In our latest podcast of Net Talk, RBNet Coordinator Mark Chanski also interviews John and Cindy Raquet on faithful parenting. You can watch this interview on our YouTube page.
Permission to reprint this chapter from Purposeful and Persistent Parenting has been granted from the authors.
Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.
– Matthew 25:23
The passage given above is in the middle of a parable Jesus told about three servants (Matthew 25:14–30). One was given five talents (a “talent” is a sum of money), another two, and another one. The servants who were given five talents and two talents were faithful to use those talents as the master intended (by investing them). They were both commended equally, even though the one with two talents only made two additional talents, whereas the one with five talents made five. In contrast, the third servant, who only had one talent, hid that talent in the ground and didn’t invest it as the master wished and was strongly rebuked by the master. The master appears to be much more concerned about his servants being faithful than the actual results (which is why the servant who only earned two talents but was faithful was commended just as strongly as the one who earned five talents).
Our family has developed a saying, “Faithfulness, not results,” to encourage each other along these lines. In fact, one of our older children had this phrase carved out of wood and hung on our wall before she moved into her own apartment. This phrase applies to many aspects of life, but it most certainly applies in the realm of parenting.
“Faithfulness, Not Results” as Applied to Parenting
Parents can often fall prey to some wrong ways of thinking. On one hand, we may think that “children will be children,” and that what we do as parents has little effect or impact on their lives. On the other hand, we may think that how our children turn out is completely determined by us and by the decisions we make. Both viewpoints are misguided and unbiblical and can lead to damaging approaches to parenting and much unnecessary stress.
If you are a parent, then God has entrusted your child to you—your child is like the “talent” in the parable described above. God has called you to be a faithful parent, and to do everything you can to raise up your child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). You are called to be faithful. Your focus should be on being faithful as a parent and trusting that God will use your efforts as His vehicle of blessing for your children. However, the results are ultimately up to Him, not you.
This concept is incredibly freeing because we can focus on things that are to a great extent under our control (our faithfulness) rather than things we cannot ultimately control (our children’s response). To be sure, God has set things up such that there is a strong connection between what we as parents do and how our children respond, but it is a wrong or even arrogant attitude to think that we completely determine how our children think and behave by our parenting.
Practically speaking, how does a “faithfulness, not results” attitude change the way we parent?
- A “faithfulness, not results” attitude keeps us from getting discouraged.
All parents face times of discouragement when it seems like what we are working on is never going to “catch” in our children. If our focus is entirely on the results (the children finally “getting it”), then we cannot help but be discouraged. But if our primary focus is on attempting to be faithful to God in this undertaking, then it reduces frustration and discouragement. Clearly, it will still be discouraging if our children are not responding as we wish, but at least we don’t have the added unnecessary pressure that comes with measuring success by something we cannot fully control.
- A “faithfulness, not results” attitude helps us to be patient with our children.
If the primary question in our minds is “Am I being a faithful parent?” and we can by and large say that we are, then we can take comfort that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. This will certainly reduce our impatience with our children when they are not responding well. It reminds us that the results are God’s work, in His time, and not ultimately our responsibility.
- A “faithfulness, not results” attitude can reduce sinful pride.
If we believe that our children’s behavior is completely a result of our parenting, then in times when they do behave well, we are tempted to take undue credit in the form of sinful pride. If our primary focus is on being faithful and if we recognize that good results are really a blessing from God, then our response will be gratitude to God for using our efforts in the lives of our children rather than pride.
- A “faithfulness, not results” attitude acknowledges the need for God’s grace in our lives.
When we think along these lines, our need for God’s grace can be seen in two ways. First, none of us are 100 percent faithful to parent the way we should. Sometimes we do things we shouldn’t, or we fail to parent as we should. We are dependent on God’s grace in our lives to help us grow in faithfulness as we parent, and we are dependent on God’s grace to overcome the effects of our parenting weaknesses and failures in the lives of our children. Second, because we recognize that we do not fully determine how our children turn out, we see the need for God’s work of grace in our children’s lives to learn and grow in the ways He has for them.
- A “faithfulness, not results” attitude avoids unhealthy pressure on the parent/child relationship.
When a child fails to live up to our expectations (as they often do), we can feel significant pressure to immediately “fix” them because their actions reflect directly on us. This can lead to an unhealthy level of “performance pressure” in which the parent-child relationship becomes primarily about the child’s performance. Having a “faithfulness, not results” attitude helps break down this kind of pressure because we are more focused on being the parents we should be than on how a child is responding. This attitude also helps us to resist feeling parental peer pressure in which we compare ourselves with other parents. If our primary goal is to be faithful to God in our parenting, then we are much less concerned about what other people think about us in this area.
- A “faithfulness, not results” attitude changes the way we pray.
Fervent prayer about our parenting and for our children is more likely to occur when we recognize our helplessness and complete dependence on God in any situation. A soldier under fire in a foxhole doesn’t need to convince himself of the need for prayer—he will likely spontaneously cry out to God. The same principle applies to us as parents. When we recognize we are completely dependent on God to use our parenting efforts to create fruit in the lives of our children, we will pray more naturally and earnestly for God to work in the lives of our children.
- A “faithfulness, not results” attitude is helpful to model for your children.
When our children see this concept modeled by their parents, it can be a strong encouragement to them as they grow in faithful obedience to God based on a relationship with Him, not based on a legalistic mindset of earning God’s favor or their parent’s favor by their performance or success.
