What would you give your family if you could give them anything? Many people seek to give their families riches and prosperity, but often in the process destroy the greatest gift they could possibly give.
In The God Family Vision, Gerald Flurry wrote, “I believe this is the subject we are weakest in today in the Philadelphia Church of God—the God Family vision. We are the Family of God. And we ought to have a love that the world has no knowledge of. We must have great passion and a great desire to be filled with this vision, to get grounded more deeply in it …. Our families and marriages reflect how well we understand this vision.”
Isaiah 3 describes Satan’s tremendous assault on the family in the end time. He has such a sway and grip on society that family life has been turned completely upside down—women rule and children oppress parents. The only thing people think of is “me, me, me” and fulfilling their own needs, desires and wants (2 Timothy 3:1-2).
God puts a lot of emphasis on the value of family life in the end time. Why? Because Christ is about to return to establish the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom is the Family of God administering the law of God. That Family is going to teach all the families of the world how to have a happy home.
God takes the downfall of family very seriously. It is why He inspired Herbert W. Armstrong to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers (Malachi 4:5-6). Mr. Armstrong was sent to teach us the deep meaning and value of family—how it depicts the God Family. In our day-to-day lives, we should conduct ourselves to maximize this opportunity, so that in a few short years we will be better able to teach mankind the principles we are learning today.
Turn Your Family Life
God’s people are called out of this world and their families need to be different. Our families cannot be like many families of the world: lovers of self; covetous; where children are disobedient, unthankful or unholy. The Apostle Paul said we are to “turn away” from such behavior (2 Timothy 3:3-5).
A strong verb is used here. It isn’t just to “avoid.” It requires action to steer our families away from these problems so prevalent in the society around us.
The book of Proverbs offers a wealth of instruction on how to govern our families, how children should respond and how parents should conduct themselves. For example, Proverbs 29:15 shows the need for parental direction and correction, and Proverbs 31 teaches us that a happy home starts with a happy marriage.
Drawing this to the spiritual level, God’s very elect are the Bride of Jesus Christ in embryo. Does our Husband’s heart safely trust in us? Does He know that we will conduct ourselves as He would have us? God is testing us right now and observes how we conduct our families and our marriages.
The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 is concerned about her family. She has an outgoing concern. She is motivated by a godly love for her family.
What goes on in your household when it comes to communication? Is all you hear fighting, bickering and arguing? Or maybe, there is total silence—not a word is spoken. Maybe all you can hear is the television blasting in the background.
Christ related what communication is like in the God Family: “I speak that which I have seen with my Father …” (John 8:38). Christ did not hold anything back from His disciples. “[A]ll things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:15).
We too ought to copy what our Father tells us in our family lives. Let’s look at seven ways to copy our Father and give the gift of a happy home.
Commitment means valuing each other above our own needs and desires. In Romans 12:9-10, Paul wrote, “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” Paul not only instructs the Church collectively, but individual families as well.
Just as God’s Family is greater than the sum of individual Church members, we need to understand that our physical family, as an institution, is greater than the sum of its individuals—and be committed to that family. Children need to know that they’re not just individual beings growing up, being instructed, disciplined and taught, but that they’re part of something bigger—they are part of a family and the physical family is a type of God’s rule in our lives.
All of us need appreciation. We need to learn to express and receive appreciation. When was the last time you told your wife what a wonderful meal she cooked? When was the last time you thanked your husband for taking out the trash without you having to ask him? When was the last time you showed appreciation to your son for putting away his shoes, or to your daughter for expressing her love to you when she comes to give you a big hug?
Too often we get focused on the negative and fail to see things that are worthy of praise. If our families are an environment of negativity, what do you think our children will learn about God’s Family? Doesn’t God appreciate us for who and what we are? Be aware of the danger of constant, hard criticism; of arguing and belittling. Talk positively about each other, both inside and outside of family settings. Don’t tear each other down.
