Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Before deciding to try and have kids, I must admit, I was afraid. Not of being a parent, but of bringing a child into this world that we know is only going to get worse and worse and worse until at last, Christ calls us home. I feared what all could possibly happen to me or my child in that in-between time. My Dad told me this though…”All life is a gift.” That did it for me.
If you were to survey people right now about having children, they might tell you that they are reluctant about having children, not because children are born evil, but because it’s expensive.
You need a bigger house and you have to get a bigger car(s). You have to get a lot of extra clothes and food and you have to pay for all their medical needs and college and it’s all very time-consuming. If you have any personal goals, desires, or personal plans, those interests take a back seat to the demand of children. They are highly demanding. I am told that while we might think that the extremely demanding time is only in infancy, as they grow older we find the demands are not less but more and more complex. It’s not just, “hey I’m hungry,” anymore, but, “Hey, I need you to drive me across town and then pick me up in an hour.”
Some people would say parenting is challenging because it calls for such focus on children’s activities; there’s so many things that they’re supposed to be involved in that you wind up spending time and energy running an endless taxi service to meet all their needs, and the more of them you have, the more complicated it gets.
I suppose there are those superficial things which make parenting to some degree challenging. The real reasons that child raising is so difficult, the real challenge before us, specifically before Christians, can be boiled down to two major elements. We need to understand these if we are going to love our children in such a way that they aren’t angry with us but rather return that love, if we are to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I am learning that if we’re to do that, then we must understand that the difficulty really comes from two areas. We can reduce them to an external component and an internal component.
The external: The pressure of the society and the culture that is around us.
The internal: The pressure of the nature of the child that is within him or her.
Parenting is not difficult because it is expensive. It’s not difficult because it’s time-consuming. It’s not difficult because it’s distracting from your personal agenda. It’s not personal because it gets so complex to meet all the demands. It is really difficult because there are such heavy pressures from the society around us and heavier pressures from the nature of children within them. And until we understand that, we’re not going to understand what parenting is really all about. Externally, our kids will be influenced by what they see and hear, especially from us.
Children are incredibly intelligent and observant. My son wasn’t even 6 months old yet and would mimic the way my wife and I used a spoon and now, not quite a year, understands how to drink from a water bottle or a cup, all by simply watching us and how we use those things. We find ourselves asking questions like, when should we start potty training? How much sugar is too much at what age? Are vaccinations really helpful, or do they cause more harm than good? Above all, I ask myself, what will be the best way to lead our son, Landen, to Christ?
It should be obvious, the most important thing we will ever do as parents will be to lead our children to salvation. What does it matter if you have an obedient child who is without Christ? So what if your kid is student of the week, best dressed, or even best behaved? All of that is meaningless and temporal; a vapor. There is only one thing that truly matters and that is the eternal destiny of our souls and our children’s souls. Nothing else comes close in importance. The most important thing we parents need to know is the gospel and how to best communicate that, not only to others, but especially to our children. As observant as children are, I think it is abundantly clear that the way we LIVE in regards to the hope we claim we have in Christ, will be the biggest and most definitive witness in our children’s lives. We can tell them all we want; till we’re blue in the face, “you need to be born again!” and “you need to go to church,” but if our kids don’t see that reflected first and foremost in our own lives, how in the world can we expect them to think we truly believe what we say we believe?
So we have a responsibility. The greatest responsibility of parents in all the world, I believe, is to lead their children into a saving knowledge of Christ our Lord.
Ephesians 6:4 says to do this in the discipline and instruction of the lord.
Many families now days rank church 3rd, 4th, & sometimes even last on their list of priorities. This is most unfortunate. How can we possibly expect our children to desire to be in the word if we are not first in it ourselves? If our own biblical knowledge and spiritual health is stagnant, we cannot possibly expect to be someone our kids will look to for correct wisdom and biblical advice. Our children will only come to us so many times with questions and inquiries of a biblical nature before they hit the internet, TV, or radio, which are both overflowing with false doctrine and malicious lies. If our only answer we can ever offer up is, “I don’t know,” or “lets look on google,” we do more than just misguide, we show our children how much we really just don’t care about all of this “Jesus stuff.”
