Gen 16: 11-12
There are many realities that you must think about and consider before you get to that point in your parenting. If you do not think these realities through biblically you can really beat yourself up when things do not turn out as you thing they should. Some of the things I am about to say will challenge some of what you may assume, but they are the reality that Scripture presents.
A.) What are these parenting realities?
1. Every child is different.
- This means you must be sensitive to different means and methods in your parenting.
- Many times you can see these differences from birth.
- Some children are submissive and loving, and others are wild and independent. Some children are spiritually hungry, while others could care less (Jacob and Esau).
- Scripture declares that Esau was a wild man from his birth (Gen. 16:12).
- The words “wild man” mean wild ass or wild donkey.
- Look at King David’s heart for the Lord, compared to some of his brothers. They all came from the same parents and the same family, but they were so different.
- Some children are rebellious from their youth. God declared this fact about King Jehoiakim in the Old Testament. God said to this king, “I spoke to you in your prosperity, but you said, 'I will not hear.' This has been your manner from your youth, that you did not obey My voice” (Jer. 22:21). The opposite can also be true. Some children are receptive from their youth to be obedient to God, such as the Prophet Jeremiah or Timothy in the New Testament (Jer. 1:5-10; 2 Tim. 3:15).
2. Some children will rebel even after you have done everything correctly.
- The children of Israel were loved, nurtured, and disciplined correctly by God and they still rebelled: "I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me" (Is. 1:2). Their rebellion was the result of their self-will and sinful nature. This is also why some teens from godly homes rebel too.
- A key principle that parents forget is that a child must “receive correction” for your parenting is to be effective (Jer. 2:30). Your children have a free will.
- Isn't there a guarantee in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it?” This verse must be taken in the context of the rest of the Scripture, which also teaches the free will of man. Your children are not robots. God will not force them to obey His will; they must individually choose to follow Christ for themselves.
- In addition, Proverbs are practical truisms, principles of wisdom, and not absolutes. There are exceptions to the proverbs. One of the best examples would be two proverbs that are right next to each other. See Proverbs 26:4-5. Therefore, the balance to Proverbs 22:6 would be the Jeremiah 2:30 principle.
- The entire book of Proverbs encourages young people to heed the instruction of their father and mother and to choose what is right.
- Scripture also acknowledges that some will refuse to do this (Prov. 10:1; 8; 17; Prov. 13:1; Prov. 17:21). Note the responsibility that is placed on the children in these verses, not the parents.
- Proverbs 22:6 has been greatly misinterpreted even as another passage in the New Testament, Acts 16:31. The promise to the jailer was not that if he believed, then his whole family would automatically be saved too. The promise was that his whole family could be saved in the same manner as he was, through faith. Peter taught the same: “The promise is to you and your children, and to all who are afar off” (Acts 2:38-39). This promise is equally given to all, “if they receive the grace of God through faith just like the parent.”
3. Just because a child has believing parents does not mean that they will also believe.
- The kings of Israel reveal a multitude of examples which reveal the individual choice of children contrary to their parent’s lifestyle. It is interesting that the children of many ungodly kings chose to follow the Lord, and many of the children of the godly kings chose to reject Him.
- Examples: The ungodly King Amon had a godly son, King Josiah (2 Chron. 33:21-34:2). The ungodly King Ahaz had a godly son, King Hezekiah (2 Chron. 28:1-4; 29:1-2). The opposite is also true. The godly King Jotham produced the ungodly King Ahaz (2 Chron. 27:1-28:4). Godly King Hezekiah brought forth the ungodly Manasseh (2 Chron. 29-33). However, godly kings also raised godly sons (Uzziah & Jotham) (2 Chron. 26-27). Also, ungodly kings raised ungodly sons (Jehoram & Ahaziah) (2 Chron. 21-22).
- What do all these examples teach you? It reveals that the example, training, and influence of the parent are important, but in the end, the children must choose for themselves whether or not they will follow the Lord. The Scripture acknowledges this concept of personal decision-making on the part of children. In Ezekiel 18:4-14, the Scripture assumes that the godly will bear ungodly children. This should motivate you to do your best and then commit your children to the Lord. Pray for them continually and trust God to work in their lives as He has in yours.
- The bottom line:
- Why does Jesus tell the story of the Prodigal Son, if this does not happen? The story reveals a rebellious child was a very common occurrence in the time of Jesus. This rebellious son grew up in a home with a loving Father. Jesus only used stories that all could relate to and understand.
- Therefore, you too may have a prodigal son or daughter.
4. You must realize that you are not the final decision maker over your children.
- They have a choice. Samson is one of the best examples in Scripture (Judges 13-16).
- He had an angel announce his birth.
- He had a prophecy given of the deliverance he would bring to the nation.
- He was separated unto God to be a Nazirite by his parents from his birth.
- He had praying & teachable parents who only wanted the best for him (Judges 13:8).
- God even blessed Samson (Judges 13:24).
- But, Samson failed to experience God’s best in his life because of his choices.
- Your children have the final decision on the direction and result of their lives.
5. The reality is that as a parent, you will experience everything that the Father has.
- You experience the joy of creating children.
- You experience the joy of seeing them grow into adults.
- You will also experience the heartache of seeing them make bad choices.
- You will have to learn how to love them in spite of their failings.
B.) How should you react when your children do not follow the Lord?
1. Stay calm and do not overreact. Do not yell and berate them (Prov. 17:27). Do not disown them or tell them you don’t want to have anything to do with them. Remember, God is always ready and waiting for the prodigal to come home.
2. A 30 second lecture (See Part 4 of this series for more information). The less you say is always better, because they simply think you are trying to control them. Explain they must consider consequences.
- Explaining consequences is what God does throughout the Scripture with His people. God explains the blessings that follow obedience and the curses that follow rebellion (Deut. 28 Lev. 26).
3. Use tough love. Love your adult children, but do not enable or support irresponsible behavior. If you do, this only hinders them from experiencing the consequences.
- There are many examples of God and men not supporting evil or irresponsible behavior by others (Is. 1:5; 1 Sam. 15:26).
4. Trust that God will work in their lives just like He did in yours (Ps. 143:8; Prov. 3:5).
5. Never stop praying for them (James 5:16).
- If you want to be an effective parent, offer up your effective fervent prayer to the Lord for your children. Pray for them continually!