Is It Well With Thee?
Are pastors missing a basic requirement of their Biblical office.
The Scripture states in I Timothy 3:4, that a spiritual leader must rule his own house well, having his children
in subjection with all gravity.
And Paul's practical word of conclusion is, "For if a man know not how to rule his own house,
how shall he take care of the church of God?"
One of the qualifications for being a pastor is to fulfill the Biblical requirements as a husband and a father in the home.
It is sad that many pastors can identify with the tragic testimony of Solomon when he said,
"They made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I did not keep."
(Song of Solomon 1:6).
Elisha, the man of God, was befriended by a Shunammite woman and her husband.
They provided a special room in their home for this great prophet.
A son was born to the family because of the prayers of Elisha in response to their graciousness and devotion.
One day when the young boy suffered a sun stroke while he was out in the field
The mother took him in the house, and within a few hours he died.
After his death, she deliberately carried the boy up the stairs and placed him on Elisha's bed.
When she told her husband she was going to Mount Carmel to find the prophet, he asked why she would do that.
It wasn't the Sabbath.
It wasn't time to have the boy's funeral.
"Why are you going to get Elisha?" he asked.
Her answer was, simply: "It will be well."
The Shunammite woman got on her donkey and headed for Mount Carmel.
When Elisha saw the Shunammite woman, he asked her three questions -- three profound questions.
I ask each one of you these same three questions.
Elisha asked, "Is it well with thee?"
In other words, how am you doing as a person?
"Is it well with thy husband?"
How are you doing as a partner?
"Is it well with thy child?"
How are you doing as a parent?
"Is it well with thee?"
How are you doing as a person? (2 Kings 4:26)
How are you doing, pastor?
Not, "What are you doing?"
"How are you doing as a person?"
Every form of mass communication promotes and perpetuates the "me-first" philosophy.
Frank Sinatra said it musically in his song, "I Did it My Way."
Sammy Davis, Jr., echoed the sentiment in "I've Got To Be Me."
Robert Ringer provided the literary version in "Looking Out For Number One," which became
the best-selling book in America for forty six weeks.
The E.S.T. Program sells the same sickness under the guise of psychological health.
In theory, this dead-end premise sounds so great.
It's called the discovery of the personhood, and offers exciting appeal to out selfishness and lust.
When this fatal philosophy has made its way into our value system,
it begins to rot us from within.
It is so easy get intoxicated Sunday after Sunday by the applause of the parishioners who think we're wonderful.
Before long we begin to believe our own PR --- "Boy, I am really something."
And then, before long, we discover that ego and, pride are destroying the person and the pastor
God called in the first place.
People say you are a better preacher than Billy Graham, and tragically, you begin to believe it.
How you are doing as a person and how I am doing as a person, depends first of all on how we're getting along with God.
We preach on Lordship, but the question is: Is He really Lord of our lives?
We preach on being right with God, but the question is: Are you right with God, and am I right with God?
How sad it is when pastors become professional and begin to believe that the rules they are to live by are different from
the ones they preach about on Sunday.
That is when we unwittingly begin to tread on the grace and patience of God.
We preach about being clean.
So the question is: pastor, are you clean.
We preach on becoming men of prayer and men of God.
Do those labels fit your private life and mine?
Are you a man of prayer.
Are you a man of God?
How easy it is to beguile ourselves into believing that because we have talked, taught,
and preached great biblical principles, we automatically exemplify these Biblical principles in our lives.
Tragically, so many times this is not true of those God has set apart to do His business.
When this contradiction exists in your life and my life, and someone asks us the question:
"How are you doing as a person?" then the only simple and truthful answer would
have to be, "miserable."
This inevitably happens when what we are is not compatible with what we preach!
If your personal well-being depends on how others see you, either in terms
of your church or denominational success, then your personhood is in trouble.
Oh, how many of us in this hour need to get back to the basic word from our Lord, in Luke 10:27,
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength,
and with all thy mind, and thy neightbor as thyself."
A preacher was preaching in a revival meeting.
When he got through with the sermon, an old man came up to him and said,
"Preacher, you must be a good man."
And the preacher asked him, "Well, why do you think that?"
He said, "While you were preaching, I watched your wife.
I can always tell what kind of man a preacher is by watching his wife when he preaches."
And he said, "As you were preaching, your wife smiled all the time."
