by Larry W. Bailey
After Solomon died, Rehoboam was to be made king of Israel. The people asked him for more consideration than they had received in the past. Rehoboam asked counsel of the "old men, that stood before Solomon" (I Kings 12:6). However, I Kings 12:8 tells us "he forsook the counsel of the old men ... and took counsel with the young men that were grown up with him." Consequently, the kingdom divided -- Israel versus Judah. That was according to the Lord's word. Rehoboam brought trouble upon himself and God's people when he refused wise counsel. The older, wiser men were ignored and he was misled by listening to foolish counsel.
Today, Christians who have grown to maturity ought to teach those who are younger in the faith. In Titus 2:3-5, the "aged women" are taught not only how to behave but to "train the young women" as to how they are to live. In II Timothy 2:2, the inspired writings show that "faithful men" are to teach others the gospel. Knowing the gospel and living the gospel provide us with spiritual "exercise to discern good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14). In Hebrews 5:12-14, the point is made that as time goes by, we ought to grow up so we can help others with the truth.
You Christians would do well to listen to older, faithful men and women who serve Christ, for they have gained knowledge about right and wrong that will help us to be faithful if we apply it. This is true regarding the training of our children. God has given us this responsibility (Psalms 127:3; Ephesians 6:1-4; Proverbs 22:6). We, however, don't have to "go it alone." There is God's wisdom (James 1:5; Judges 13:8), and there is help from older, faithful Christians.
This writing is intended to supplement an article written by Gardner Hall, "If I Were a Young Parent." I want to add some Scriptures and a few personal observations and a few applications. It has been my privilege to know Gardner and Gartrell Hall. Brother Hall preached where my parents began worshiping when I was six. I still have my notes on many of the sermons he preached in the years I was there. Sister Hall taught bible classes there when I was young and I still remember some of those early studies. The teaching they gave me, and many others, through many years, proved to be true and my respect for them grew to almost limitless bounds. In this area of child-rearing, they must be respected because they taught children that when grown went the way of the Lord and the children have taught their children to walk in the light of the Lord. From this family, several gospel preachers have come and wives of gospel preachers. Judging from outward fruit, they are all interested in the Lord and faithfully doing His work.
These people raised children who now serve the Lord -- in these times of open rebellion against God and His truth. That is a great statement. The article, "If I Were a Young Parent," I first saw in the mid-70s. It puts in print many things I heard from the Halls and things which I saw them live. It is good material for young parents who are Christians. As young parents, every one of us ought to be greatly concerned about the Bible's teaching contained in these pages and about the given too.
Living as a faithful Christian is serious business. If we are faithful we have the promise of this life and one in eternity (I Timothy 4:8). If we do not obey the gospel, we look forward to eternal separation from God (II Thessalonians 1:7-9). Part of our responsibility (those of us who are married and have children) in living as faithful Christians is to raise our children as God wants (Ephesians 6:4; I Timothy 5:14; Titus 2:3-5). God wants all to be saved (I Timothy 2:4) and that certainly includes the children of His children.
Those of us who are parents and Christians must realize that there is far more to raising children than the world thinks. Like people of the world, we will care for our children until they can "take care of themselves." We will see about their education, manners, friends, etc. But we should try to center all of their learning, even the basis of their lives, in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the Gospel. One day, they will grow up and be gone from us. Let us now, while they are very young teach them we are not our own. We were bought with a price by the blood of God's only begotten Son (I Corinthians 6:19-20; Acts 20:28) and that our lives are given to Him (Romans 12:1-2). Even begin this kind of preparation of accepting your responsibilities before you marry or before you have children.
Many parents of the world produce happen, well-adjusted children within the framework of this present world. Christians strive to produce children who are happy and well-adjusted because of the relationship Christians have with the One who made the world and all that's in it. We want our children to grow and live in this world but have citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20). To raise children who are happy here but who have no hope of heaven must be a saddening and terrifying experience.
