Confession: Anyone close to me knows how much I disliked “Dad Life” in the baby, toddler, and early elementary school days. 

Our sons cried too much. They drained our bank account. And they frustratingly wouldn’t comply with my every wish and command. 

Date nights went by the wayside. Fun vacations became family trips that involved too many people sleeping in a one-bedroom hotel. Our TV-viewing went from funny sitcoms and gripping dramas to an endless run of cartoons.

I kid. Kind of.

Yet, for some inexplicable reason, Kristen and I kept coming back for more. 

We now have four sons, ages 17, 17, 14, and 12. As we step into our last year with all four sons living full-time under our roof, I’m grateful that God chose to gift us these four sons. In the past I begged God to speed up the clock and now I find myself wishing time would stop. What were once four drains on my life have now become one of the great sources of delight in my life. 

What led to the sudden change from burden to joy?

Walking in the truth

In the very short New Testament epistle, 3 John, the apostle John writes to his dear, beloved friend Gaius. In the letter, John tells his friend how grateful he is to hear about his faithfulness. John writes, 

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).

John experienced the greatest joy in hearing about Gaius’ relationship with Jesus Christ.

While John writes about spiritual children, the principle very much applies to parents as they talk about their biological kids. There is no greater joy than hearing that your children are walking in the truth.

As my boys grew, my joy in them grew. Not just because they began sleeping through the night, or potty-trained, or went to school— but because as they grew physically, they also grew in their faith. I was able to see and hear them walk in the truth.

Here are a few ways you can help your children walk in truth so that you, too, can experience this joy:

Encourage your children to serve and use their gifts.

Even though they’re smaller and younger human beings, God gave our kids spiritual gifts, talents, and abilities (see Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4). 

They don’t need to wait until they’re older to use them within the church and community. 

Our sons have served in kid’s ministry and as greeters on Sundays. They’ve partnered with local ministries in town and helped lead worship for kid’s and youth ministry. 

Encourage your children to serve to God’s glory and for the good of others. Through serving, they’ll learn about who God is, who He’s calling them to be, and His design for the Church.

Encourage your children to serve to God’s glory and for the good of others.

Help them own their faith.

The slogan for the youth ministry at our church is “Own Your Faith.” 

We want to see our youth be largely responsible for their walk with Jesus. We encourage them to read their Bibles and serve (see #1 above). We also encourage them to participate in a small group of peers led by more mature believers.

They learn to share the highs and lows of life, confess their sins, pray for one another, and follow others as they follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). They own their faith by widening their circle of Christian community. It’s not just mom and dad— they’ve created faith connections with others.

We’ve experienced great joy as we’ve heard about how they spur one another on towards love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25). 

Know your role as the parent.

This is an area where I’ve struggled at times: My role is to be the parent, not their friend. As they get older, I’m hopeful our “friendship” will grow, but I’m not trying to win a popularity contest with my children. 

The Psalmist writes, 

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth” (Psalm 127:3-4). 

Yes, they’re a gift and blessing from the Lord. But they’re also arrows that parents send out into the world.

While they’re in our homes, we need to do all we can to prepare them for what’s next. 

“No greater joy” doesn’t come from coddling them their whole lives. Instead, we need to rebuke, discipline, and correct them when necessary. When we do, we trust we’re partnering with the Lord to produce good fruit in them— that they learn to walk in the Truth.

When John heard Gaius was walking in the truth, it brought him great joy. The best news is that it brings great joy to the Lord as well. We are by no means perfect— our church isn’t perfect, and neither are our kids— but there is indeed no greater joy than hearing our kids are walking in truth. To God be the glory.