The preacher went home that night with his wife and told her the story.
Then he said, "Listen, no matter what I say or how I stumble, from now on when I preach,
you just keep smiling."
How are you doing as a person?
Ask God. Ask your wife. Ask your family.
Find out for yourself the answer to Elisha's first question to the Shunammite woman:
How are you doing as a person?
The second question he asked,
"Is it well with thy husband?" (II Kings 4:26)
In other words, "How are you doing as a partner?"
We know that, according to the Bible, a successful marriage is a triangular affair, involving three persons.
It takes a husband, a wife, and God.
God created marriage, designed and performed the first ceremony in celebration of it in the Garden of Eden.
Now, pastors, I would ask, "How are you doing as a partner?"
The Bible is very clear:
If your Christianity doesn't work at home, it doesn't work.
Your success or failure as a partner depends on whether or not you are fulfilling the Biblical requirements for the husband.
Pastors, we are to be leaders and we are to be lovers in the home.
Ephesians 5 is very clear.
Paul says, "Be filled with the Holy Spirit."
Then he gives us the marks of the spirit-filled life: Speaking, singing, thanking, submitting.
Then, he begins to talk about the home.
How can you tell if you are Spirit-filled?
Ask your wife!
Many sermons have been delivered concerning a wife's submission and reverence for her husband.
Our requirement as a husband is far more difficult to meet.
We are to love our wives the way Christ loved the church.
Human love, like human life, is finite, and cannot be self-sustaining.
But when God is in a relationship, He continually supplies new life and energy to make
the relationship work on His terms.
When a husband accepts from God, the responsibility to love supernaturally,
he must also acknowledge his dependence on God to supply the kind of love that only He can give.
And that is divine, initiating love, from a supernatural infinite source.
If we don't depend on Him to love like that, we will not measure up to the biblical standards for the husband.
When marriages become dull, stale and uninteresting and even spiritually dead -- it is usually because
the husband has abdicated his God-given responsibility to be the leader and the lover in the home.
Pastor, how are you doing as a partner?
The third question: "Is it well with thy child?" (11 Kings 4:26)
How are you doing as a parent?
We can love our children and at the same time, systematically lose our children.
they can be reared in the parsonage with a godly mother and a godly father
and yet, somehow fail to become genuine believers in Jesus Christ.
So many of us make the mistake of comparing our children to the children of that perfect family.
You know what I am talking about.
They're always at church, always in Bible study, always in the choir, and always in the
children's activities and organizations.
These are the perfect kids that I am talking about.
There are always some Pharisaical deacons ready to make the comparison for us.
They will say, "Boy, I wish our pastor's kids were as dedicated as so and so's children."
Sometimes the best of us know the meaning of failure with our children.
We can look back and wish that we had done things differently.
The best among us know the meaning of failure.
A look back reveals the mistakes we have made.
We've all talked to dozens of parents whose children are grown and married and they say,
"We thought our kids had really accepted the Lord, but when l look for evidence of that relationship
in their lives, we must have failed."
For those parents whose children are still at home and at an impressionable age,
we need to understand the meaning of prayer and faith for our children.
This is the only viable basis of hope we have that they will ultimately walk in the way of the Lord.
Read the story of Eli in I Samuel 2-4.
It's the story of a priest and a servant of God who failed to discipline his children.
He was apparently too busy with the work of the church to be a leader in his own home.
His two boys grew up to be vile and corrupt.
You remember that God's judgment fell.
Eli's service to the Lord was insufficient to make up for his failures at home.
Then you read about Samuel.
Samuel was a godly man who stood like a tower of strength throughout his life.
He grew up in Eli's home.
He watched Eli systematically lose his children.
Samuel eventually failed with his family, too.
That should disturb us.
If God did not honor Samuel's dedication by guaranteeing the salvation of his children,
would He do more for you or for me if we're too busy to be the parents God expects us to be.
Pastor, we should never forget that there is a battle in process right now for the hearts and minds
of every child on earth including our own children.
Satan would deceive and destroy them if given the remotest opportunity.
I am also convinced that Satan will send his most skillful representatives to attack the pastor,
his wife, and his children.
He knows that if he can bring down the Christian home that we proclaim, that in the process
he will damage and destroy the effectiveness of a ministry and the church to which the pastor
has been called to serve and live.
