The Only Failure Is to Quit

Where to Begin (Again) in Family Devotions

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Pastor, Glen Mills, Pennsylvania

Many of the parents I meet are not experiencing joy and delight in their family devotions. Moms and dads reluctantly admit they haven’t been consistent, are currently not doing family devotions, or are not sure if what they are doing is effective.

As parents, we experience two main obstacles. First, the enemy condemns our every attempt, always ready to point out any failure. Second, we tend to evaluate our family devotions by our presentation, instead of by God’s power. Throw in a little disobedience from the kids, and you have a recipe for family devotions disaster.

“You can’t fail in family devotions unless you give up.”

I can remember the evening my kids started bickering as I began our after-dinner devotions. My anger flared up, and I shouted, “Pay attention. We are having family devotions!” That angry outburst only discouraged me further. Not only am I inconsistent in family devotions, I thought, now I’m getting angry. I felt like I should throw in the towel and give up. Sound familiar?

So how do you rediscover joy in family devotions? Let me give you a few encouraging pointers.

1. You can’t fail unless you give up.

We need to develop a Proverbs 24:16 outlook: “though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.” Falling isn’t failure. We don’t fail unless we refuse to get up from our latest fall. If you have fallen off the path of regular family devotions, get up, dust yourself off, and get back on the trail. There is no faster way to turn condemnation and discouragement into joy than deciding to start holding family devotions again.

2. The power is in God’s word, not your words.

There is great joy in knowing the success of your devotions to transform your children doesn’t depend on your presentation. As parents, we need to apply Hebrews 4:12, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword [in the feeblest family devotions], piercing to the division of [your son or daughter’s] soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart [of your kids while you share the Scriptures].” Simply put, the power is in the gospel, not our presentation.

3. The word of God doesn’t fail.

Hold tight to the promise that God’s word will not return empty (Isaiah 55:11). No Scripture has helped me more in this area than Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

“Parents, the power is in God’s word, not your words.”

Two months ago, I cut a few branches off a neighbor’s fig tree with the hope that I could get one of the branches to sprout. When the branches grew a white fungus instead of green leaves, I was certain the project was lost. Just before deciding to give up and toss the lot onto my mulch pile, I gave it one more day. To my surprise, several of my left-for-dead sticks sprouted leaves and roots overnight! My disappointment turned to joy as I praised God. Parenting is a lot like that; things look dead before they sprout life. Parenting requires patience, and saving is God’s job. We plant, we water, but only God can make things grow (1 Corinthians 3:6–7).

If you have an older child who rebuffs your attempts at formal family devotions, move to a more relational, informal approach. Take him (or her) out to a coffee shop and draw him out about his life, looking for an opportunity to offer some biblical counsel and to share what God is doing in yours.

Never give up hope that God will save your children from their sin. God is faithful — hear that and apply it to your family. Draw your present joy from your future hope in God’s faithful ability to soften the hardest son or daughter’s heart. Believe that one day you will echo the apostle John’s words, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).

Where to Start

Our joy isn’t meant to spring from our work; our joy flows from a deep and abiding trust in God’s faithfulness to use our work. So, if you are in a season where you do not have regular family devotions, let me encourage you to get up and start again. If you are ready to jump back in, here are a few practical pointers that helped me in my family devotions.

1. Keep your family devotions short. Whoever said that five-minute family devotions don’t count is wrong. All you need to do is share a short Bible passage and one thought for the day. Ask your kids a question, and you can push that five minutes to ten.

2. Piggyback devotions at the end of a meal. Family meals provide the perfect opportunity to add a short devotion before dessert. Keep your freezer loaded with ice cream that you share after a family devotion, and your kids will want to stick around.

“Our joy flows from trusting in our faithful God to work through our feeble efforts.”

3. Look to be faithful in devotions, not fantastic. Remember, we are only planting and watering. The Holy Spirit is the one responsible for bringing our children’s dead hearts to life. If you are sharing the Scriptures and the gospel message, then you are giving them the most amazing truth known to man. It is God’s job to open their eyes to see. We are called to be faithful. God takes care of helping them see how fantastic the gospel is.

Don’t let the enemy or your flesh rob you of hope for a day when you will delight in their conversion. Our joy flows from trusting in our faithful God to work through our feeble efforts. We rejoice in the Lord always, not in ourselves (Philippians 4:4). Our failure can’t rob us of his faithfulness. So, I say again rejoice!