How do we speak from failure with integrity?

We who follow Jesus have a high calling. And often a high privilege of telling others about him and his way of life, equipping or simply encouraging them on their journey. But we are all sinners, desperately in need of God’s saving grace. So when our lives haven’t aligned with the way of Jesus how do we decide if we still should speak (or write) about following Jesus in that way?
 
For example, How can we best honor Jesus and speak with integrity to our children about sexual purity if we were not sexually pure?
 
Or should we counsel and minister to other couples about how to have a strong marriage if we’ve struggled in our marriage or been separated or divorced? What if we’ve committed adultery?
 
Should we counsel others on how to help their children love and follow Jesus when our children have not followed him? Do we have anything to say? Should we keep silent? If not, how might we speak with integrity?
 
I probably have as many questions as answers on this so I’d love for you to think and engage with me on this topic...even give me your advice.
 
The first thing we might want to consider is...Have we taken our failure to the Lord Jesus and asked for forgiveness? And have we moved forward showing a true change of heart and life?
 
The very idea of integrity means oneness—our beliefs agree with our words agree with our actions. As Webster’s puts it, we are in “a state of being complete, whole, undivided.” In Titus 2 young men are encouraged to “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned (Titus 2:7-8). So, even though we may have failed in the past, even though we might be young, a spiritually mature person’s heart, good works and speech are aligned and above reproach.
 
Second, we need to remember that when God looks at our failures he takes the long view. In 1 Kings 9:4-5 he tells Solomon, “ And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father...”
 
This was the same David that lived for close to year in unconfessed sin of adultery and murder. (And there were terrible consequences: the death of his and Bathsheba’s baby. The violence in his own family. Absalom’s betrayal and attempted coup.) Yet when God looked at David’s life he saw “integrity of heart and uprightness.” Sheer grace. Stunning. 
 
Third, is the failure something for which we are truly and completely accountable? When our children don’t walk with the Lord how much responsibility do we bear? 
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Which brings me to the reason I’ve been mulling this over lately: it’s personal. For the last few months I’ve been working on rebranding and relaunching my ministry website (www.laelarrington.com). And I’m wondering whether to include my first book or not.
 
I wrote it to help women understand a Christian worldview and pass it on to their children. The publisher rejected my working title and suggested  Wordproofing Your Kids: Helping Moms Prepare Their Kids To Navigate Today’s Turbulent Times. An overstatement, to be sure, but one that helped propel the book to strong sales. An overstatement that came back to haunt me when, in his Junior year at Baylor, our son showed up mid-week and told us, “I’m not the person you think I am.” 
 
He was the prodigal son coming home, sort of, telling us...You haven’t realized it, but I’ve been partying, living “the normal college lifestyle.”  We were so grateful for his honesty. That he wanted to live with more integrity. But broken hearted that he wanted to continue to live pretty much the same. And he had walked away from Jesus.
 
We are all sad at times that there isn’t an easy intimacy in our relationship. As we try to connect our lives, we have to carefully navigate the differences and tension in the center. But we dearly love one another. We’re committed to openness and the conversation continues. 
 
And so my question: Should I continue to offer this book on my new website? Should I offer speaking topics about how to pass a Christian worldview along to your kids? Since you read my blogs I thought you might have great advice for me. What do you want to hear from me? Please give me your answer in the comments below.
 
A few things you should know: I wrote Worldproofing when my son was in junior high school and I acknowledged that our family was still a work in progress. In chapter four I offered what I call the "Dobson Disclaimer”: "One who teaches God's word in this area is also a student and fellow traveler.  God's words are true and trustworthy.  He does not need me to validate His Word."  This is a good word, I think, for all of us who are shepherding our children in sexual purity when we did not live it ourselves, for those of us with a story of failure and repentance. 
 
To be a speaker and author is to be a leader. There is great disagreement on what it means to be a leader “above reproach.” Different church leadership boards make different calls. Chuck Swindoll has said that he doesn’t believe that pastor and author Gordon McDonald, who committed adultery, should have been allowed back in the pastorate. Other leaders made a different call.
 
