As a young couple just over 20 years ago, when we clearly had more time than money, we ventured into the project of building our own home. It was a monumental task for a fledgling craftsman like me. Yet it proved to be both an amazing learning experience and an incredibly rewarding one. Everything from concrete to framing to roofing to duct work to electrical to finishing, siding, brick work, and landscaping… we read, researched and carefully did it all. Amazingly, 20 years later, the house is still standing.
The house was not built by accident; it was built by clear intent. We carefully chose our house plans and built accordingly. We even ripped a few things out to correct our mistakes when we hadn’t read our house plans carefully enough. By the time that project was over, I had referred to the plan so many times that I almost knew it by heart.
When a couple painstakingly goes through a four mouth period to build their own home, they do it because of “sweat equity.” This concept is basically saying that there is amazing value in putting in the extra time and effort to build your own home. The same holds true when it comes to building a godly family.
When you build with a goal in mind, according to your house plans, you end up with a finished product: a home that is structurally sound as well as aesthetically pleasing. Not unlike actual construction, building a godly home with God’s kind of blueprint in mind creates a family that is structurally sound and unbelievably pleasing to be a part of.
The following are some of the principles that you need to practice if you want to build a godly home. And yes, if you follow God's plans, you will truly enjoy some great “sweat equity.”
Follow God’s blueprint. Make a choice as a couple that you will do family God’s way. Put a stake in the ground, like Joshua did when he announced, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). This decision to surrender your marriage, your family relationships, and your family’s ongoing well-being to the Lord is a hugely significant step to take. You are not going to build a family by accident, but by clear intention, and it is very important that you know God’s plan like the back of your hand.
Live by the blueprint. It is so critical that parents model the difference that Jesus makes in their lives personally, as well as within a marriage. We are saying, “Yes, God’s way is best,” but our kids are more taken and influenced by our actions than by our words. So much more is caught than taught. For years I have been saying that we will have a new generation of committed Christians only to the extent that this generation, you and I, as parents, live totally dedicated to Jesus. If they see it in our lives, they certainly have a better chance of finding God and the significance He makes in a life. Donalyn and I call Philippians 4:9 the “parents’ prayer,” as it says, “Whatever you have learned, received, heard from me or seen in me, put into practice and the God of peace will be with you.” We’re basically saying to our kids, “Watch and see that God’s way is best.”
Coach according to God’s game plan. Over the course of the approximately 18 years that we have to influence our children, it should be our goal to instruct and guide them in God’s plan for their lives. Beyond that, we will find that each child has a unique calling of God on their life based on their gifts, their heart, and abilities. We need to help them discover God’s specific plan for their life, and not only the general plan of how He wants us all to live. Deuteronomy 6:7-9 guides us in how we should talk about the Lord when we get up in the morning, when we’re traveling, when we’re sitting down for meals, and going to bed at night. Talking about the influence of God on our family and our lives needs to be 24/7 and as natural as breathing.
Live in a safe work environment. Your home should be the safest place on earth for every member of your family. It should be the child’s haven and they should always feel free to come running to mom and dad for help, support, and safety. Family members are to be cherished and respected. God’s plan requires proper treatment on the job site — it is mandatory. How you treat your spouse matters hugely to God. The way in which you believe in and support your kids matters hugely to God. What goes on in the four walls of your house, and the belonging that each family member experiences, is a test of the validity of your faith. Make your home the safest place your family could ever live.
Build as a team. Time together as a family has to be a nonnegotiable commitment. There needs to be extended time where you can love, laugh with, and live with the other members of your family. Adjust your priorities so that time with the kids is important — and not just for mom, but for dad too. Time with each other as a couple is equally as important, because one of the greatest gifts you can ever give to your kids is to love your spouse. This brings the stability and security that only a tight home can give a kid.
Pray the plan into being. It is crucial that a couple prays together for their marriage, for each child, and for issues in the home. Not only do we need to pray daily for our children, but we need to be praying daily with our children. As they get older, we may not be having bedtime prayers anymore, but we need to continue to pray together about significant events in their lives, and in the lives of other family members. To pray together with your kids (and your teens) during difficult times in their lives is so critical. For them to actually hear you holding them up before the Lord is a very beautiful gift. They will understand God’s place in your life as you pray together as a family.
Sweat Equity. Yes, it’s the value you put into your home through the extra time and effort you choose to expend in building it. It’s likely even more true with your family. Put God first in your family. Spend time with each one of your kids, affirming their value to you and their incredible worth to God. Get excited about what God wants to do, not only in your family, but through your family. Then you will not only have a legacy that is talked about, but an influence that is extensive.