Developing Disciplined Children
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.’ And, fathers, do no provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4)
In Mr. Simpson’s absence (he is on a family vacation this week), we will temporarily digress from looking at Old Testament quotations in light of their New Testament meanings. This week we will instead look at the importance of raising up Godly children who will continue to carry the spiritual revolution on to the next generation. When God ordained the family, He established the parents to be a united leadership, with the father ultimately being the head of the household. Under this divine family structure, the children are to be in subjection to their parents, growing “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” The family is the initial training ground by which children learn the fundamental principles for living as adults in subjection to the heavenly Father.
Mark of a Perverse Generation
It comes as no surprise then, that one of the prevalent characteristics of a society that has turned away from God is the total lack of discipline among the young people. In the first chapter of Romans, the Scripture speaks of the decay of Gentile societies as a result of their suppression “of the truth in unrighteousness.” God speaks of the depths of that depravity, culminating in perverse homosexual behavior. Included in the list categorizing the improper acts of that depraved mind are those who are “disobedient to parents.” (By the way, “disobedient to parents” also shows up in II Timothy 2 in the list of the unGodly of the last days.) This total lack of control of the young people is a result of the stiff neck of a culture that is in rebellion against God. When the upcoming generation has no respect for authority, the spiritual ground is cursed, resulting in a lot of spiritual soil that is hard ground, with the seed of God’s Word getting trampled underfoot. Hence the iniquity of the fathers is indeed borne out on their children to the third and even the fourth generations.
From the Curse to a Blessing
The same God who said that He would visit the iniquity of the fathers on the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him, also said that He would show lovingkindness unto thousands of generations to those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Check out Exodus 20:5-6 in Rotherham’s). In the eternal plan of God, it is designed for His people to raise up Godly offspring to Him. Some good examples of this throughout Biblical history include Seth and his sons, Abraham and his descendants, as well as the house of the Rechabites. Proverbs 13:22a tells us, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” While faith cannot be inherited per se, it certainly is the greatest legacy that could ever be imparted. Psalm 78 communicates that God’s plan is for every faithful man to teach his children to teach their children, thus passing the torch of faith from generation to generation.
Children Must be Trained
This development of a faithful generation is not an easy task. Our adversary, the devil, works overtime to put obstacles in the path of our children. Thus, our children will not become disciplined without focused training on the part of the parents. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Children do not naturally develop self-control. Left to their own devices, children will be sloppy, lazy, and undisciplined. It is the responsibility of the parent to teach, train, and lead their children to form good habits. It is important to mark out boundaries, assign responsibilities, communicate and teach achievement, reward and praise accomplishments, and enforce and punish unacceptable behavior. Good parents are good teachers, good coaches, good motivators, and good managers. (One of the requirements of an elder is that he be a good manager of his household – see I Timothy 3:4). The responsibility of a manager is to work with the personnel that has been given to him. Children are a gift from the Lord, and God expects parents to understand the abilities of their children and to train accordingly. Some key points in this training include: 1) Set reasonable expectations, 2) Reward maximum effort, 3) Respond to rebellion calmly but firmly, and 4) Win every time. The ultimate goal is to shape the child’s will; not to crush it, but to mold it.
Win the Heart
In the end, disciplined children are good disciples with good habits, with a desire to be faithful sons and daughters of God. To impart such faith to our children, it must be built into their hearts. Malachi 4:6 prophesies of John the Immerser, “And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.” As parents, we must pray for discipline and wisdom to win the hearts of our children. Many religious parenting books, classes, etc. take the approach of law. The Bible has clearly shown that the fruits of law is death. We want to be parents who train our children in the same way our heavenly Father transforms us. We need to love our children in the same way that God loves us. We need to have great aspirations and expectations in the manner that God has for us. We need to believe in our children the same way that God shows confidence in us. We need to open our hearts to them in loving communication, that they may confidently and honestly open their hearts to us. Let’s develop disciplined children for the Lord!