Do you ever have those times when you are aching, aching for wisdom as a parent, for knowledge to raise godly children? Aching with this massive responsibility that has been given to those of us with children.
I have three.
Three children for whom God has given me responsibility.
Three children for whom I will be held accountable to my Creator as to my parenting.
Some days there is this ache.
Other days there is nonchalance.
What's with that?
Looking back, I can see so much nonchalance in the early years. Was it a result of exhaustion? I don't know. But even if it was, that does not justify it. I can't tell God I was just too tired to raise godly children. Pretty sure that won't hold water, nor should it. I used to joke “Thank God for Colin Buchanan” as I comfortably shifted my responsibility onto a stranger to teach my children of God. Don't get me wrong, I love Colin, but it's not his responsibility to teach my children the things of God. It's mine. I remember sighing with relief when our children were accepted into a lovely Christian school. I distinctly remember the moment I thought, “good, they'll be able to teach them heaps of things about God”.
Why is that?
What was wrong with me that I didn't want this job, this calling, this responsibility?
I was happy to discipline but in my mind this was separate from instructing them in the ways of God. I wonder now, is it really a separate thing? Or is this one of those things that we have separated for our own convenience but really is all one thing in God's eyes? Isn't the point of all discipline to bring about a knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil? How could I have thought that I could do that successfully and leave out the Creator, who defines good and evil? The same Creator who makes the mark in the sand.
As I look at our society I don't see a whole lot of godly teens and young adults. Where have we gone wrong?
There isn't much respect for parents any more.
There is little honouring of elders.
There is little obedience of those placed in authority.
There is little striving for godliness.
We have youth leaving the church, as a whole, in droves. I recently heard one pastor say that current statistics show that only 0.5% of children raised in the church remain and grow spiritually, seeking holiness and righteousness. A drop from 14% in one generation. What's with that?!! Where have we gone wrong? So I started to pray and seek God for answers, these past few months. To wrestle with Him and beg him for answers. For if I didn't ask, what if I made the same mistake? To state that my children have 'free will' is to over simplify the situation.
Amongst other things He led me to Psalm 78 this week. This is what I read. He's speaking about the children.
“Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands” (v7)
In the previous 6 verses God lists a whole lot of stuff we are to do if we want this promise – if we want out children to “put their trust in God”. And so I started writing it all down. Not wanting to miss a thing in my ache to satisfy my responsibility and bless my children. It's not rocket science really but having said that, there was stuff here I wasn't doing.
Firstly we are not to hide from our children the past works God has done in our own lives and in the lives of others, down through history. We are to tell the next generation of “His power and the wonders He has done.” I thought of my own life. My parents did this for me. Not only did they read us biographies of men and women of God, enabling us to see their faith in action, but they also told us of how God met their own personal needs. His consistent faithfulness. I distinctly remember in my teens a period where I struggled with my faith and it's reality. I found myself unable to deny God's existence because “I had seen too much”. I had hundreds of memories of God answering significant prayer in my parent's life. That is a legacy of pure gold they have given me. God help me do this for my children!
Secondly, in verses 5-7, God commands the parents to teach the children God's law, statutes and commands. The whole of scripture, not just the Sunday school stories. How can they grow if they are never fed meat? Jesus says is Matthew 5:17-20 that we are to teach all of his commands for if we don't we will be called “least” in the kingdom of heaven. “Least” is not something that I want to be called. Not because I'm greedy for position, but because above all else I yearn to please my Heavenly Father.
“If you love me, you'll obey me”...though it cost you.
So what do I teach them? I teach everything.
From Genesis that God created the world pure and perfect and that sin destroyed it;
From 1 Thessalonians that they are to be God pleasers not man pleasers;
From Timothy that God can call a very young timid, man with gut problems to lead his church and he wasn't to let his fears stop him;
From Psalms I can teach them about angst and waiting on God;
From Job I can teach about how the blameless can still suffer but not because of their sin but because they are blameless;
From Exodus I can teach them about how God hates complaining and when we go through difficult times we are to give thanks;
From Proverbs I can teach the importance of wisdom and it's leading in my life;
From Esther I can teach how our God is a God of strategy in times of huge political upheaval...
There is so much.
It is a blessing to teach.
I have to teach the whole because the whole is there for a purpose.
We need all of it.
To leave out something is to put God's word out of balance.
The Psalmist goes on to list the consequences of not teaching the whole of scripture.
He says if we don't do this, we'll have stubborn, rebellious children who are not loyal to God (v8)
and wimp out in spiritual battles (v9).
Spiritual cowards do not keep God's covenant and refuse to live by his law, they forget the wonders God has done for them (v11),
continue in their sin (32)
and finally end up living a futile life full of fear and terror.
That is not something I want for my children.
Once again, fear does not come from God, unless it is a Fear of God himself. It's interesting they talk here about spiritual battles because I learned recently that in the old testament, children were called to be raised for battle and were expected to participate in battles, both physical and spiritual, by the age of 20. The Israelites were called to raise warriors. I am called to raise spiritual warriors – to raise children who know how to identify evil, attack evil and defend themselves in the process. How will future generations know if our generation wimps out on our calling?
Isaiah 48:17,18 says that is is God who teaches us what is best for us and our families, that when we pay attention to His commands we have peace and our children have peace (Isaiah 54:13), but for the wicked there is no peace. (v22).
Do I want righteous peace for myself and our household?
A resounding YES!
Then I actually have to apply these principles. Only pharisees read the word, learn what it says and then declare that it doesn't apply to them. Deuteronomy 4:9 says “be careful”, “watch yourself closely” so that you don't forget what God has done and don't forget to teach your children and then teach them to teach their children. Why the warning? Because I will easily forget. History has proven it.
God help me embrace this privilege, this blessing! Support me LORD to be a responsible parent. Forgive me for the mistakes I have made in the past. Thank you for your salvation Jesus Christ.