After my son’s disclosure I spent months processing our journey alone with God and with wise Christian friends and books by gifted counselors. God showed me how important it is not just to teach truth to children’s minds, but to be used to connect their hearts with Christ as well. It’s an echo of my own spiritual journey that I made in the subsequent years—a journey from a passion for God’s truth as precepts and principles to a passion for God as a person.
 
It was a time of deep repentance and healing. And a time of learning how to live and teach truth and love. It was also a time when I felt significant responsibility for my son's choices. But also God showed me that ultimately, as they get older, they are accountable for making their own decision of whether to follow Jesus or not. The Bible is full of godly fathers whose children went astray, including God himself whose first children chose to follow the enemy instead of his loving heart.
 
My son has been out of college for ten years and he still considers himself an agnostic, full of more questions than answers. The only message I’ve given on Worldproofing in the last ten years is what I would add to it, given our journey with Zach.
 
Finally, even though writing a book is like birthing a baby, I’m really quite ready to let it go. Worldproofing has helped many families and has been used as a worldview curriculum resource for Summit Ministries and Focus on the Family Institute. But perhaps it has served its purpose. 
 
You can’t hurt my feelings so, please, tell me what you think! Should I include the book on my new site? Include messages about passing a Christian worldview on to your kids?

Comments

Sue Bohlin's picture

"Should I continue to offer this book on my new website? Should I offer speaking topics about how to pass a Christian worldview along to your kids?"

Absolutely! Worldproofing offers truth in ways people can understand. You offered truth and a Christian worldview to Zach, he considered it, and for this season is rejecting it. That's on him. Just as people's unbelief in the God who is there is on them and not God.

You were faithful in teaching what is true to your son; please continue to teach others with your gift. His unwillingness to recognize the value of having you for a wise, teaching mom is sad, but it's not about you.

I find myself wanting to say what you already did:

"But also God showed me that ultimately, as they get older, they are accountable for making their own decision of whether to follow Jesus or not. The Bible is full of godly fathers whose children went astray, including God himself whose first children chose to follow the enemy instead of his loving heart."

Amen!

Thanks, Sue, for weighing in. You and Ray offer so much truth and encouragement in your ministries. Especially when it comes to teaching a Christian worldview.  I deeply respect you.

I also invite anyone who has reservations or disagrees to join our conversation. Maybe this is somewhat of a gray area where godly people may disagree...I welcome the feedback

Hal Warren's picture

I thank you for your honesty and transparency... that took courage! I have five children (2 boys, 1 girl, 2 boys in that order) all with my wife of 33 years. All accepted the Lord at a young age but two have chosen the world over the word since leaving home. I have gone through the steps of grief... well maybe still going through them... I am sure we (your husband and my wife) could share many similar stories concerning this journey. I a Christian leader of men failed to lead two of my men! Ouch! Bottom line, as you know, even if my whole family rejected The Word and my prayers were never answered I would yet praise Him! For God is not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19. Romans 3:3,4).

(Habakkuk 3:17-18 NKJ) 17 Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls-- 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

I recommend the recent Christian movies "Grace Unplugged" and "Home Run". The first one speaks to the journey of my youngest son and the later to the journey of my second oldest son. I strive to show them a relational faith and not religion that has turned them off. They want to see in order to believe... I have determined that they will see God in me (1 John 4:12. John 13:35. I Corinthians 13:4-8) For now, I seek what they like to do and do it with them... for example skydiving!

I remember fighting the rebellion when it first surfaced, then lying prostrate on the floor in surrender weeping as I gave God these children one at a time. He has them now and reminds me that He has got this.... As a fellow Pilgrim on the journey to the Celestial City know that in my heart I weep with you and will pray for your son even as I pray for mine.

Some promises to pray back to God that you are likely familiar with but are worthy of reviewing lest we forget... (Isaiah 55:10,11. Hebrews 2:1):

KJV Proverbs 20:7 The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.

KJV Isaiah 51:8 For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.