Training your children to walk in the way of the Lord can be compared to a three-man relay race.
First, your father before you ran his lap around the track carrying the baton which represented
the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
At the right moment, he handed the baton to you and you began your race around the track.
Finally, the time will come when you must get the baton safely into the hands of your child.
But let me tell you what any track coach will tell you.
Relay races usually are won or lost in the exchange of the baton.
There is that critical moment when all can be lost by a fumble or miscalculation.
I have seen many track meets, and I've never seen the baton dropped on the back side
of the track when the runner has it firmly in his grasp.
Similarly, the significance of a life of faith and commitment to our Savior is often lost
or damaged in the exchange between generations.
The highest calling that we have as a pastor, the calling that takes precedence over every other
responsibility we have, is to get the baton -- the gospel --- securely into the hands and hearts
of our children.
Certainly we want to place this same gospel in as many hands as possible,
and most of us are deeply devoted to our church and the ministry to which God has called us.
Nevertheless, our number one responsibility is to evangelize our own children.
Everything else is secondary to that primary task.
Unless our children grasp the faith and take it with them around the track, it doesn't matters
how fast they run.
Being first across the finish line is meaningless unless they carry the baton with them.
Proverbs 22:6 says: "Train up a child in the way that he should go: and when he is old,
he will not depart from it."
That's enough to make any father begin to shake and to tremble.
Implicit in this admonition is a very simple, basic, and divine principle.
Clearly, the father's responsibility is being addressed in this verse.
The word "bring up" or "train" means to lay basic foundations.
When do you put in a foundation?
When the building is half up?
Or when the building has the roof on?
You put in a foundation at the very beginning of construction.
And it is the same in structuring a life.
It is at the beginning that we start to instill God's basic principles for running a life that belongs to Him.
Pastor, this means that you have the responsibility of laying a foundation in the very earliest stages of life
that can sustain and support your child his entire life.
Sadly, the pivotal time for laying a foundation is often neglected or relegated to a lesser priority.
So many times it is not until cracks appear in the structure -- as the child begins to go in the way
that he should not go that we as parents acknowledge there may be a problem in the foundation.
What are some components or ingredients of the foundation that God would have us lay?
In the verse, "Train up a child in the way he should go and, when he is old he will not turn from it,"
the key word for us as parents is "should."
It raises the question of who or what determines which way that boy or girl should go.
As parents we are the determining factor in the lives of our children.
We should never underestimate the impact of impressions and expectations
we impose on our children.
It never ceases to amaze me how many sons of athletes become athletes.
It never ceases to amaze me how many singers and musicians have children who also become singers
and musicians, or businessmen have sons who follow them, often in the same business.
Surely there are many exceptions, but so many times the "like-father-like-son" pattern occurs.
It happens too often to attribute it to chance.
I believe the phenomenon can be attributed to the clear impressions that parents model
and speak to their children.
Interestingly enough, the vast majority of our messages to our children are unconsciously transmitted
in the living of our everyday lives.
So many times children are turned away from God and church because they hear a pastor/father proclaim
one gospel from the pulpit and see a different lifestyle at home.
Mark it down: when an earthly father who represents God loses credibility, inevitably,
God's credibility also suffers a devastating blow.
As parents, surely we recognize we are not equipped by God to determine the direction
of our children's lives.
This is uniquely God's divine domain.
Our responsibility is to model the same prayerful dependence on Him that we want
so much for them to practice in their own lives.
We can teach them about His precepts and the way He works to accomplish
His will in individual lives.
I Thessalonians 2:11, gives us practical advice about expressing fatherly love.
Paul says, "For you know how we exhorted, comforted and charged every one
of you as a father does his children."
This word, "exhort," means "to encourage."
The word, "comfort," literally means "being close enough to get under the skin."
When we are close enough to genuinely encourage our children, we also bridge the generation gap.
They will know that we really love them and accept them for what they are and in whatever dilemma
they might find themselves.
Paul says, then, "charge him."
Give your children positive guidelines.
"Son, let me encourage you . . . , let me comfort you.
Then, son, let me charge you, because this is my responsibility under God.
I'm your dad, and you're my child, and he has given me, along with your mother, this responsibility."
This is a beautiful balance.
Only after we have encouraged and comforted our children according to God's principles,
will our "charging" of them be positive and effective.
As parents, we are charged with equipping a child to live -- not with living life for Him.
