Grace For The Journey
Over the last couple of blogs in our study of Colossians 3, we have been concentrating on what Paul says about the family and the role that each member within it has before God.
Every member needs to fulfill their role
If the family is going to be successful
At its God ordained purpose of glorifying Him
And raising up the next generation to be responsible adults.
It is much easier for Christians to fulfill these roles when they are living as those who have been raised up with Christ. Putting aside the previous, sinful ways of life and developing the characteristics of being a new creation in Jesus Christ allow a person to live in godliness and fulfill their purpose in life. Non-Christians and those still walking in immaturity of the faith will find it difficult at best to do what God requires of them within the family.
Wives are to be “be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18). A wife is to follow the lead of her husband as a suitable helpmeet who shows him respects and thereby enables him to be successful in life. Proverbs 14:1, “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”
Husbands have the responsibility to “love your wives, and do not be embittered against them” (Colossians 3:19). This is the love that sacrifices itself for the best interest of the other. A husband that will do that and not be selfish will enable his wife to fulfill her role. A husband has the additional roles of leading, providing and protecting the family, and God will hold Him accountable for what he does.
Children are to “be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). Paul adds in Ephesians 6:2-3 that this is from the 5th commandment in Exodus 20 and is the first command with a promise that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth. Children who are in rebellion against their parents are also in rebellion against God and will reap the consequences of their sin. Obedience is foundational for learning all other skills.
We have already spent three blogs on the role of parents pointing out general principles as well as specific commands. I will probably repeat several of those in this blog, but I want to specifically deal with the last part of active parenting in this sermon.
It is helpful to see parenting as a three-fold process . . .
1) When your children were very young, your goal was to train them to obey.
If that is done correctly, most children should be obedient the first time and right away by the time they are 5 or 6 years old. This is the easiest part of parenting.
2) The second period of parenting is characterized by training their hearts to follow God.
This is the pre-adolescent stage. You are establishing in them moral reasoning by which they will be able to discern for themselves what is right before God and follow Him. If that is done correctly, a child of 12 or 13 should be primarily motivated by their own walk with God. Their obedience will have turned into submission because of their desire to please God rather than fear you.
3) The last part of parenting is helping youths become responsible adults.
It is the period of transition from childhood to adulthood, from dependence upon you as the parent to independence as adults who can stand on their own and establish their own family. In many ways this can be the most challenging, but also the most enjoyable and satisfying period of parenting.
Modern conventional wisdom in America expects teen rebellion. Teen rebellion is a phenomenon of modern western society that has developed as it has abandoned the Biblical guidelines of parenting and even the common sense of ancient parenting practices.
For the rest of this blog I want to point you to this Biblical way so that you can make the most of the teen years and establish your youths as responsible, young adults.
If you want to understand what the Bible says about teenagers, you will have to look for the word, “youth.” There are several Hebrew words and one Greek word that are translated that way, and they cover quite a range of ages. Context will give you the clues to how old a youth might be. For example, Genesis 37:2 specifically states Joseph is 17 years old and calls him a “youth” (naar) when he was pasturing his father’s flocks. He is still called a “youth” (naar) several years later when Pharaoh’s cupbearer remembers him as one who could interpret dreams. King Josiah was a “youth” (naar) of 16 years when he began to seek God (1 Chronicles 34:1-3). However, the same word (naar) is used for Samuel when he was only a few years old (1 Samuel 1:22). At the other extreme, the same word is used in reference to young adults that are married (Proverbs 5:18), though it must be remembered that in that culture people generally married at a much younger age, often in their teens.
But this brings up the next point about youth in the Bible compared to youth culture in the United State. In our society there are some extreme assumptions that have become too common that are contrary to what the Scriptures state.
The first is that teens are wise enough to make their own decisions without parental involvement. This extreme lets teens do what they want with little to no accountability. It will vary with each parent, but the mindset is that because they are 14, 16, 18 years old, they can do what they want.
The Weakness of Youth.
