I’m proud of my father. He’s the definition of a self-made man. His parents were hardworking but not highly educated (neither had been to college). His father worked on an assembly line; his mother in an office. Dad didn’t do so well in high school but wanted to succeed, so against his counselor’s recommendation, he went to the local community college. He worked as a clerk in a record store (for Millennials that means music store) to pay his fees. Soon he was doing the job of an accountant and graduated from the state college with a business degree. He ambitiously worked to move up the ladder. If he wasn’t being promoted fast enough in his current company, he would move to a better position in a new one. Eventually, he became a financial vice president and then started his own company. He ran that expanding company for 20 years and is now retired.
That was my dad’s end-goal all along—a comfortable retirement. He kept his eye on the ball, working hard, regularly putting money away and making wise investments. He taught us the key to having a good amount of money at retirement is starting to save when you’re young and continuing that practice over years. My dad reached his goal. He and my mom have a nice house, travel when they want and are generous to family and friends. They live the American dream.
My dad isn’t a Christian, but his life is a parable of what can be accomplished if we keep the end goal in mind. The end goal for the Christian isn’t a comfortable retirement in this life. It’s retirement from this life for eternal life with God. We can store up imperishable treasure for that retirement as we wait “for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
It’s about this storing up treasure while we wait that I want to teach my children. When I was in high school and college, I didn’t think very far out into the future. I thought about the weekend, the paper due next week and maybe, after a couple months into the semester, final exams. I was a foolish student, wasting my time on fleeting pleasures that left me empty inside. My only thought about the afterlife was a hope that I had my fire insurance because I had once asked Jesus into my heart. I certainly didn’t live intentionally with Christ in mind.
But salvation isn’t fire insurance. When we repent of our sins and put our trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, we are truly saved from the wrath of God. But we are also saved for the work of God. Ephesians 2: 10 tells us we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Salvation means we are recreated to do the work that God created for us to do. And the Bible tells us that work actually earns us reward. As Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20). With our minds set on heavenly things, our studies, jobs, relationships, time and social activity can actually count for the future.
Moms, even if your teenage children are not yet Christians, you can teach them so that when the Holy Spirit changes their hearts they are ready to make those heavenly deposits. Here are three treasures to teach your children to store up:
The apostle Paul called the knowledge of Christ “of surpassing worth” (Philippians 3:8). He called everything else rubbish in comparison. What if our students, as they studied Math or History or Spanish, majored in knowing Christ? What if they regularly read and studied God’s word, thinking through texts and applying them to their hearts? What if they worked toward “reaching all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3)? That would be an invaluable depth of treasure that would last throughout eternity. Mothers who teach and model faithful and consistent time in the Scriptures, and dedication to the teaching and preaching of their local church, encourage those same habits in their children and give those students a gift that will continue giving their entire lives.
Forming Christ-like Character
The book of Titus tells us that the grace of God not only saves but also trains. It trains us “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12). Far from “Let go and let God,” this is muscular language. We participate in our sanctification while God works in us to give us godly desires and the ability to fight sin (Philippians 2:12-13). Students who are increasing in their knowledge of Christ can use the stress and trouble of school, the messiness of relationships, and the uncertainly of the future to train themselves to react in Christ-like ways and trust the Lord more deeply. As parents, we can remain involved in our children’s trials and temptations by talking them through difficulty and infusing our conversations with biblical wisdom. Christ-like character leads to being zealous for good works (Titus 2:14) and reaps everlasting reward.
The teenage and early adult years are times of multiplying relationships as our children move from being socially centered in the home to more independent friendships in the church and world. These relationships can be selfishly used to fill needs and desires, or they can be used for the glory of God. Students are open to exploring the mysteries and meaning of life, giving our children unique opportunities to speak to their friends about what is true and “give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). Moms: Regularly point your children (and others in your church) to Christ, and engage in evangelism, then they will be well-equipped to season their relationships in the church with grace and share the gospel with those on the outside, storing up the treasure of Christ-centered friendships that will last into eternity.
The End Goal
Knowing Christ, forming Christ-like character and building relationships for God’s glory is not like putting money in the stock market. There’s no uncertainty in God’s economy. That treasure will reap rewards in this life and forevermore. So let’s encourage our students not to just look forward to graduation or a career or marriage and family but to keep their eye on the end-goal. Let’s teach them to make deposits while they’re young and continue that practice over the years. Let’s encourage them to work hard and let’s work hard ourselves toward retirement from this life, storing up treasure in heaven that will last throughout eternity.