KJV Isaiah 54:13 And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.

KJV Isaiah 59:21 As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.

KJV Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

KJV Proverbs 23:13,14 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. 14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

KJV Proverbs 29:17 Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.

KJV Psalm 127:3-5 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. 4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. 5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

KJV Psalm 128:1-6 {A Song of degrees.} Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways. 2 For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. 3 Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. 4 Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD. 5 The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. 6 Yea, thou shalt see thy children's children, and peace upon Israel.

NKJ Psalm 112:1,2 Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who delights greatly in His commandments. 2 His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed.

KJV Psalm 103:17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;

KJV Psalm 147:13 For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee.

NKJ Acts 11:14 'who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.'

What does God control?
What does God ordain?
What does God allow?
Everything, and our children are included in everything.
I pray for my children who are not walking with the Lord every day, I sometimes weep and pray, but I sleep well at night because God is in control of their salvation, not me.
It is a privelege to "get to" help someone know what it means to repent and believe.
But, ultimately, it is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself that does the saving of a soul.
Not me.
AND He knows what it will take to get that person saved, I don't.
So, we gotta just trust Him. period
When we witness to someone, or raise someone up in the way they should go and they reject it, it is Gods will being done.
If we have been faithful to tell them the truth (and even if we haven't) there is no more we can do but pray and trust.

If we have a prodigal child, it is likely that they have not walked away from saving faith, I don't believe that is possible.
It is most probable that they were not saved, truly soundly saved to begin with, that is, not aware of their own sin and therefore not truly repentent. Knowlege of sin and true Repentence toward God for sinning against Him are required for salvation.

I have found that many children raised in church, believe they are saved because of that fact. They think that they are good because of works, church, behavior, repeating the sinners prayer, and are saved.
They do not realize that they are sinners in need of a saviour because they have always been "good".
Not believing in themselves that the Bible is speaking to them:
"no one does good, not one", "all have sinned and fall short..."
Give them the law, the ten commandments and when they realize that they have not kept it and are in debt to a Holy God who requires perfection, that cannot be obtained....they will see their own wretchedness and their need for the Savior to pay the price that they cannot.
Give them Jesus and they will HAVE a Christian worldview.
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Thanks for taking the time to reply, Laura. It's challenging...when a child has confessed asking Jesus to save them, asked to be baptized...you want to take their word for it. Not  keep pressing them...did you really repent? Do you really believe? We want to build trust.

Only God knows the true inclination of their hearts.

I have never read your books nor your blogs, but I have been greatly blessed by this article sent to me by my daughter, "How Do We Speak from Failure With Integrity?"  I think you should include 'Worldproofing...' because when you wrote it, it was a God idea and not just a good idea. It has blessed many people in the past and what has been written has value, which has not changed, so don't deny the world of the opportunity to get some wisdom and fresh insight in raising our children, a most difficult task.
Our job as parents is to point the way.  God will hold us responsible for that. We cannot make them follow; but if they go astray, our love and prayers can pull them back.  Proverbs 22:6 states, " Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."   It is no guarantee, but it offers hope, just like the story of the prodigal son.  Wait patiently for him with love, wisdom and prayer.  Sometimes, sowing their wild oats is preparation for becoming a mighty man of God . Besides, what the devil meant for evil, God can use to turn it around for good. Pray that he walks in the destiny that has been written in heaven for him before the foundation of the world and that he fulfills his purpose regardless of how it looks today.  God, our Alpha and Omega, knows the beginning and the end of every story.
The enemy of our souls uses these situations to silence us, but let's keep talking (writing), because truth doesn't change and the world needs the truth of the Word. You are doing a good job, don't hold back.

Thanks, Sheea, for the strong encouragement. It is a daily sorrow that many of us share. I'm struck by  how many times in Proverbs it confirms that this *is* a great sorrow for Moms and Dads. It. Just. Is.  So words of encouragment along the way are much appreciated.

By the way, I would love for you join me at my website at www.laelarrington.com where you can find out more about me and enjoy more content.

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