Faithful Christians will take this responsibility seriously and pray for God's wisdom. Like Manoah, we ask God to "teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born" (Judges 13:8). God gives us this child-training responsibility and we must do His will. Eli was held responsible for his boys (I Samuel 3:10-18). We cannot push our children off on grandparents while we work two jobs or spend a lot of time in sports or civic projects and have God's favor. We cannot please God and commit our children to babysitters or daycare centers and hope they learn what they need to know. NO! The responsibility of my children falls on me and yours on you, and we cannot give it to someone else.
I remember my college days. For two years, I attended a private college that had very strict rules in some areas. Some parents sent their children there so the young ones would be "reformed." It hardly ever worked. What the parents failed to do in 13 years was not going to be done in a few months by a school. Even if the young ones came out better than they went in there was still no credit to their duty-evading parents. Really, it showed them to be what they were, spiritual failures (in this area) because the children doing better showed them to be of a material that could and would do better but the parents could do "nothing with them." What a shame it is for some institution or organization to be given charge of the molding of the son or daughter of some "faithful Christians."
The daily lives of parents ought to set an example for children. Things like daily Bible reading and prayer, done from faith, show the children where the heart is in the parents and where it ought to be in them. Children see clearly if the parents love of the Lord and His truth or if all that "church-going" is a put on. Very early we ought to begin training them to love the Lord as we do; for, in the beginning, a child does as the parent. However, as they grow in mind and body their faith ought to stand in God, in men (I Corinthians 2:5). We give them the basis of faith when we diligently teach them the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
Our training must be continuous and consistent. The Lord knew that not all teaching of the law could be done once in the life of a child but must be done over and over to get the job done (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Reminders are often necessary, but explanations of the truth are always essential. Tell children why. Don't expect them to know, that is our job as parents -- to show and teach.
One more point on being consistent -- both parents ought to say the same things. What dad expects should be what mom expects. Untold harm is done when one parent says "no" and the other (maybe even being the back) says, "Oh, go ahead." It is hard for me to know what more harmful thing can be done to a child's concept of authority than to know that he can play one parent against the other and get away with almost anything. In order for this not to happen, it is necessary for the parents to communicate. They also need the same spiritual standard. This is especially important when both parents are Christians.
Sometimes it becomes necessary to punish a child for wrong or for failure to do what is right. Punishment may take many forms -- from spanking to revoking privileges to a "good talking to." With each action of punishment, an explanation ought to be given. "Just because I said so" is hardly good enough for an initial response to "Why?" Explain right and wrong, what is expected and why punishment is given. This takes more time and effort but is certainly worth it -- both in establishing permanent behavior patterns and gaining respect in the child for the parents and the rules (authority).
The Bible teaches that punishment is necessary sometimes (Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 23:13,15; 29:15,17). Spanking is not beating a child until there are bruises or until the child is injured. Spanking is not abusing -- that is -- if it is done from love and concern for the well-being of the child. We teach our children not to run into the street (especially without looking) because of the danger of being hit by a car. Almost daily there are cases of young children being killed because of darting in front of a motor vehicle. We want to avoid that. (Of course, this is not to say that children killed in such a manner had no training in this area. Perhaps excitement or something else made them forget. But we probably all agree that this kind of training has helped prevent other accidents of this nature.) So we teach, warn, and still, if the young child does it, we spank to emphasize the danger. Our words are wise and until the child can mature and see that wisdom for himself. The spanking produces an incentive not to dash into the street again. The spanking becomes a tool of love (Proverbs 13:24). How can those who refuse this kind of punishment or warning teach a 2-year-old not to pull hot pans off the stove or not to run into the street or to stay away from any of the other dangers in their home environment? Scolding looks, stern words, or parental examples which are not reinforced mostly fail at such early ages. If the children learn they can ignore the scolding words and looks, and do as they please when only 2 or 3 -- just picture them at 13 with over ten years of experience at getting their own way. The picture is one of haughtiness, selfishness, and complete disregard for others and for authority.