Be equal in your attention. If you have multiple children, make sure there are no favorites. Even singles need to learn this principle, because that is how we will teach in God’s Family, giving every member the attention he or she needs, without having any respect of person.
“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:2-4). Does this occur in our families? Do we notice things other family members do? Do your family members feel wanted? Does everyone feel wanted in God’s Church, our spiritual Family? Or do we leave some out, off by themselves?
What does God think of you—how much does He appreciate you? This is the value He places on you: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1).
God already considers us part of His Family; as the Bride of Jesus Christ; as kings and priests. He is showing us a tremendous amount of appreciation. He says, You can do it! You can overcome. You need my help, but I will give it to you. I will perfect you if you will let me. I will be a Father to you!
Every week there are 10,080 minutes, out of which the average American couple spends 17 in conversation. Communication is a vital ingredient to developing a happy home. If we are to bring happiness to our household, we need to know what goes on in our family.
Mealtimes are a wonderful opportunity for communication, but it needs to extend beyond that. We need to communicate often and without fear.
Family should be an environment where children will come and talk to us simply because something is on their mind—a concern, an achievement, whatever it may be. Will you take the time to listen? Realize that communication is a two-way process. We talk, but we need to listen with genuine interest to what every member of our family has to say.
Malachi 3:16 applies to God’s very elect in this end time, but it ought to be a reflection of our individual families as well. “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.”
This verse implies God’s very elect speak about God and what He does. These people speak about the things of God. That is what is foremost on their minds. Do we discuss God’s way of life and what goes on in His Work in our homes on a daily basis? Talking about God and about His Family cannot be something we leave merely for the Sabbath.
A special way of communicating with family members is by instructing them. In Genesis, God holds the patriarch Abraham up as an example: “Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Genesis 18:18-19).
God commended Abraham for instructing his household—for communicating His way of life to his children and those of his household.
Paul instructed Titus to teach the Church of God about family relationships (Titus 2:1-5). If this kind of instruction is lacking in individual families, it is guaranteed not to be a happy home—and that filters down to the congregational level. We’ll see teenagers leave, forsaking Church attendance as early as possible. Why? God gives us specific instruction to help our children, to answer their questions and to take time to teach them about the benefits of God’s way of life. If we as parents fail in that responsibility, Satan will have easy prey in picking off our children, luring them with the deceptive glitter and glamour of this world.
4. Time Together
Take time out to do things together as a family. Families grow close if they are involved in projects. Design your own family projects. Involve the whole family in day-to-day tasks such as keeping up the yard, raking leaves, maintaining and keeping up the home, washing the cars, preparing for the weekly and annual sabbaths, deleavening or in planning family goals.
Plan time to be together, and plan time in both quality and quantity—because these things don’t just happen. You must give thought to it to make it happen.
Having a weekly routine can help. What about a Sabbath morning walk with the family, or a regular, scheduled family game night?
Someone once defined a weed as “any plant in an unwanted place.” It can be the most gorgeous rosebush, but if it’s somewhere you don’t want it, it’s a weed. Avoid creating weeds in our families. Make sure that everybody has space and room to develop individually, adding to the beauty of your family.
See what God did with the family of mankind. “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof” (Genesis 2:18-19).
When God brought the animals before Adam, He didn’t tell him what they should be named. God is a creative God and He wants us to develop our own personality. God allowed Adam to administer a certain amount of rule, because it taught him lessons.
This same principle applies to our children or anyone else under our authority. They need to have the room to develop their own personalities.
You are hand-picked by God for your personal, individual qualities (1 Corinthians 12:18). Giving family members room to develop brings out these qualities and teaches them decision-making within their realm of delegated authority. It teaches them responsibility and accountability. After giving instruction on how something should be done, then provide your family some space to move. If it doesn’t turn out the right way, then step in and teach why things didn’t work out. If you squash every opportunity, people are never going to develop. As more responsibility can be entrusted, more character can be developed as well.
