Since a lot of families are spending more time together these days, it may be good to think about the basics of raising our children. I don’t write as an expert, I write as one who trusts what the Word of God says about this great responsibility. And the one verse below has key truths and many practical implications concerning the critical role parents can and must take in the lives of their children.
Text: Ephesians 6:4 (ESV) “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
INTRODUCTION: The Apostle Paul has addressed husbands and wives concerning their mutual responsibilities in Eph. 5:22-31. He has instructed children to obey and honor their parents in the preceding section (Eph. 6:1-3). These words in Eph. 6:4 are obviously directed to fathers specifically, although it is safe to assume that they are applicable to all parents, and to all who have the responsibility for the well-being and growth of children under their care. What is being addressed in this text is the responsibility for loving attention and purposeful discipline and instruction in the Lord. This text does not address every issue that parents or children will face. But, these words of the Apostle zero in on the essential need for a commitment to Christian child-raising and instruction as a whole, and the stakes are high, because the challenge is real.
What we are thinking about is nothing less than our part as parents in the spiritual condition of the next generation. Let me be very clear that there are no magic formulas to guarantee easy and effective parenting and perfect results. This is not a commercial for 5 easy steps to trouble-free parenting.
Here is the bottom-line as I read this Scripture in context: if the next generation is going to be raised “in the Lord,” then we all need to grow up in Christ and fulfill our God-given responsibilities.
Paul begins his directions for Christian fathers with the negative and then moves to the positive. He says:
Seeing resistance to appropriate obedience does not mean that a parent has done something wrong. That is the sinful nature of the child. Rather, here Paul is talking about the needless and indeed sinful provoking of a child. How can this be done?
These words of Scripture warn us against any training or teaching or parenting that is offered without the framework of authentic love and self-control. When Paul writes earlier in the same letter about Christians growing into maturity, he writes of the need to speak the truth (in love) (Eph. 4:15-16).
This is true for parents with their children as well. But, we should not only speak “in love,” but do all things with the love of the Lord. We need the love and self-control that are the fruit of a Spirit-filled life (Eph. 5:18). I
n short, we need to grow up in Christ and seek the enabling grace and love through His Spirit to remove any barriers between us and our children so that we can be a blessing to our kids.
This will call for:
As opposed to doing those things that cause anger, discouragement, and lack of growth, we are (first of all) called to care for and nurture our children in every way that pleases the Lord. This nurturing and caring for children calls for training or discipline (in the fullest sense of the word) and specifically, instruction.
The real focus here is on that type of training and discipline that will help a child grow up in the knowledge and ways of the Lord.
We love our children, but we recognize that they have a sinful nature, and need discipline in order to live as the Lord would have them live. We need to remember that we have a heavenly father who disciplines and instructs us as His children, and ultimately He is our model. (Heb. 12:5b-7, 11)
To refuse to discipline sinful attitudes, actions or words, is to stunt the growth of a child. Not to correct a child in the Lord is to fail in a responsibility given by the Lord.
Abuses in discipline can be avoided by parents “growing up” in love, by praying first, by making sure that they both are united in the discipline, and by expressing love no matter what the specific act of discipline is. (Prov. 6:20-23, 13:1, 24).
Pray for wisdom. Pray for love. Pray for the strength and fairness to discipline your children to obey, to learn to hate what the Lord hates, and to love what the Lord loves. Decide on methods of discipline that are framed with helpful explanation of the wrong and the right behavior that you are encouraging.
Discipline should not be thought of as just dealing with the wrong behavior. Right behavior, good attitudes, appropriate words, and helpful acts need to be encouraged and affirmed. (Watch out for just pointing out the wrong without pointing out the right.)
Ultimately, we as fathers, and we as parents, are responsible for the education of our children. This should cause us to pray, to plan, and to participate in the growth of our children. How do you instruct your children? Ultimately, this is instruction from God’s Word and based upon God’s Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
It starts with “learning” (2 Tim. 2:1-2, “the things you have heard from me…” We must be learning as parents to teach what we have learned!
It continues with “showing,” with your own example. You cannot overestimate the importance of a good example. This starts by “being with” your children, or having them with you. What they see is what they will do. That should challenge us if not scare us, as we think about the examples we should be setting for our children.
Then, thirdly, “teaching,” you need to plan to teach your children from the Word of God. Reading the Word of God together, talking about the Word of God and praying together are important habits. Teach them their need of the Lord and the fundamentals of the gospel that they might truly be “born again” into God’s family. Teach them to love the Word of God. Teach them to pray. Teach them to trust God and depend on the Holy Spirit. Teach them to love people and talk about Jesus. Teach, teach, teach!
Take advantage of the resources of the local church. Take advantage of opportunities for growth and service that will challenge and deepen your child’s walk with Christ.
Fourthly, we need to be telling our own stories about how God has worked and is working in our own lives. We need to let our children know about our own faith journey, and why we have made the commitments and the decisions we have made.
Also, playing builds relationships and also gives opportunities to learn in different ways.
Sixth, monitoring other influences that are impacting your children is critically important as you seek to help them grow up in Christ. Whether it is friends, school, media, or other influences, you have a right to know and protect.
Allowing key people in the family or in the church to add to your children’s spiritual growth positively is also very important. You and I don’t know it all or model it all, but others can add to and fill the gaps.
Lastly, assessing, plan vacations, and times to catch up and discuss where the family is, spiritually.
What is the goal in all this? The goal is the same as God’s goal for all of us, maturity or Christ-likeness, which brings glory to God.
CONCLUSION: We need to embrace the Call and the Challenge to raise the next generation “in the Lord.” In order to help our children grow up, we need to do the same. Specifically, we need to walk in wisdom (Eph. 5:15-17), and depend upon the control of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that the fruit of the Spirit will dominate our lives and we will be able to walk the walk, and walk the talk, and then talk the walk.
Dr. David Olford