A “faithfulness, not results” mindset is an abstract concept, so younger children may not really understand what the words mean. However, it is good for us to talk about the concept at a level the child can understand. For example, suppose that a seven-year-old is starting to play a team sport like soccer but they struggle with some of the skills required to play well. We should primarily encourage our child along the lines of their character and effort rather than focusing primarily on the results of how they played. We might ask things like “Are you working as hard as you can?” and “Are you listening to your coach?” Working hard and listening to the coach should be the goal, not some standard of performance. Of course, there is nothing wrong with also praising your child when he or she plays well, but that is not the primary focus.
It’s Sometimes Challenging to Discern
One word of caution, especially for those of you who already have a more laissez-faire approach to parenting—you need to think carefully and be honest with yourself when determining whether you have been a faithful parent. There are times where our child’s behavior is significantly affected by our sinful or unwise actions (or lack of actions). Using the “faithfulness, not results” mindset to excuse us from what is actually unfaithful parenting is not helpful.
Sometimes, it is difficult for us to discern to what extent we are failing as parents or to what extent we are doing what we should (i.e., being faithful). It can be helpful to have open and frank discussions with our spouse or close friends to give us better insight into this question than we can discern on our own. No parent is perfect and 100 percent faithful, but it is an area in which we can grow by God’s grace.
“Faithfulness, Not Results” as Applied to Life
The concept of “faithfulness, not results” applies to many areas besides parenting. We can teach this principle to our children by showing them, through our words and actions, how we seek to be faithful in all aspects of our lives and leave the results up to God. Here are just a few non-parenting examples of this principle in action:
- Too much to do
We have more to do than we can possibly get done (at work, at home, over a weekend, etc.). In this circumstance, we need to ask ourselves whether God expects us to do more than can possibly be done (and the answer would be no). Since this is the case, then we should seek to use our time as best we can, focusing on the things we think God would most want us to do, and then be content with whatever the results may bring. This is an incredible stress-reducer for those of us who live hurried, hectic lives.
As Christians, we are called to be faithful witnesses of the gospel to those around us. We are not called to save the people around us—that’s God’s job. We can be faithful witnesses but have little or no observable response. If this is the case, we can rest in the fact that God is concerned about our faithfulness, but the results are His responsibility. Even Jesus had times and places where He was faithful to do everything the Father gave Him to do but had little or no results to show for it in terms of the response of the people (see Mark 6:1–6). Once again, we need to be honest with ourselves about whether we are truly being faithful. Living with a “faithfulness, not results” mentality does not mean we are off the hook. It just means that we should be focusing on being faithful rather than focusing on the results.
- Interpersonal encouragement
When we live in community with others, there are times when we may need to challenge someone we love and call them to live to a higher standard. For example, we may notice a prideful attitude in a friend that is really affecting their relationships with others, and we feel convicted that we should bring this up with our friend. Such encouragement is not always well received. If our friend does not respond well to our attempts at encouragement, we can feel defeated if we do not remember that we are primarily responsible for our actions (faithfulness) and not responsible for our friend’s reaction (results). If we are mostly worried about how someone will respond, we are much less likely to confront someone when they need to be confronted.
- Performance at work
In any kind of a work environment, we should be focusing on being faithful to do what we are responsible to do to the best of our ability rather than focusing on the results (e.g., promotions, being appreciated by others, getting the sale). Good results tend to follow when we are faithful, but that is not always the case for a variety of reasons, many of which are outside our control. A “faithfulness, not results” approach in the work environment very much fits with Paul’s encouragement to the Colossians: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23–24)
Cultivating a “faithfulness, not results” mindset in ourselves and in our families keeps the focus on the right things and keeps us from becoming too performance oriented.
As we come to the close of this book, our desire and prayer for you is that God will enable you to see your children as the true gift and blessing they are. May God give you the determination, energy, and wisdom to train your children diligently, both proactively in times of non-conflict and when they have disobeyed. May He give you the ability to be consistent in your parenting. May God grant both you and your children an others-oriented mindset in which you look not only to your own interests but also to those of others. May you have the courage to stand against the dominant culture that doesn’t recognize God and will not agree with your convictions. In the middle of your busy life, may God grant you the eyes to see what a short time you have to invest in your children. May He eventually send your children out into the world as arrows, ready to accomplish whatever it is that He has molded them to do. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, may your parenting be filled with grace, recognizing that your children are fellow sinners along with you in need of a Savior.
- Can you think of an instance from your past where you think you were too focused on results? How would a “faithfulness, not results” mindset have helped you in that situation?
- Do you struggle with focusing too much on how well your child performs, as opposed to focusing more on your child’s character? What factors do you think cause you to have too much focus on performance? What thoughts run through your mind when your child doesn’t perform up to your expectations?
- Do you struggle with being too lax as a parent, with a “kids will be kids” mentality, when there are issues in a child’s life that you, as a parent, have a responsibly to address? Can you think of some issues (character or otherwise) where your children could benefit from godly parenting?
- Can you think of a time when you shied away from talking with someone because you were afraid of how they were going to respond? How would a “faithfulness, not results” approach have helped you in that situation?
- When we say “faithfulness, not results,” to what or to whom exactly are we being faithful? (There are many answers). Give specific examples.
- List some good examples of the “faithfulness, not results” mindset in the Bible or in literature. What are some examples of where this attitude was lacking (with the focus on external results outside of one’s control)?
John and Cindy Raquet have been married for thirty years and have thoroughly enjoyed raising their eight children. The Raquets live in Dayton, Ohio where John is a pastor/elder of Arbor Church, which is a member of the Reformed Baptist Network.