6. Coping Ability
Every family experiences difficult times on occasion. It is a fact that problems pull strong families together but weak families apart. If our families are strong, trials and tests will actually draw us closer together, especially in prayer. It will draw us closer on both the spiritual and physical level. God has designed trials and tests for our good, to teach us and build character. Every happy home needs security, even in time of testing and trial.
God is a constant in our life; He does not change (Malachi 3:6). He loves us even when we find ourselves in trial. Christ will never forsake or leave us, and like His Father, He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:5, 8). If we understand God’s Word, we won’t see a trial as something that tears our family apart. Instead, we’ll see it as something God allows, in order to develop in us more holy, righteous character.
David wrote, “How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings” (Psalm 36:7). In time of trial, our families have to know that God is going to take care of us by providing for all of our needs. He knows our needs before we even petition Him (Matthew 6:32). Instead of worrying about all the things we need, we should focus on seeking God’s Kingdom (verse 33).
If our families are to be close and strong, they must have a God Family focus. We must always look to God and know that He will provide for all our needs. He fills us with the fatness of His house, His Family (Psalm 36:8-9), through the spiritual instruction He gives us, even in times of trial.
“Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. 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” (Psalm 127:1-5).
God emphasizes that our children are His gift to us, but we are to teach our children that the Almighty God builds our house. He builds our families—it’s not our doing. Unless God is doing it, it will come to nothing. It will be valueless.
7. Spiritual Well-being
This seventh point is the most important. A family is only going to be happy if there is spiritual well-being. If there is spiritual disease, the whole family suffers.
“Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you” (Deuteronomy 4:1).
Moses instructed all the Israelites on what to do with that instruction: “Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations …. [T]each them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons” (verses 5-9).
Pass the instructions on in your family to your children and grandchildren, because these instructions lead to incredible blessings!
“Specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb, when the Lord said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children” (verse 10).
God tells us to teach this to your children and instill it in our lives because it brings happiness, joy and pleasure to our families!
We know we can’t obey or fear God by our own might. Yet if we have the Holy Spirit in us or helping us, God has given us the power to do so. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance …” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Is that a description of your family? If so, it’s on the right track. If not, there’s work to do.
“[A]gainst such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (verses 23-26).
We need to see the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit in our families. God’s Spirit needs to flow.
Love is an essential part of any human being’s life. An unloved baby, if mechanically cared for without receiving any kind of affection, will not develop into a healthy adult. It will suffer psychological, physical and spiritual scars. A child learns to love by being loved. Spiritually it is the same: “We love him [God], because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). John 3:16 explains this as well: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son ….”
Can we see that love and realize it needs to flow into our lives and out of our lives through our actions? We have access to the power that produces this kind of love, and it produces healthy, well-balanced sons of God.
Christ said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:1-2). God wants us to bring forth more fruit of the Holy Spirit. “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (verses 3-4). In verse 11, Christ said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”
Do you want a happy family? Then abide in the vine. We need God’s Holy Spirit flowing in our families, because true joy only comes through the flow of the Spirit in us—by letting Christ live in us.
Life for Evermore
Mr. Flurry states, “Mr. Armstrong knew how to build a temple; these other men don’t. They are only good at tearing down and destroying. Why? Because they are not building with the Spirit of God” (The God Family Vision).
Malachi 2:16 says, “take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” Let’s not deal treacherously by denying our family the gift of a happy home.
We must get deeper than words; deeper than the letter of the law. Watch your spirit. Build with God’s Spirit, using it to bring your marriage and family together. Think about them the way God does. God holds your family in high regard. He wants it to be as happy as His Family is going to be. He wants you to have the full joy—the abundant life—right now, and you can have it by seeking to give the gift of a happy family.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for [family] to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). This is what God has to say about the gift of a happy family: “It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore” (verses 2-3).
The greatest gift we can give is a happy family because, if we point our family and children to God the Father, it leads to life for evermore.