Parenting with a Target
As a church family, we’re going to continue our series this morning on the ideal family. We’re just a couple weeks into this and we have just a couple weeks left and going through this journey together I want us to recognize, when we talk about the ideal family, we’re not talking about the perfect family. The perfect family does not exist. But one of the things that we have acknowledged together in dealing with family relationships, is God really creates family for a place for us to learn and grow, where our own strengths and weaknesses are as we relate to other people.
Anyone can be Godly when you have no one else around you. But it’s not until you have to deal with relationships that you really find how your heart is surrendered to the Lord. And a lot of times when we go through the conflict of relationship, we like to play the blame game on others for how we choose to respond. Reality is, you’re not responsible for how other people choose to behave. But you are responsible for how you choose to live in this world. God holds us accountable to that.
And so family gives us a great foundation for understanding where our hearts are surrendered to the Lord. And so when we talk about the ideal family, it’s not the perfect family. But it’s a place for us to determine in our own lives what is God call me to, and how do I live this out in the relationships around me?
We’ve looked at this together, and starting with the idea of marriage and just relationship in general and talking about the Biblical picture of relationship different than the worldly picture of relationship, because the Biblical picture of relationship is defined in the idea of love and not just any kind of love. We talked about covenantal love. This idea of a love being a love of the will, not just a love of the emotion. A love that is sacrificial, unconditional. In 1 Corinthians 3: 13-8 it tells us it never ends.And then in relating to the idea of conflict, we dealt with not necessarily how to deal with every conflict that we go through, but the attitude to carry into conflict, noting if we carry the mindset of honoring the individuals that we’re having conflict with, it may not resolve the conflict immediately, but the idea of honoring one another through the adversity provides the platform to work through that struggle together.
And so in all circumstances, honor becomes important. In fact, we saw this in Ephesians chapter 5 last week when we discussed the idea of the husband and the wife submitting to one another as to the Lord. Our submission to Jesus is demonstrated through our submission really, to serve one another, for the benefit of the other person. When we think about loving Jesus the way God calls us to love Jesus, well Jesus isn’t physically present. And so what God want us to do is to love what he loves and what he loves is people. He created the church in order to minister to people.
When God calls us in the world, he wants us to care for people. And he understands that when we care for people, we even do that in conflict. When they’re not always easy to love. That’s what Jesus did for us. He honored us in our sin by giving his life for us, that we could find freedom in him. And carrying that attitude in the conflicts that we face in this world provides the foundation to move through them in a Godly way. And so, honoring one another.
Today I want to discuss I think something that is vital for us as a church, especially where with live. Something I’m excited to talk about this morning and that is parenting. The reason I want to talk about parenting, we’re going to talk about children, is that if anyone could find anything relevant out of a message related to this, it has to be the state of Utah. Because we live in the youngest state in America, right? I think the youngest city in America is Eagle Mountain. And so, yeah, I don’t know what that means, but yay! It means there’s a lot of chaos left. But we live in the youngest state in America, so understanding what God’s desire is for children, our roles as parental figures, our role as a church family and caring for young souls, is vital to what God calls us to as a church and not only that, because we live in a young state, I think many of us and being in that parenting stages of life, we are actively seeking God in this topic, right?
I mean you feel like you nail down one kid and then God gives you one completely different. Like, how do you do this? They do not come with manuals. I often joke when we had our first child and I walked out of the hospital, like, I felt like I was doing something wrong. Like, here I come, I’m responsible for this? You guys are going to let me leave with this? There’s no book on how to do this? Right? And so, understanding how to raise Godly children, I think, is the place that the Lord really uses to drive us to our knees. Because doing that in a way in which God has designed us is really beyond us. We need the Lord to do that. I think of my young boys and Micah 6:8, just a verse that I keep in my mind for their lives, that I pray over them. “He has shown the old man what is good, and what the Lord requires of thee, but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” And if I could just see that, the lives of my children.