We are to enrich and to teach with love.
A child knows that he or she is loved when we exhort, when we comfort and when we charge.
"Train up a child in the way he should go"
The word is "train."
Train -- teach!
Picture yourself as a parent, not a judge or a commanding general.
Then, picture yourself as a teacher.
The concept of "teacher - trainer" is biblical and is a good mental mirror to use in looking
at yourself as a parent according to Biblical principles.
As a teacher and trainer, we must give the proper place to Biblical emphasis in parenting.
In the teaching role, we need to give our children two things: great love and definite limits.
Love and limits.
If we fail to do this, we fail to fill the greatest need in our children's lives.
If we give our children love without teaching them the limits of life, and the rules and regulations of society,
we have seriously damaged them for the rest of their lives.
If limits are set and consistently enforced with that small child in an atmosphere of abundant love,
then, later you will be amazed at the degree of freedom you can give to your children.
You will also be amazed at the responsible decisions your teen-agers will be able to make.
They will be equipped for the detours of life.
It is important that Biblical discipline is given in love.
Some fathers have the idea that they are like a potter who takes a piece of clay and molds it
into what he wants it to be.
That's not the way it is with children.
They come into our families created by God.
Our responsibility more closely resembles that of a gardener.
We are to nurture and care for that child as he or she grows into what God has already
planned for him or her to be.
How well you're doing as a parent also depends many times upon the amount of quality time
you spend with your children.
Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas stated in his message to
the Pastor's Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention:
"If my three sons turn out to be sorry rascals, it's because they have spent so much time with their daddy.
Years ago I was going out the door rushing to meet my three buddies for a golf game at the local course.
My five-year-old came running up and said, 'Daddy, can I go with you?'
I answered, 'No, son. You can't go golfing. You're too little.'
The boy's eyes filled with tears and he came and grabbed me by the leg.
I said, 'I'm sorry, son. I'm running late. I've got to go.'
And I pushed him away and got in the car and drove off.
I didn't get to the golf course before a wave of emotion surged through my body.
I made up my mind that day to begin to spend quality time with my boy.
That night I sat down with him and we planned to go fishing together.
We did. We went fishing all the time.
We began to play basketball together.
When I became a part of his life,
I exchanged one priority for a higher one.
I chose to fail in order to succeed where it mattered most.
I chose to fail at golf because I wanted to succeed as a father."
Elisha asked the Shunammite woman three questions:
"Is it well with thee?"
How are you doing as a person.
"Is it well with thy husband?"
How are you doing as a partner?
"Is it well with thy child?"
How are you doing as a parent?
The Shunammite woman answered, "It is well."
But wait a minute!
Her boy had just died.
Her prayed-for, God-oven son had just died.
And she answered, "It is well."
She could answer like that because her answer was that of faith.
You know the rest of the story.
Elisha gave in to her faithful persistence, and through the power of God brought that son back to life.
I know there art some hurting fathers in this service.
Let me assure you, by the authority of the Word of God, that if you keep the first commandment
and love him completely -- it will be well with as a person.
Let me also assure you, that if you become that leader and lover God intends for you to be
in your home -- it will be well with you as a partner.
Also, on the authority of this Book, if you train up that child in the way he or she should go
-- and that means God's way for that child -- it will be well with you as a parent.
A famous surgeon wrote: "I stand by the bed where a young woman lies.
Her face post-operative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish.
A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed.
She will be that way from now on."
The surgeon said, "Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve."
Her young husband is in the room.
He stands on the opposite side of the bed and together they seem to swell in the evening lamplight,
isolated from the surgeon in and as though they were in their own private space.
The surgeon asked himself, "Who are they -- this husband and this wry-mouth wife
I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so lovingly and generously?"
The young woman speaks: "Will my mouth always be like this?"
"Yes, He said. "It will because the nerve was cut."
She nods and is silent.
But the young man smiles and says,
"I like it," he says. "It is kind of cute."
And then he bends over to kiss her crooked mouth, and he twists his own lips to accommodate
to hers, to show her that their kiss still works.
It's so obvious, isn't it?
Love the Lord, first.
Love your partner and your children according to His divine precepts.
Then you can answer these three questions as the Shunammite woman did.
"It is well!"
Sermon was adapted from sermon preached by Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church
of Houston, Texas to the Pastor's Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention