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No one can succeed in any task without keeping his goal clearly in mind.
Imagine a baseball team that becomes so wrapped up in their beautiful uniforms, beautiful ball park, and making commercials that they forget about winning ball games. Uniforms and a ball park are helpful - even commercials may be all right - but the players must remember their goal is to win games!
So parents must keep their responsibility clearly in mind. What do you consider to be your goal as a parent? What would it take to make you feel that you had been a success or a failure as a parent?
If you are a parent, you must have proper goals, and you must work diligently toward those goals. Whether you like it or not, if you have children you must recognize that you are responsible to raise your children properly.
Too many parents simply don't want to accept their responsibility as parents. They expect others to raise their children: the government, schools, church, babysitters, day-care centers, or their friends or relatives. Meanwhile the parents pursue other interests.
Some fathers think they will leave the children to the mothers to raise (or vice-versa). Some divorce and leave the home or otherwise desert their children. Some spend too much time away from home pursuing other interests. Some simply don't bother. This is unacceptable.
When you participated in the act that produces children, you accepted the responsibility to care for any child that was conceived. Your children did not ask to come here. You brought them here. Now it's your job to take care of them.
You may say that a child was "an accident" - you did not intend to conceive. But the fact is that, if you chose to participate in the act the may result in a child, then you are responsible for any child that results.
The government did not bring your child into this world. You did. So don't expect the government to raise your child. Likewise, for the church, the schools, the day-care center, and your parents or relatives - none of them brought your children into this world. You brought them here; now you take care of them. Caring for them properly must be your goal.
Titus 2:4 - Young women should be taught to love their children. Love requires caring for them. This is something that can and must be learned. Women who do not learn it will cause God's word to be blasphemed (v5).
Ephesians 6:4 - Fathers are commanded to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. You cannot leave this up to others, including your wife (though, of course, she is responsible too). You are responsible. You have no right to shirk this duty or try to shift it to others.
Genesis 18:19 - God approved of Abraham, because he commanded his children to keep the way of the Lord. He did not leave this duty up to others.
1 Samuel 3:12-14 - On the other hand, when Eli's sons became corrupt, God held Eli accountable. God rebuked Eli, not the schools or the government or even just Eli's wife.
Parents must accept the goal of raising their children properly and must diligently work toward that goal. They must not leave this to others.
Some parents may emphasize goals that are of little importance and could even become problems: physical beauty, athletic achievement, popularity, etc. But there are other goals that parents ought to pursue for their children:
* We should meet our children's physical needs.
* We should provide a good education.
* We should prepare them for life, so they can have a happy marriage and be good citizens and neighbors.
* We may even provide some recreation, entertainment, and enjoyment.
1 Timothy 5:8 - If any does not provide for his own, and especially for his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Christians should provide wholesome benefits for our children (Matt. 7:9-11).
Luke 12:15 - Jesus said, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." He then told of a man who obtained great wealth but neglected God (vv 16-21). When the man died, what good did his wealth do him?
Matthew 16:26 - What is a man profited if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Likewise, what profit are we to our children if we give them all the world has to offer, but they are eternally lost?
Many parents spend long hours working to provide physical things for their children, but they are so busy working that they neglect to give their children time and attention.
Other parents spend many hours with their children in physical or material pursuits: sports, clubs, school functions, music, etc. They are constantly on the run, but the emphasis is material, physical, and social.
I know one lady in the church whose daughter was named high school homecoming queen. The mother said this was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to her. When success in temporal things is our greatest joy, no wonder our children don't serve God! And sure enough, that woman's daughter never became a Christian.
The result of these approaches is exactly what we see in society: children who have hosts of physical advantages but are neither godly nor happy.
I have known families with one old car, no TV, 4-room house, plain clothes, and just a basic education. But the children knew God's will, had close family ties, and grew up serving God faithfully.
Many children today are spoiled by over-providing. They don't appreciate what they are given and grow up thinking the world owes them a living.
Deuteronomy 18:10 - "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire..." Most of us would not think of sacrificing a child to worship an idol. But covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5). Too many parents over-emphasize material pursuits: possessions, toys, education, popularity, beauty, sports, etc. Unknowingly, such parents are sacrificing their children to the idols of covetousness and worldliness.
Proverbs 22:6 - Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Our children will not always have us around to guide their decisions. We must instill in them the understanding and habit of doing right, so they will serve God when they make their own decisions.
Ephesians 6:4 - Bring your children up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Genesis 18:19 - Abraham commanded his children to keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice. This should be the goal of all fathers who are truly faithful to God.
Psalms 34:11 - Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. To accomplish this, we must give our children many things money cannot buy: time, love, instruction in God's word, guidance in dealing with life's problems, an example of godliness, and training in moral purity.
Joshua 24:15 - Joshua declared, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." We should keep this goal constantly before us. With each decision we should ask, "What effect will this have on my child's eternal destiny?"
Malachi 2:15 - What does God seek when He joins a man and woman in marriage? He seeks godly offspring.
Our children are not given us to do with as we please. They are not our property. They are God's children given into our care, so we can raise them to be what He wants them to be.
Suppose our children grow up, get good jobs, have happy marriages, and are good neighbors and citizens, but do not live as faithful Christians. Then they are failures, and we have failed to accomplish our purpose as parents.
On the other hand, suppose our children don't receive college educations, live below middle-class American standards, and are not particularly athletic or outwardly beautiful, but they serve God faithfully. If so, they are successes, and we have been successful parents.
Throughout these studies we will emphasize principles that will help parents lead their children to put God first in life. We are studying how to raise godly children.
[Deut. 4:10; 6:7ff; 11:18ff; Tit. 1:6; Psa. 78:4ff; Jer. 32:39; 2 Tim. 3:15; Matt. 19:13ff]
Proverbs 23:13,14 - Do not withhold correction from a child. You shall beat him with a rod and deliver his soul from hell.
Proverbs 22:6 - Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Because so many children do not turn out well, people frequently emphasize that there are exceptions to this passage.
I believe that a diligent study of proverbs shows that many of them do have exceptions [20:28; 21:2; 22:7,11]. To say there are no exceptions to Prov. 22:6 would imply that the eternal destiny of children can be totally determined by parents, leaving the children without free will.
When children do not turn out well, we should all surely sympathize. The parents need to consider if they made mistakes. If they did, they should repent and ask forgiveness. What parents don't make mistakes?
But the fact remains that Proverbs 22:6 is a general statement of truth!
It is written to give parents confidence that, if they follow God's word, they can raise children to serve God and be saved! In our effort to console the parents of ungodly children, let us take care that we don't give the impression that raising godly children is nearly impossible.
I know a preacher who said repeatedly, "Every family has a black sheep." What passage that teaches that? None! But he believed it, and sure enough he raised two "black sheep." If you think you cannot raise godly children, you are defeated before you start!
Regardless of occasional exceptions, the rule is that, if we do our job right, our children will be saved.
The fact so many people want to talk about the exception to the passage reveals much about the problems in the Lord's church. We are losing the majority of children, and there is no way the verse can justify that!
Instead of making excuses, let us just admit that many parents are not doing their job well. Let us learn from our mistakes and start studying God's word to find out how to do it right!
"Wouldn't it be terrible to have a child who was born with a serious physical or mental handicap or who died young?" Yes. But how infinitely worse to know my child faces torment in a Devil's hell! I cannot imagine any more terrible tragedy that could happen to one of my children. And I may very well determine whether or not that happens.
1 Samuel 3:12-14 - Note that Eli himself was rejected for his children's sins, because he had failed as a parent! (Cf. 2:22-25).
Ecclesiastes 12:14 - God will bring every work into judgment, and that includes our work as parents. When we stand before God to give account for our lives, He will judge us for our diligence as parents.
My job as a parent is to raise my children to serve God. If I don't get my priorities straight so that I raise them to serve God first, He will hold me accountable.
To a large extent, your children's destiny and your destiny depend on whether or not you train your children as God's word says.
Let us not make the mistake of the baseball team that forgot its real purpose. Let us realize the seriousness of our responsibility as parents and keep our eye on our goal. If we have gotten off track and put too much emphasis on temporal things, let us repent. And let us all accept the challenge to raise godly children.
Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
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Copyright 2004, David E. Pratte
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.