Parenting God’s children (Part 2)

Dear BPCWAians,

“For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” (Genesis 18:19)

The need for parents to prepare themselves. We are very familiar with the numerous Biblical commands of parents to children, scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments. This underlies the fact that God calls parents into account for the upbringing of their children. When young, physical parenting is more pressing, though the baby is already absorbing what is happening around him. By the time he reaches the toddler stage, the child would have developed enough to learn certain responses. How we discipline and train them and what we teach them at each stage prepares them for the next stage of growth. As tweens, we saw how they begin to develop new cognitive and emotional responses that will affect the teen’s character, and their choices as young adults. The point is parents must constantly realise what a child develops at one stage impacts his next stage. Unless parents prepare themselves by knowing the changes and challenges the child will face, they will not be able to sufficiently help the child develop into a godly seed for the Lord.

Parenting prerequisites for training a child. But this preparation of the parent is more than changing the child. For the child to want to follow, the parent’s life must be genuine and consistent in the first place. The family is to be commanded after him, the head of the home. “After him” must be noted. It means that Abraham will ensure that those under his authority and his posterities will follow after his ways, not just physically follow where he goes. Abraham will command them i.e. He will give necessary instructions, teach, and do whatever is needed so that those whom God put under his authority knows and will continue in the faith during his life and into the future after his death. It is about the walk of the parents, their family life, their testimony, as much as their children’s upbringing. What is the best way to ensure that for ourselves too? They will follow because of Abraham’s own genuine godly example in his own walk. That was said about Timothy’s mother and grandmother in 2 Timothy 1:5 – it is about the unfeigned faith that the child sees in the home that testifies to the true and living LORD that they want the child to love and serve. Parents who are worldly and carnal in their values, ways, and pursuits but yet “command” their children to obey and love God will train their children to be hypocritical followers. That is why many children leave the church and the faith in time. Parents who are unhappy at church but put on appearances can spread their bitterness in the privacy of their homes, thus turning their children away from an important channel that God intends to use to help their children grow up godly. When children grow up into their teens, they see the double life that their parents lead. When emotions are stirred at home, teens may ask parents – why must I do such and such, when you don’t do such and such? Why do you want me to go to church when you all are not keen to go there yourself? Sanctification is needed both for the parents as well as the child. This is spiritual upbringing, and if we do not live spiritual lives, we should not expect that God will do a “magical work” and transform the life of the child without the parents’ involvement and godly work. God intends to help, but He uses the parents to model the way and be the channel by which He will guide the child in His ways.

What are we training? Proverbs 22:6 reminds us, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Parenting with the aim of training the child must be a top priority above all else if God gives you children. What are we training? While the behaviour of a child is important, that is not the definition of a godly seed per se. Disciplining a child is important and biblical. But ultimately, how do we train a child to grow up into a godly teen who will remain walking in the faith and close to the Lord? The answer lies in ensuring that the child develops convictions in his heart. Training and discipline are to change the child’s heart. The heart must drive the behaviour for there to be lasting godliness. Parents must aim at the child’s heart while they train behaviours. We may go into either extreme by thinking, “If the child’s heart is not in it, there is no point in controlling his behaviour”, or “as long as the child behaves, what is in his heart does not matter”. Both heart and behaviour matter because the heart controls the behaviour and controlling behaviours trains the heart. An uncontrolled and undisciplined child’s heart is not being trained. So how do we do that?

How do we train? In training the child, he needs guidance through nurturing and admonishing. And good communication and a loving environment are critical channels to achieve this. Critically, as the child grows, what you must aim to build in the child is a very conscious, personal, and genuine relationship of his own with God. Without this, the child is merely obeying you instead of responding to God’s instructions through you. That will not last. They may just be waiting for the day to run away from church and Christianity. Again, the prerequisites are important. If you do not have a genuine walk with God, how can you convince them to? Your own life speaks volumes to them. While we cannot be perfect in our holiness, they see your genuineness in repentance and response to God’s Word. Train them to live above the world and its priorities by doing so yourself. Teach them to see the glory of our God so that they will be drawn to Him at each stage of their growth and want to obey and please Him on their own. Train their obedience by your own obedience to God. How can we do all these? How can we change a child’s heart? We cannot. But God certainly can. So, the earlier we learn that, we will learn to daily kneel before God in prayer to seek His help and wisdom to train up the child. He will help. But it will cost you. How badly do you want to bring up godly seed for Him? It will be shown by how much you are willing to sacrifice your own dreams to fulfill God’s purposes. I hope you will review the family seminar that has been loaded on our church’s website, and the video on our YouTube channel at bpcwa.org.au/youtube.

Even if your child is not yet in their teens, prepare early to parent your child in their teenage years. It is not too far down the road. We may think ahead of what school they should be in future etc, but we neglect what is needed for the child spiritually as they grow up. Parents must not think that simply because the physical need and attention decrease, their jobs are done. Instead, this is when the spiritual need and attention must increase!

Yours in our Lord’s service,