Over the past weeks, we have explored how to help our children grow up like Jesus—“in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). We have seen how to help our kids grow in wisdom and stature. Now we turn our focus to growing in favor with God and man.

An Incredible Challenge from God

It seems difficult to please both God and man or to gain the favor of God and man. So much of what other people want you and me to do in order to please them can be the opposite of what God wants us to do. Even our best friends, coworkers, and relatives want us to do things to gain their favor that can be the opposite of what God is asking us to do.

Pleasing everyone is not possible. In fact, the Apostle Paul says about this teaching, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). He says this even more directly to the Corinthian church: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself” (1 Corinthians 4:13).

Many prophets and leaders in the Bible were often not popular with the people as they led them. Joseph, Moses, Peter, and Paul were at times mocked, ridiculed, and even persecuted. Of course our Savior Jesus faced the most persecution from the very people he came to serve. So, how can our mission to help our children grow in favor with God and man be accomplished? I see two key principles in the Bible to help our children grow in favor with God and others. 

Love Because We Are Loved

In order to love well, we have to remember that we are loved first. It’s nothing we can earn, we simply accept the love God gives us through his son Jesus. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 1:4). 

What do we do with this love? If we know God loves us, we follow his commands (John 14:15). God’s commands are summarized perfectly for us by Jesus: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40) God shows us favor first. 

We grow in favor with him when we appreciate his love and respond with our lives by loving him and the people he has made—even as much as we love ourselves. 

Blessed to Be a Blessing

If we know we are loved, we are free to stop trying to please people, and instead we can really love them. Jesus did not give everyone what they wanted. He was not concerned with pleasing people in the moment. However, Jesus put their needs and our needs before his own by suffering and dying for us. We can do the same (although not perfectly) for our friends and for our kids. We can consider the long term impact of either giving them what they want or choosing to help them build long term character. 

The choice to not have a smartphone is a great example of this. Your kids might get mad and say it’s not fair, but holding them back from doing things that could damage their hearts is worth short term unpopularity with a 12-year-old. 

Psalm 84 if full of this simple truth, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion” (Psalm 84:5-7 NIV). When we know God loves us, we have incredible strength and are able to respond to God’s favor by giving him our lives. And this creates springs of love. Yes, springs of love that pour onto others. This is what favor is—overflowing love for God that impacts others. 

Think about it—if we offer our whole life to God, we become the strongest possible instruments for loving others. Our kids can see what we love. They can tell if we love God above all other things and if we love others as we love ourselves. Loving our kids and our neighbors over ourselves teaches our kids to do the same.

A Simple Next Step

Ask your kids to list the top 5 things they think you care about. Use that list as feedback and ask God to help you care about what really matters. As we rely on God’s grace to love him and love others, we show our children what it looks like to follow the Great Commandment. As our children learn to follow that example, loving God and others, they will grow in favor with God and man.

Howard Graham is the Executive Editor of Strategic Dads. He also serves as the Chaplain for Presbyterian Day School and the Executive Director of Building Boys, Making Men. Howard is passionate about teaching people to know God and to help them live out their faith in Jesus. He enjoys spending time with his family. He and his wife, Kimberley, have a girl and three boys. They live in Memphis, TN.