Last summer a four-year-old girl swam two miles in the ocean. She is the daughter of an Olympic class swimmer who is dying of cancer. Before he dies, he has set himself the task of teaching his child as much about swimming as he can. He hopes that as a consequence, she will not only learn about swimming, but will also learn self-discipline as well. While they were being interviewed on a TV program, the father asked his daughter to tell the audience why she was learning to swim as well as she was. Her answer was, "I want to make my father proud."
This is often the attitude of young children. Their lives revolve around their parents. They strive to please their parents and make them proud. They are very happy just to receive their parents' approval. While in some societies this attitude continues on into the adult years, in America it usually disappears among teenagers. Adolescence is often marked by rebellion; it becomes a period of life in which pleasing one's peers becomes more important than pleasing one's father. A young person's heroes become the advocates of a counter-culture, who strangely profit off of the child's purchases in a way the parent never would.
Now all of this is reminiscence of the spiritual world as well. Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3). He Himself spent His life in pleasing His Father like a child would. When He was baptized and again when He was transfigured, the Father testified, "This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). The Father was pleased with Him because He always tried to please the Father. He told the crowds, "I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me" (John 6:38).
In the same way, we are to please God, who is our Father as well. He is our Father, not because of how good we have been, but because He has called us and saved us by sending Jesus to die on the cross for us. Our attitude should be that of little children; we should want to make our Father proud of us. We should not look at the world around us to decide how we should act. The world only wants to take advantage of us. But our Father loves us and has our best interests in mind.
Sometimes people get this backwards and want to make our continual obedience of God the condition for being a child. But we obey because He is our Father. Others want to emphasize God's grace to the exclusion of our childlike devotion to doing His will. They feel that God would never disinherit a rebellious child, forgetting that God destroys those in whom He has no pleasure (Heb. 10:38-39). We must neither deny God's grace nor abuse it, but rather respond to Him as a little child would: "I want to make my Father proud."
Copyright © 1993, Bruce Terry. All rights reserved. This article may be freely reprinted in bulletins and newsletters so long as no charge is made to the reader and this copyright notice is included.