2009-07-01 / Religion

'What Is His Way?'

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
by Benjamin Miller

Proverbs 22:6 is presented to God's people, not as a suggestion, but as a command, "train your children." The Bible makes no excuses about the obligations placed upon those who are gifted with children. God has given parents a moral imperative that we are to train up our children in the way they should go. The contemporary child rearing techniques of "I want to be your friend" parenting is not recognized in God's design of the family. Parents have the God-given responsibility to train their children.

The word "train" indicates a need that is inherent in children. An athlete would not need to train if all of the physical attributes were already present to be successful. Likewise, all children need training. Experts continue to debate over the psychological makeup of a child. Some claim that children are determined to be the way that they are because of their nature; they cannot help but be who they were designed to be. Others counter saying that nurture (or environment) is actually the determining factor in a child's life. A child is a blank slate at conception, a little sponge just waiting to soak in the influences around them. The Bible seems to indicate that both are right to an extent. God has created each individual uniquely, but influences can and do determine the course of our lives by impacting the decisions that we make. Godly parenting is therefore a tremendous influence on the futures that our children will build.

For all that is vague in the Scriptures, one fact in unequivocally affirmed: all are born as sinners (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 3:10). Like metal shaving to a magnet, all men are naturally prone towards the pathway of sin. That is a consequence of the fall of mankind. Left to our own devices, all of us would reject our Maker and choose the stench of sin over the glory of righteousness. Still God is not content with leaving His creation is such a state. How does God seek to overcome this sinful tendency? He gives parents the responsibility to train children in the way they should go.

What elements then are to be parts of our training of a child? First there must be an emphasis on discipline. Discipline recognizes a consequence to every decision we make, good or bad. Discipline is the framework that builds a socially adjusted life. There are many forms of discipline; how you proceed as a parent is between you and God. One aside on discipline though: physical discipline is mandated by God (Prov. 23:13-14). It is not about enjoying the infliction of pain, but about recognizing that temporary, lesser pain might help prevent a greater, lasting pain. All of those who teach that spanking a child is always wrong, you might want to take that up with the Lord.

Secondly, educate your children. Christian parents should not look to the secular education systems to provide our children with biblical alternatives. At this time, the idea of intelligent design (ID) is rejected by secular institutions. The existence of God, the atonement through His Son, and many other biblical truths are not only neglected, but quite often suppressed by the world. Our children will be influenced by something in their lives. Is it not best that we imprint them with the truth of God's Word too? Do not dare to leave your children's lives to chance. God has given you the privilege of eternally changing their lives. Teach them diligently; their lives depend on it (Deut. 4:9, 6:7).

Finally, show your children the benefits of righteous living. Practice the rudiments of Christianity in your own daily walk that they might see in you the way life is supposed to be lived. The Bible is powerless to change us if we do not let it transform us. Likewise, biblical truth is meaningless if it is not experienced in the arena of real life. God's way is always the right way (Ps. 11:7), and our children need to know this. But do not entertain this notion that you as a parent can live how you want but expect them to do what they ought. That is not God's intention (1 Thess. 5:15)). Teach your children about righteousness; model it with your daily life.

Next week's article will address the individuality of each child in relation to these truths. In the meantime, let me be real to all of the parents reading this article. There is not a one of us who have done all that we ought to do as parents. I would be dishonest to tell you that I am the best father on earth, but that truth does not give us an excuse not to try. Every day is a new opportunity to change (Lam. 3:21-23). Let Him have His way in your life, listen to His words, and all will be well.

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