When it comes to kids, I want us all to think about our place to make a difference. I think about, in our culture today, when we think about all the things we choose to battle over in our society, like, politically, we pretend like, this arena, a lot of big decisions are made. Which there are. But can I tell you? I think the battle for what happens, let’s just say in a scope of our country, doesn’t necessarily or isn’t necessarily fought predominantly in Washington, in our state capital, in governmental positions. While I think those are important, I think the majority of those battles are won generations before, in the shaping of young minds. If you care about the state of your country, the you should care about the minds of the young people. You have an awesome opportunity, especially living in the youngest state in America, with how you influence future generations.
In fact, the Bible says it very plainly in Proverbs 22:6. “Train up a child in the way he should go and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Like if you want the future to matter, start with today, right? The influence of what you do today, it’s saying investing in young people, because it’s shaping the trajectory of the decisions for the future of people around you. I think if we raise Godly people, leadership works itself out. I heard one say the health of a society is seen in the way it treats its children. Adolf Hitler is quoted as having said, I think this is even written in Auschwitz, it said that Hitler said “I want to raise a generation of young people devoid of conscious– imperious, relentless, and cruel.” He knew if he could get the young, the minds of young people, that he could change the trajectory of anything that he wanted.
Children are important. In fact, let’s just start with the question: how does God view children? In Psalms, in chapter 127, it says this. The Lord described the significance of kids, it says, “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward.” So God says in this verse that children are both a gift and a reward. There are sometimes they don’t feel that way, but this is how God describes them, right? Children are a gift and a reward. “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is a man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.”
In this passage, I love… It acknowledges both children as gift and reward, but then it goes on to describe this relationship between really child and parent. It describes the child as being an arrow and a great way to describe a parent I think, you are a warrior. Right? You are a warrior. Arrows, you think about the description. Why would the author choose these two words to articulate in our minds this sort of, this illustration of what it means to be a child and to be a parent. Well, when you think about what an arrow is, an arrow needs preparation. You know, today we go buy an arrow to shoot from your bow and you just go to the store, it’s manufactured nice and beautiful for you. But you go during the time of the Psalms and you probably had to pick it from a tree and shave it down, get it just right. So an arrow needs preparation, it has a purpose, and a target needs to be determined.
A warrior. A warrior, as a parent, the job of the warrior is to discern the target, to shape the arrow, and to release it. A warrior in this sense is a steward of the responsibility of what this arrow’s intended to do. I understand when it comes to parenting, like, kids have a mind of their own. Right? You as a parent, you aren’t responsible for every decision that your child makes. Your not responsible, really, for the decisions that your kids make. But you do help set up the frame work for them to run that [inaudible 00:09:07] which God has called them to in this world. Like, they are going to make choices in their lives, some you will agree and some you won’t. You’re not accountable for those decisions. But God has you in their lives in order to prepare them, to launch them towards a target.
And so the idea of a warrior is saying to us, look, a warrior isn’t an easy job. It is a battle. And you are in charge of the outcome. But God has you in a place in their lives to make an impact in their world. By helping shape them and pointing them towards a target and launching them on the way. And as you go on that journey as a warrior, some of your greatest joys will come from your children. And some of your greatest pains will come from your children.
So in thinking as God describes this in Psalm 127, how do we send those arrows well? Ephesians 6 gives us a foundation for, a base text, for figuring out how God calls us to parent. Some of us, when we think about our philosophy of parenting, we just choose to parent different than our parents did it, right? We just think, well, what they did I didn’t like and so, I’m just doing the exact opposite. So we slam the pins on the other way. And some of us, we sort of just start parenting because we’ve been around parents, our parents were parents, and then we just start parenting and the next thing you know, you start to say things exactly like your mom said, or your dad. Starts freaking you out, right? Now how do we parent? What is God’s plan for parenting?