Our love should be shown to our children. The bible teaches us to love them (Titus 2:4-5). The affection parents feel for their children will cause good to be done. In fact, it is the best we can do for them. Generally, we want to be with those we love. That certainly should be true of how we feel about our children. I have seen many parents who were so busy "going" while the children were left to babysitters (maybe even grandparents) that the children hardly go any time with the parents. The family is rarely ever together if this is the situation with even one of the parents. Often this "going" of the parents is for good causes: PTA, community services, etc. By the time a "night out" is added, the week is gone and many opportunities to show love by sharing our lives with our children are gone forever.
I was once advised by an older preacher not to have so many classes or Gospel Meetings that they would be allowed to come between me and my family responsibilities. I believe that his advice is wise. Sometimes preachers will go away from home for six or seven meetings (weeks) in a row and the wife and children are left behind. In that kind of situation, there is no way he can fulfill his responsibilities as a husband and father. The Lord requires me to seek the kingdom first (and I must) but He also requires me to be the spiritual leader of my family and that includes training my children (Ephesians 5:22-6:4). While I am out trying to "save the lost," if I neglect my children to the point that they are lost, I will have failed God and them.
I don't know how we are going to manage to slow down, but Christians must see the need to take time to be with their families. Much of what God requires of parents takes time -- lots of it. Today with both parents working or the husband working two jobs or lots of time being given to hobbies and "good projects," our families are just disintegrating. The world and the things in it are unimportant in comparison to going to heaven (Luke 12:15; Matthew 16:26). Often, we don't live like it, do we? What are we really showing our children by our lifestyle? Where is the emphasis put in my house?
The work of the local church, of which we are members, often is put behind all of the things we must do. Even when we do make it to Bible study and worship at mid-week, it is such a rush after work, ball practice, scout meetings, etc. that we quarrel with one another getting ready -- rush to the meeting place with little or no spiritual preparation and thought. When we sing and sit in Bible class, it is then difficult to put our attention on spiritual things. That lifestyle does little to teach children the values of Jesus Christ and does less to motivate them to want to become Christians.
We should attend worship assemblies and Bible classes because we love the Lord and want to be close to Him and those of like precious faith. We should teach our children why we do such and live so as to have our lives match our words. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to teach our children why we do such and about the Lord's church if we as members of it (and specifically of a local congregation) are not properly functioning members of the body (I Corinthians 12:12-27).
I want my children to see the local church as it should be. That includes me working as a faithful part of it. I want my children to grow up and be faithful members of the Lord's church. That is my ultimate goal for my entire family. Really, some Christians fail to raise their children to be faithful to the Lord because that was only a secondary goal in their younger years. The real goals in the lives of some have been things like sports, education, jobs, possessions, marriage, friends, etc. All of those things are nice when we realize that our entire beings are to be centered in Jesus, the Christ of God. We are His servants (Romans 6:16-17) and He is to be first (Colossians 1:18).
Finally, what if your children are grown and gone? Is there nothing in this for you? What if your children are not Christians? Is there no hope? There is a fantastic opportunity for older, faithful Christians. It is to help those who are young and yet have to learn the many things they have must learn. Help the younger to be strong and show how they can follow Christ and overcome temptations (Titus 2:1-8). This can be done by showing things that are right and by showing the weakness of unfaithfulness. In other words, tell the younger ones what works and the mistakes that don't work. Don't sit back with the "they made their bed, now let them lie in it" attitude.
If your children are not faithful Christians then study your past as a young parent. You'll find areas where you did not act wisely and spiritually faithful. Talk to your children and explain what it is to be a faithful Christian. Explain why you have changed your life since they were young. For your sins, which all of you know, confess them and ask the Lord's forgiveness (I John 1:7-10). By living as a faithful Christian, you set an example. By teaching, you explain what they must do. By acknowledging your faults and appealing to the Lord's mercy, you strengthen their confidence in you. Then there is hope.