In the case of children who have been trained well in godliness, they may be able to handle such independence and do well even from an early age, but several scriptures point out that there is a weakness in youth that they must be very careful about. One of the purposes of the book of Proverbs is to “give prudence to the naive, and to the youth knowledge and discretion” (Proverbs 1:4). Even a very intelligent youth lacks the years of experience needed to have the needed knowledge and discretion. That is a why a wise youth will seek out counsel from those who are older and have wisdom. That begins with the parents (Proverbs 1:8; 4:1) and extends to others for, the way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to counsel (Proverbs 1:5).
The tragedy is that there is a strong tendency, especially in American youth culture, to follow the foolishness of Rehoboam who rejected the counsel of his older and wiser counselors in favor of the counsel of his peers who told him what he wanted to hear (1 Kings 12:6-11).
No teen has gained enough knowledge to make all their own decisions without the counsel of those who are older and wiser. It is interesting to note that Luke 2:52 records that even Jesus, after he was 12, “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Parents need to be very involved with your teens as they continue to grow in knowledge and wisdom. They are in need of your counsel and guidance.
Another indicator of the weakness of youth are the many passages that refer to the “sins of my youth” showing the indiscretion that can easily mark that period of life because the character of the person is still developing to overcome both temptations and trying to please other people. Job was “blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1), yet he also remembered the iniquities of his youth (Job 13:26). David cried out to the Lord in Psalm 25:7 that He would not “remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions.” Timothy had already proven himself as a man of God, but Paul still warned him to “flee from youthful lusts” (1 Timothy 6:11; 21 Timothy 2:22).
The tragedy in our own culture is that so many in the entertainment and advertising fields are evil and specifically target teens to entice them toward sin. The very adults that should be helping to protect them are instead exploiting them. For some, it is simply a way to make a quick profit. Others are more sinister and want to entrap them in a sinful life-style that will allow them to continue to be more easily exploited. Parents, are you protecting your teens from such influences and teaching them how to deal with them including the guilt that comes after falling to them?
Another weakness of youth is lack of proper confidence. Jeremiah freely acknowledge his fear of the Lord’s commission because he was a youth (Jeremiah 1:6). Paul had to encourage Timothy because he was timid because of his youth (1 Timothy 4:12; cf 1 Corinthians 16:10). Both young men were called to serve the Lord, but it would take time to walk with the Lord enough to overcome the natural fear of the unknown. Youth needs to be encouraged and put in situations in which they learn to trust the Lord.
The Strength of Youth.
There is also the opposite extreme in which parents refuse to let their children grow up. There is a high and thick wall of protection that is built which prevents them from making decisions for themselves and learning to trust the Lord. They continue in perpetual childhood because they do not learn to take on adult responsibilities.
Consider some of the things that Scriptures record that were accomplished by various “youths.” As already pointed out, Joseph was only 17 or so when he was sold into slavery in Egypt. Yet, his character was such that his master developed trust in him so that he quickly rose to the position of being in charge of all that was Potiphar’s household. After being wrongly accused and thrown in jail, he still had the character to rise up to the point that the chief jailer put him in charge of all the other prisoners. He would have been in his early 20’s when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and became second in command of all of Egypt (Genesis 39-41).
David had kept his father’s sheep as a youth and his encounters with lions and bears prepared him to face Goliath (1 Samuel 17). More important than his ability was David’s confidence that came from the trust he had in the Lord that had developed over that time. He was outraged that the army of Israel was letting “this uncircumcised Philistine” taunt them. He told King Saul, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” David told Goliath, “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts,” and that “This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you” David’s confidence was in the Lord, and that trust marked the rest of his life. We should want our sons and daughters to learn such a deep trust of the Lord
Daniel and his three friends were all youths when they were taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. All of them stepped out in faith to do what they knew was right before God and leave the results in His hands. God honored them and they became important officials in Nebuchadnezzar’s administration (Daniel 1, 2). This prepared them for remaining firm for the severe trials that came upon them later because of their faith. They did not waver and God honored them for it (Daniel 3, 6).