Well, Ephesians 6 gives this to us. God’s plan for parenting [inaudible 00:10:56] to us begins with a clear target. When you think about kids being an arrow, Ephesians 6, God’s focus for us here in this passage of scripture, he provides for us this target in order to send children on a trajectory. Look what he says: “children, obey your parents and the Lord, for this is right.” When you read the New Testament, the only command given to children in the Bible, in the New Testament. “Children obey your parents and the Lord.” Parents don’t worry. We’ll talk about this next week, all right?
“Children, obey your parents and the Lord, for this is right.” “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise. So it will be well with you and that you may live long on the Earth. And then verse four, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” So what is God’s plan? Well, he’s providing for us a target here, in order to hit a goal. And he gives, really, two commands on verse four for parents. One is a negative command and the other is a positive command. The negative command he says, verse four, “do not provoke your children to anger.”
This idea of provoking means don’t expect more out of your kids then they are able to give. Don’t push them beyond what they are able. Don’t expect a C student to be an A student. Although, if you know they are are capable, maybe put the pressure on, right? Don’t demand them to be an athlete is God has given you an artist. Don’t over discipline them. But the positive command then, which is more giving us the target of where to go, says this: “But bring them up in the discipline and the instruction of the Lord.” The positive command here is this idea of bringing them up. In classical Greek, this word for bringing them up originally began with the intellectual understanding of a child. Training their mind. But as the Greek language developed, this idea of bringing them up came to represent the holistic identity of what a child was, their mind, soul, and body.
And so the encouragement here for you is to consider when you raise your child, how you’re bringing them up holistically. And so the question we ask then is how we do that? How do we bring up a child holistically, before the Lord? And he gives you the two words here: it says in discipline and instruction. You think about these two words, discipline and instruction. Discipline is about what you do, instruction is about what you say. So what you do and what you say deals with the developmental identity of your child.
When you think about the word discipline, I think it’s important for us to consider for a moment, sometimes we think about discipline and it comes with negative connotations. Right? Who wants discipline? Not me. But the idea of discipline defines its identity in the word disciple. They come from the same root. And so think about following after Jesus. Well what Jesus called was disciples. And so learning a discipline is about being a disciple. It’s not about punishment, it’s about development.
And so what God’s got in mind here is the development of the identity of the young person, both through what we do and what we say. And when we have children, I find that sometimes when we rear them up according to these two terms, sometimes we get it backwards. Meaning when kids are young, they can’t take a lot of conversation. Right? Their attention span is not all there. In fact, the idea in a young person’s mind of long-term consequences doesn’t even fully develop in their minds until they’re in their 20s. So when a child is young, saying less and doing more is important. And when they get older, doing less and saying more becomes important. Even when you think about teaching your child about God. When you start teaching your child about the Lord and who they are in light of God, it starts off very simplistic. They just need to understand who God is. And as they begin to understand who God is, what God did.
But as they get older, they need to work through the process of why that is significant. So the child goes from who, to what, then to why. And so the older you get, the point of parenting is to start to release your child to build trust in the relationship, to give them opportunity to become independent, and you start to release your child in the world. And it becomes one of less rules and more independence, but you work with them as a parent to be able to understand the process for why they do what they do.
And so what you say in this passage is, in order to bring up the child holistically in their identity, is both based on discipline and what you do, and instruction and what you say. As a parent, you have a target and a direction of your child. A target allows you to parent out of faith, rather than out of fear. God has a desire for your child. An arrow has a purpose, right? God’s got a target in mind. You help that child reach that target, before the Lord. Discipline and instruction. It’s not about our goal for them, it’s about God’s goal for them.
And when we begin to move in that direction in our parenting for the sake of our children, we begin to parent out of faith rather than out of fear. When it comes to anything you do in life, fear and guilt are horrible motivators. They’re not lasting. When it comes to the idea of parenting, when you compare yourself to other parents or your kids compare themselves to their friends, and that drives why you do what you do, the results are not about what God desires, but rather the pressure that other people put on you.