It has become a popular saying amongst the 1990-born generation to say, “My parents ‘made’ me go to church, so I’m not going to do that to my kids as they grow up.”
To them, this incredibly scary thought makes complete and total sense. Afterall, “you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian,” right? That’s becoming a nationwide trend.
My parents made me do a lot of things I didn’t necessarily like when I was younger…they made me take baths every night, they made me comb my hair, brush my teeth, wear uncomfortable band-aids on cuts and scrapes, and they also made me try to learn piano! I fear the kind of world we would live in if parents, although it was in their best interest, never made their kids do anything they didn’t want to do.
When I was around 13 years old, I was playing on a competitive hockey team and majority of the time, our games were on weekends and really early in the morning. I loved hockey. Never wanted to miss a game. I had played numerous times while I was sick and had even played with minor injuries. Never will I forget the week one of our most important games fell on a Sunday morning. I hadn’t given it much thought…tournements were more important than just regular games so I knew we would be going in spite of church. Maybe my Mom and sister wouldn’t be there, but I knew my Dad, who had coached me before this team, would be all in.
Long story short, we went to church that Sunday. I was mad. I was upset. Looking back, I am so glad I had two parents who knew that things of eternal value are much more important than sublunary enjoyments and pleasures.
We have to realize, there are so many things today vying for our time and attention and if we don’t keep a firm grip on our bibles and what matters most, we will lose the battle to ball games, TV shows, early movie showings, “lazy days,” and anything else that seems to be more fun that day.
Make the decision now…what are Sundays for? Is the bible important to you? Do you care about the eternal destination of your children? I do.
It’s important to talk to our kids about eternal heaven and eternal hell. We must share with them, as scary as it is, the truth and realities of their sin which shows them their need for salvation. If someone doesn’t know they’re stuck in a burning train wreck, about to fall over a cliff, they don’t know they need saving.
This brings us to the internal battle. Children may be ignorant when they come into the world, they may be naive, they may be unexperienced, they may be cute, but they are not innocent with regard to evil. The simplest way to say it is the seed of every known sin is planted deep in the heart of every child. The bible affirms this.
Therefore, the truth is not that if things somehow turn out badly our children might get messed up. Our children are severely messed up when they arrive. It’s not that if things don’t work out the way we would like, our children may drift spiritually and they may wander morally, but rather the drive to drift spiritually and morally; the drive to sin, is embedded in their natures and it is a most compelling and dark drive that can only be expelled by the light of the gospel.
Mass murderers, pedophiles, rapists, perverts, lifelong criminals are not the products of what their parents did to them, they’re the products of what their parents didn’t do to them. If you’re running around trying to find some traumatic event in the life of a Jeffrey Dahmer when he was a child, you might not find it. Now how do you explain a homosexual murdering cannibal? What did they do to him? That’s not the question. The question is, what didn’t they do to him?
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. (proverbs 22:15)
The internal wins almost every time when children are raised by blind and lost parents who have no commitment to use the rod and therefore, they are simply allowing the children to give full expression to their depravity. What you end up with in the end is adult disasters, if not child disasters.
We must love and we must discipline. Proverbs gives us the most insight on this matter:
“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” (proverbs 13:24)
Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
Its pretty obvious that our bottoms were made with a little extra cushion than the rest of our bodies. I can’t imagine a better place on the body to deliver some small reminders that our actions have consequences. You break a window with a baseball on accident…we talk about not playing so close to the house. You throw a rock at a window simply to throw a rock at a window…consequence = Love VIA the rod of reproof.
Something I think a lot of parents miss in all of this “Rod” talk is this…
Psalm 23:4b – “your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”
I will strive every day to be a living sacrifice to God so that my Son will see that my faith is mine and he will look to me for wisdom and guidance. I will also show my son that I love him through all the times he has to do things he doesn’t want to do and even in the times that temporary pain comes right from his own Dad…well…a wooden spoon or something…we’re still working that out.
Living Love starts at home…get on it…save your kids.