Parenting is a lot of work. It is not the responsibility of the church, the government or the school to raise our kids. We can delegate portions of our tasks, but we cannot delegate the responsibility of it to anyone. God gave that to parents.
One reason it is so difficult is that it is not a “one size fits all” approach for all of your children. Each child is special and different and it requires an understanding of how to teach and motivate them.
The best known verse on parenting shows this individual focus – “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) Note that the Bible doesn’t say “Train up your children” and “when they are old, they will not depart from it”. The focus is on the individual child – “a child…when he is old, he will not depart from it”.
Our job is to train each child. Training is different than teaching. Teaching is telling; training is showing. Training is more difficult.
The word “train” (Proverbs 22:6) means “to initiate and dedicate”. It was used of a Hebrew mother crushing the date fruit and massaging the palate of the child to initiate the sucking reflex. In a real sense the parent gives the child their tastes early in life – music, philosophy of life, approach to friendship, being a giver or a taker, living for the eternal or the temporal and other areas, most of which the parent has no idea that training is occurring.
We are to train our children. This is a responsibility of a parent and one of the keys to being successful in the task. Do you have a plan for training your children? Is it just a haphazard approach where you just hope for the best? Someone wisely said, “Hope is not a strategy”.
Two areas are crucial in training your children. There are others, but these are foundational to everything else.
First, train them in the ways of God. This is one of the most important things you can do for your child. It is not enough to give them rules, they need to understand the ways and principles by which God works. This will give them wisdom, but also put them on a fast track to spiritual leadership as they see life from God’s perspective.
A fascinating truth on the subject of the ways of God is seen in the life of Moses. The Bible says that, “(God) made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.” (Psalm 103:7) Moses knew the ways of God: the nation of Israel only saw His acts. In other words, Moses knew why God did what He did; Israel just saw the fruit of it.
Now, it would be a great thing just to see the work of God! I love to look at the sky on a cloudless and moonless night and stare at the stars. I am overwhelmed at the mighty creation of God and to see what He has done.
It is totally different to know the ways of God from the acts of God. God’s ways show how He operates and what He blesses. Both are important, but leaders knew to know the “why”, not just the “what”.
Here is a simple guideline to the ways of God: they are contrary to the way we think and opposite of our natural inclinations. Here’s a Scripture that teaches this.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Here are some examples of the differences in our way and God’s way.
Our way is to be assertive and step on people to get ahead. God’s way is to humble yourself and to serve others (I Peter 5:6; Luke 18:14).
Our way is to get all you can and can all you get; to focus on making a lot of money. God’s way is to be generous and focus on helping others realizing that God is our source (Luke 6:38; Philippians 4:19).
Our way is to live it up; eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. God’s way is that we die to our own desires that we might discover true joy and life (John 12:24).
These are just a few examples, but they are crucial that we might have the favor and blessing of God on our lives. We train our children in God’s ways when they not only hear us teach them, but also see us model them. We have about twenty years of their lives to impact them in the ways of God for the rest of their lives.
A second vital area in parenting is that we train our children for the will of God. You are not training them for a vocation alone, but for that which God made them. Successful parenting is when you help your child discover God’s purpose.
I don’t mean that you tell your child what they are to do with their life, but that you put them in a place where they are able to find God’s plan. Let me give a personal example. When I was a teenager I wanted to be a football coach and a studio musician. Both of these were strengths in that I knew football well and was an adequate musician planning on getting better. The last thing on my radar was to go into the ministry.
God called me to go into ministry, but my parents put me in a good place to hear God’s voice and know my purpose. They didn’t push me that way (and I’m glad for that), but they trained me for the will of God.
As a father I have never pushed any of my children to go into the ministry. If they do, that would be wonderful, if that is God’s purpose for them. If they go into business, education or any other honorable profession I would be very pleased, if that is God’s purpose for them.
My job is to train them for the will of God. That doesn’t mean a place or destination, but the kind of person they are to be. If they are the right kind of people and have a surrendered heart to God then they will end up in God’s purpose for their life.
There are two prayer requests that I have asked of the Lord for all of my children from the day they were born: (1) that they would be pure and clean and (2) that they would do the will of God for their life. Both of them are related. I knew that if they would do God’s will that they would be successful, no matter what they did.
George W. Truett said, “Success is finding the will of God as early in life as possible and doing it”. I believe that and want my children to believe and practice that, too.
Parenting is the most difficult task we will ever do, but it is the most rewarding, too! May God guide you as you train your children and your grandchildren.