Growing up as a pastor’s kid meant growing up with a lot of expectations. It meant being up at 7 am every Saturday morning for two to three hours of family Bible study and prayer. It meant memorizing the most verses for the youth meeting and making sure to know all the Bible trivia answers. Who would set up the church sound system every Sunday morning and move all the monitors? Who would sing on the worship team when no one was there? Oh, and who would play the piano since no one else knew how to play? The answer, of course, was the pastor’s kids. As the second oldest of five, a lot of these responsibilities fell to me. Just like most pastors’ kids, I lived by the expectations of others. Because people recognized me, and knew who my parents were, they expected us to live up to certain standards. Other kids could rebel but not the pastor’s kids. This isn’t to say that I resented those standards; in fact, as an adult, I treasure the great privilege I had to be taught by my dad, an amazing man of God and role model throughout my life. But as a kid, it was difficult to tell where the expectations ended and my own identity in Christ began.
The Bible, in 2 Chronicles, tells us the story of two young boys who also grew up with great expectations. Both of them were just eight years old, but held the responsibility of ruling over and guiding the entire kingdom of Judah. Both of them were the sons of wicked kings but were taught how to follow the Lord early on in life. Joash was raised hidden away in the temple; the high priest Jehoiada made sure to instruct him to follow God, and the Bible tells us that as long as this high priest lived, Joash walked in the ways of the Lord. After Jehoiada died however, this young king strayed far from God and even killed the other sons of Jehoiada who tried to stop him. The Bible doesn’t tell us how the other king, Josiah, was taught the ways of God but from the time he became king when he was eight, he walked uprightly all the days of his life, unlike Joash.
There was one other very important similarity between these two kings; both of them began to restore the temple of God. Joash worked tirelessly and brought silver and gold to refine and finish the house of God, and make it a marvel for all to see. But Josiah did something more. While he was clearing the temple, the priests found the Book of the Law and brought it to him. Josiah wept and repented and brought all the children of Judah to the house of the Lord to worship together. This to me, marks the turning point in both of these kings’ lives. Both of these men did the work of God by restoring the temple. But Josiah moved beyond the external and decided to follow the Book of the Law with all of his heart. He did not stop at externally following the Lord, but he diligently decided to keep the Word of God. The biggest difference in this tale of two kings was that one was only looking to meet the expectations of others, but the other was looking for the expectations of God. As kids growing up in the church, there are a lot of things we do to build up the temple like Josiah and Joash did; we volunteer for the worship team, we teach Sunday school, we may even pray or preach up at the pulpit. But while all of these are amazing things to do for God and the church, they fall short of truly searching for Him and his Law. As the prophet Samuel learned, “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Only a heart that truly, hungrily searches the Word can ever truly please God. Psalm 119 says “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
Every family prayer, my dad would have us recite the following, as the motto of our house, “Delight God, live holy before God, and together build a godly home.” That was it. To him, the expectations of others didn’t matter, even his and my mom’s expectations for us didn’t matter. To him, as long as we were honoring the expectations of God for our lives, the rest of it was in His hands. That is my prayer for my daughter today. It’s so easy as a parent to lay all sorts of expectations on our child; that they should study hard and get into a good school, that they should behave a certain way and do certain activities. But meeting the expectations of man is too shallow a goal; our eyes should be on the treasures in heaven. As Proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”