While parents of youths do need to be protective in many respects as already noted, they also have to teach their teens how to stand firm for God despite the dangers they may face. If we want them to grow up to be like these great heroes of the faith, we will need to help them walk with God grounded in their own faith in Him. It is your responsibility to challenge and enable them to take on increasing responsibilities by which they will learn to walk in trust of God. Youth are capable of doing a lot more difficult things than most adults think possible. They are no longer children and they need your help to become adults.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy, and one that occurs much too often even among professing Christians, is when both of these extremes meet. The youth is given freedom to make choices as he or she desires, but then they are protected from the negative consequences that result from those decisions. This teaches them to be irresponsible and selfish. This can be something as simple as letting them waste their time to the neglect of their chores, then doing their chores for them when they run out of time. This occurs when they don’t do their homework and get a low grade in a class, but you excuse it and blame the teacher instead. This becomes very serious when they break the law and get arrested, but you bail them out and hire a lawyer to get them off the hook.
Giving freedom without responsibility is a sure way to destroy them and make them burdens on society instead of blessings. Proverbs warns that parents that will not discipline their children hate them (Proverbs 13:24; 19:19). How much worse is it when the parent also intervenes to diminish God’s chastening of them, and I have seen parents do just that. Negative consequence is the teacher of the naive, the proud, and the sinful. Don’t remove the lessons of this teacher of last resorts. All of us have learned some lessons by this teacher, and they are usually learned very well indeed.
The Importance of Purpose
What is the reason for such poor parenting and the tragic results at the expense of our youth?
Primarily it comes back down to purpose and philosophy.
Those who do not understand their own purpose in life
Cannot help their children find theirs.
Those who refuse to follow Biblical principles
In their own life will not be able to help their children do so.
Those who think themselves to be wiser than God will prove their foolishness at their children’s expense. Those who will not overcome their innate selfishness to love their children and seek their good, will ensure their children’s suffering.
As I have mentioned before, you cannot ensure that your children will become genuine Christians, for that is a matter for the Holy Spirit. However, you can ensure that they will know all about God, His character, what He has done and His commandments (Deuteronomy 6:4-7) and have been trained to keep those commandments. You can also ensure you are an example of how to live a godly life. These figure directly into your purpose and goals in this stage of parenting.
Since the goal is to produce a wise adult, then you need to be one yourself. Again, your example will teach your children much more than your words. In fact, if you give wise words that you will not follow yourself, your teens will consider you to be a hypocrite and generally will not listen to you. This does not mean that you have to have lived a perfect life. Do not fall into that trap. I have run into parents who didn’t think they could correct their teen about things even as bad as drug use or premarital sex because they had done that when they were young. If anything . . .
The regrets you have for your past sins
Should be the strongest warning possible.
Don’t excuse the behavior or your teens saying you did the same thing at their age, instead, rebuke and warn them because of it. While it may be true that you overcame those things and eventually did well, do not assume the same will be true for your children. First, they may succumb to even worse sins instead of overcoming them. Second, do not presume on God withholding His judgment on them, for His patience and longsuffering varies from person to person. That was part of Jesus’ warning in Luke 13:4 about those killed by Tower of Siloam – that all need to repent immediately for they are in likewise danger of perishing. In addition, I hope you love your children enough to want them to do better than you, so warn them about the things that have been detrimental in your own life.
Also be careful of falling into the trap of thinking you have to have it all together to either correct or give wisdom to teens. That mindset would lead you to either become a hypocrite or neglect their training.
All you need to do is live
An honest and humble life.
Some of the best examples you will give them will be in your own pursuit of overcoming sin and walking in holiness. Those are lessons they want to learn in their own lives. You will also find that as they get older, they will become helpful to you in your own walk with the Lord. Wisdom and encouragement can flow in both directions.
