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Small Tests Over Long Periods of Life

"When George Jaeger took his three sons and an elderly grandfather out on the Atlantic Ocean for a fishing trip, he had no premonition of the horror that he would face in a matter of hours. Before he would step on shore again, Jaeger would watch each son and then his father die, victims of exhaustion and lungs filled with water.

The boat's engine had stalled in the late afternoon. While increasing winds whipped the sea into great waves, the boat rolled helplessly in the water and then began to list dangerously. When it became apparent that they were sinking, the five Jaeger men put on their life vests, tied themselves together with a rope, and slipped into the water. It was 6:30 p.m. when the sinking craft disappeared and the swimmers set out to work their way toward shore.

Six-foot waves and a strong current made the swimming almost impossible. First one boy, and then another -- and another . . . swallowed too much water. Helpless, George Jaeger watched his sons and then his father die. Eight hours later, he staggered onto the shore, still pulling the rope that bound the bodies of the other four to him.

'I realized they were all dead -- my three boys and my father -- but I guess I didn't want to accept it, so I kept swimming all night long,' he said to reporters. 'My youngest boy, Clifford, was the first to go. I had always taught our children not to fear death because it was being with Jesus Christ. Before he died I heard him say, 'I'd rather be with Jesus than go on fighting.' "

Performance under stress is one test of effective leadership. It may also be the proof of accomplishment when it comes to evaluating the quality of a father. In that awful Atlantic night, George Jaeger had a chance to see his three sons summon every ounce of the courage and self-control he had tried to build into them. The beautiful way they died said something about the kind of father George Jaeger had been for fifteen years.1

As I read that brief account I realized that few fathers will ever face such a serious and heart-breaking tragedy which tests our parenting, which tests what we have built into our children. That tragic and true story establishes two principles about being a father.

First, how well our children perform under pressure is determined by the job we have done in preparing them for such tests. Our children will perform better during those days of testing if we follow certain Bible principles relating to raising children. Solomon, the wisest father who ever walked in this world, states in Proverbs 13:24, "he that loveth him (his son) chasteneth him EARLY". Indeed it is true that some parents fail to prepare their children by failing to correct, train, and direct them. However, too often parents fail at preparing their children because they fail to begin early. The task of raising children must begin during the earliest years of life. Dads can begin the job too late and begin only after the going gets rough, only after problems surface. As a pastor I have dealt with many parents who face struggles with their children. However, most of the time I find myself counseling parents who have teenagers, not toddlers. I regret to say that some parents did not see how vital the earliest years of life were! If our children are going to stand up in some of the most difficult tests of life during the teenage years they need direction and correction in the very earliest years of life, when the tests that he or she faces are relatively small and the dangers of failure are relatively minor. It will be what we have done in the earliest years of life that will show itself when the pressure is on, when the ship is facing the winds and the water, when great trials have come upon our children.

Second, others will render judgment on the job we have done as they watch our children face those tests of life. As I read the story I admired the job that George Jaeger surely did and credited him with the courage and self-control that was exhibited by his children.

Solomon states in Proverbs 17:6, " Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers." Solomon states that the "glory" of children are their fathers." The word "glory" means "to cause one to think well of". Solomon is saying that what causes people to think well of any child is based on what dad did in raising him or her. Parents are responsible for their children. Whether or not anyone wants to accept responsibility for his or her children, the fact is that there is no one else who has had the opportunity for more input than dad and mom. Whether or not you have taken those opportunities, you were the one who has had the God-given responsibility for correcting and directing your children. In America, we are short on accepting responsibility. Likewise, too many parents are short on accepting responsibility for their children's wrong attitudes and behavior and are long on accepting praise and credit when their children turn out well.

As we have just come past "Father's Day", we need to face the challenge once again to invest in our children's lives and to invest in them early. Do not wait until the teen years to invest, to discipline, to challenge, to inspire, to build in principles of courage and self-control! We also need to accept the responsibility for our children. It is only when we recognize that we are responsible for the raising or our children that we will feel the weight of doing what we deep down know we ought to be doing.

Yes, most of us will never face the trial that the Jaeger family faced. Our trials will come in much smaller doses over long period of living. Nevertheless, our children during times of pressure and trial, will or will not survive based on what we have taught them during the earliest years of life and a judgment will be rightly rendered on the job we have done as fathers and as parents for it was our job, no one else's, to raise our children with principles of courage, self-control, and godliness!

1 The Effective Father, Gordon MacDonald ,pg 13