When I began my ministry in Alexandria, Virginia in December, 1980 my pastor gave me a job description. It was a brief summary of my duties and a standard by which success would be measured by my performance against it.
I took that one-page document and made several copies of it. Rather than putting it in a file folder and forgetting about it I kept it before me. I taped a copy on a small writing table hidden just above my left-hand desk drawer. Several times a week I reviewed my job description to help to keep me on track and make sure I was pleasing my boss. Soon I had it memorized.
The key to success is discovering God’s design for every area of life and fulfilling it. Each institution God established (the home, government and church) and relationship (marriage, parenting, friendship) has a specific purpose and design. If we would have His blessing we must discover and implement the practics of those purposes. Ignoring God’s design will bring frustration, conflicts, failure and painful consequences.
Does God have a job description for parenting? The answer is yes, He does indeed have a very clear and measurable design to be effective parents. Discovering it is one of the most important things you will ever do in your life. As a pastor for almost thirty years I have learned that the vast majority of people, whether believers or unbelievers, are clueless about God’s design in parenting.
God’s role for parents, especially fathers, is in Ephesians 6:4. I believe that the most important instruction in all of the Bible on parenting is in this passage of Scripture. It is imperative that we understand what it means and practice it. Here it is.
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) It’s a brief job description – only twenty-one words, sixteen of them are monosyllables. A simple sentence, but implementing it will have a lasting positive impact on your child.
Contained in this job description are four primary tasks: one negative and three positive. If we would have godly, obedient, and productive children each of these responsibilities must be at the core of our parenting strategy.
I think that most parents have a heart to do what is best for their child. However, for most of them it is a hit or miss proposition. They just do the best they can hoping everything will turn out right. To be honest, none of us get it exactly right. It’s often been said that we are better parents after our children have grown than when we were raising them.
There is a better way. Parenting is a skill that can be learned. The methods are given in this commandment from God to parents. We are not left to our own thinking and hoping all will somehow shake out right. Remember, hope is not a strategy.
In full disclosure I want to make a very important statement. Caring for these four responsibilities are not a magical formula that promise a life of parenting without any challenges. Your children still need to make a decision to follow your training. God, Who was the perfect Father, placed Adam and Eve in a perfect environment and they still rebelled against Him. He wasn’t at fault, it was their choice.
But they did return to Him. I think one reason was because each of the four components of parenting were practiced by God toward Adam and Eve. He still “parents” His children using the same methods and wants us to do the same for our kids.
The foundation to all of the four components is the first one – “…fathers, provoke not your children to wrath…” For the next several weeks we’ll look at what this means in very practical ways.
I believe that I will give an account to God one day for the quality of my stewardship as the father of my children. While I have made my share of mistakes, I have earnestly tried to follow God’s template, His job description, in Ephesians 6:4. May I challenge you to write it down on a card and memorize it.
If you’re a parent, one day God is going to ask whether or not you followed His pattern of parenting your children. And if you’re a young person reading this (or someone older) that refused to follow your parents’ leadership, God is going to inquire as to why you did not respond properly to your parents’ training.