Since the goal is to raise a wise adult, then your parenting practices must reflect the continued pursuit of that goal. I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping the focus on your purpose. In raising your children, you will have to decide whether it will be according to the wisdom of this world or according to the wisdom of God. If your goal for your children is worldly success – material wealth, fame, power and pleasure – then you will raise them accordingly and reject what the Word of God teaches; for its definition of success is the opposite – contentment, being humble, meekness, and servant-hood.
The goal of worldly wisdom is
Man’s glory and fulfilling human desire.
The goal of godly wisdom is
God’s glory and fulfilling His will.
A pastor friend made this very insightful comment concerning this, “I think for most non-Christians and many Christians, the goal they have for their children is to make sure they can ‘fit in’ or be able to comfortably live in today’s society – be good citizens, know how to handle situations, work with everyone, do well (and be recognized by the world for it) and just ‘be nice.’” These parents care about making sure their kids can live as “stress-free” in the culture today as possible. That would be considered their blessing and their teaching. Of course, that necessitates compromise of godly values, character and wisdom. This kind of thinking is most unfortunate and unhealthy.
My friend’s insight is tragically true and so makes even stronger the emphasis on keeping the proper purpose of parenting in mind. Will you raise them to be wise by God’s standards or the world’s? Raising godly kids takes a lot of effort and it is not for the faint of heart in an increasingly ungodly society. You will have conflicts with your children since they come into this world as sinners. You will have very challenging conversations with your teens as they come to grips with what they really believe and what you have taught them is being challenged by every worldly influence that is brought to bear upon them – school, peers, entertainment, government, employers, etc. You will also find yourself in conflict with other professing Christians who are not at the same place in their walk with the Lord – this will be good when it is done by those who challenge you to think more deeply about your walk with the Lord, and it will be frustrating when it is by those who are in reality just trying to defend their own immaturity and continued bent toward sin.
This brings it back once again to this point . . . What is your purpose? What is your goal? What do you want your children to be like when they are grown? It is the responsibility of the parents to train their children to become wise, responsible adults who can stand on their own convictions even when the world turns against them.
I recently read the book, Lady Jane Grey, Nine Day Queen of England by Faith Cook. She is a good role model for youth. By the time she was 16, she had already developed such a deep understanding and strong walk with God that she was able to stand firm on her convictions though it meant her death. If she would convert to Roman Catholicism, her life would be spared. Instead, in a debate forced upon her by the Queen Mary’s personal chaplain, Dr. Feckenham, a leading Roman Catholic apologist, she not only held her own, but caused him to confess that despite all his learning, it would have been more appropriate if he had been the disciple and Jane the teacher that day. She died the next day under the headsman’s axe bearing witness that she would die as a true Christian woman who looked “to be saved by no other means, but only the mercy of God, in the blood of His only Son Jesus Christ.”
O that such would be the faith
And strong conviction of all our children
That by the time they reach their mid-teens
They would stand firm against all
The pressures the world can bring upon them.
We need to be raising our children in such a way that they will be those who will influence others instead of the world influencing them.
How then do you transition them from childhood to become such wise and responsible adults? Prayer, hard work, patience, and diligence in living and teaching God’s Word.
- Prayer, because ultimately their lives are in God’s hands.
- A persistent surrendered walk because it takes that to fulfill the responsibilities God has entrusted to you.
- Patience, because kids never learn as fast as you would like.
- Diligence because there is always another lesson to teach and an earlier lesson to repeat.
These are also character qualities you want to instill into your children.
There is no magical age when you are done with all of your parenting responsibilities. They learn over time as your child becomes a youth and then becomes a young adult. As they take on more responsibilities, they become more independent of you eventually setting up their own household, and even then, there will still be things to teach them as their most trusted counselors. The age and rate at which children mature will vary by family and by individual child.
You be the responsible parent who trains your children to become mature and responsible adults themselves.
Proverbs 8:32, “Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, For blessed are they who keep my ways.”
Proverbs 23:24, “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who begets a wise son will be glad in him.”
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”