and sociological studies are telling us to think again.
Most people are quickly discouraged in their lives. Joy in some circumstances is hard, in most is even harder and in all circumstances seems impossible. We have good intentions: we might start out well in the morning, our devotions done and prayers prayed. Yet the first ankle-biter issue in life turns us over into the sour pusses that we had hoped to avoid. We capitulate faster than you can say “woe is me.” “Wait a minute,” you say, “Woe is me? Are you saying the difficulties of life are all my fault?” The cause? No; that wouldn’t be fair. But the response is all you and all me.
It is not as if life isn’t hard. I was recently reminded of this when we heard a church family had just a baby who might have Down’s Syndrome. Hard indeed. Life’s bowl of cherries has pits that break teeth. It’s not going to do us any good to ignore the difficulty. No one has true joy by ignoring circumstances; that’s a fool’s errand. Eventually, we’ll go crazy in our little make believe worlds.
No, the world is to be faced. And it is a hard world.
I like movies. I particularly like the movie “A Knight’s Tale.” Now there are parts of it that aren’t so good, but there’s one scene in the movie that will help here. The main character, Ulrich Von Licthenstein, is a tournament jouster. In one exchange his opponent cracked his armor. He had to go to a smithy and have it fixed. He found one, a woman named Kate. Kate, he found out, had come up with her own way to heat steel and make stronger armor out of less steel. The effect was a very light yet strong suit of armor for Ulrich; like Knight’s UnderArmor.
It certainly looked different than the other knights’ armor. In fact, the next time he jousted, he got laughed at by the other men for his armor. That is, until he was able to mount his horse like he was wearing no armor – that got their attention since none of them could do that.
In fact, those knights had armor that made jousting difficult: apparently it was very heavy and didn’t move well. As if trying to stay on a horse that’s galloping, holding a lance, trying to strike the opponent in a meaningful way and avoid getting hit and falling off the horse weren’t difficult enough!
Here’s how it touches what we’re considering: life, like jousting, is difficult. The question is:
- What do we “put on” that makes living in it even harder?
I’m talking about perspectives, demands, views, commitments and hopes. What I mean is that what we believe about life can either help us tackle it or make it even harder to tackle.
Here’s an example. I think Christians often put on a viewpoint that thinks much of the power of our own sin and circumstances to crush and discourage us and little of the power of our Savior to strengthen and save us. We think things like, “It’s only a matter of time before I get mad / lust / depressed / worried….There’s nothing I can really do about it. It’s going to happen.” This view makes the difficulties of life even more difficult: if we’re already convinced that the mountain is too hard to climb before we even see it (or see what’s in our packs) then we’re sunk when we come to it. In other words, we really think highly of our sin and our life’s circumstances and lowly of Christ’s provision and power believing perhaps that we are just passive recipients of the black waters of life. In the end, we drink deeply and it is bitter.
But, if Christ Himself holds all things together (Col 1:15-17) and all things were conceived of in His mind and built through His very power and find their purpose and conclusion in Him, then why be so quick to think sin is too much and circumstances too overwhelming?
- Is the tendency to sin really too strong for the Spirit to counteract?
- Are your children really so aggravating that the Spirit can’t give you peace or patience?
- Is the disease, the deformity or the doubt really so strong that God the Rock and Refuge (Psalm 31) cannot enter in?
My wife and I were talking about how it feels like the home page in our lives’ web is “Me.” But that’s wrong. In Christ, our home page is Him. He is our default. Our sin is not the first or final word in our lives, His righteousness that He gave to us and His Word is both first and final. If we believe that it’s only a matter of time before we sin or our circumstance are going to beat us up, then perhaps instead of being realistic we are being sinful. Instead we must face our daily problems with:
- Christ’s power is enough to keep me from the power of my sin and these circumstances
He is either powerful or He isn’t. We either live one way (“He is powerful”) or we live the other (“He is not strong enough”). God gives power to His children to overcome (1 Corinthians 10:13) because He has already overcome it all. Receive it and use it today.