Worldly pressure, you think of the idea of kids getting into Ivy League schools or being on the best travel ball teams or being the best dancer, athlete, or musician, or the best looks. Whatever it may be. It just, any of that pressure that you put on kids, and I don’t think God is necessarily against these things. But if it’s not who God made your child to be… What God’s more interested in isn’t so much in the activities of children, but rather in their character. God’s most interested in what rests in their hearts.
We can give all the experiences in the world to your kids but lose their soul. So you think in terms of discipline and instruction. It’s the idea of how does this developmentally help my child become who God has called them to be. And that’s great. The world has different agendas and different opportunities of availabilities out there to help my kid and directions that they may be designed for, they may not be. But the basis of determining those things doesn’t begin by the pressure of the world. The basis of determining those things is just to simply look at your child and ask how has God gifted my child and where are there abilities and how can I help them become who God has called them to be, not who the world says they need to be?
And use the discipline and instruction of the Lord to help them there. So how do you speak to your kids heart? If discipline and instruction are important, how do you minister to the heart of your child? I think one of the ways to help speak to anyone’s heart, but definitely it will work with children is not just compliment the result of their behaviors, does this make sense? Your kid gets a home run. Your kid comes home with an A+. Don’t just end your compliment with “That was a great home run.” Or “I’m glad you got an A.” I mean, if your kid is an A student and they bring home an A, they need to be challenged. Right?
If your kid, you know, in math, is a solid C and then they work their tail off and they bring home an A? Right? Little different, but you know what needs encouraged if you want to speak to the kids’ heart, rather than just the accomplishment? If all you compliment, all you look towards in their achievements is the accomplishment, you’re really ministering to a work based attitude. But rather than just look at the result, honor the character that got them there. “Son, I’m glad you hit a home run. But you know what makes me the most proud of all of that? Seeing you dedicated to something. Seeing you work hard, seeing the ethic it took in your life. Seeing how sometimes you didn’t just go play and have fun with friends, but you’re really focused on this and you wanted to achieve this. That’s going to go far in life.”
“I see you’ve brought home an A and I know how difficult that’s been, but you’re diligence in this, if you take that same attitude that you took towards this A and you apply that to anything in life, you are going to go far.” Speak to the character on the inside that brought out the result on the outside. Don’t just speak to the outside results.
And so you think about ministering to the hearts of your children, just recognizing, even in their failures. Finding a place to be honest in their short-comings and finding forgiveness, helping them process through that. As a a parent you have to have a clear target and having a clear target, you parent out of faith rather than fear. But in order to get to this clear target, I think we also need to understand point number two. Point number two I’m going to turn to 1 Corinthians 4 to lay this out for you a little bit more.
Point number two, if you think about in Ephesians 6 where it talks about discipline in this passage. Discipline and instruction is the goal, but how do we teach this discipline and instruction to our kids? 1 Corinthians 4:14, Paul starts to lay this out a little bit more. You have to have a clear target in order to parent the way God calls us to, to do it out of faith rather than fear, and because of what point number two is, which is in order to do discipline and instruct, we have to practice what we preach. In 1 Corinthians 4:14, listen to this: “I don’t write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus, I became your father through the gospel.”
So look at how Paul lays this out here. He says look, your child, I’m your spiritual father and because of that relationship, think about discipline and instruction. I want to see you mature. Look what it says here. “Therefore I exhort you to be imitators of me.” The imitators of me. We talk about parenting with a target in mind. Sometimes I can stretch this out like, where is this target, how do we find that target, how do I know I’m not on the right or the wrong target? Like, I want to send this arrow, what if I mess this up? You know it stresses you out. But I think when we start to consider what Paul says about how we emulate that, I mean Paul writes both Ephesians and Corinthians, which we’re reading from, practicing what you preach becomes important because of what Paul says here is that he wants them to be imitate him. Which literally translates “mimic me.”
Become mimickers of what I do. Do what I do, say what I say. Look at my life and emulate that. That’s how you demonstrate Godliness in this world. And so when you think about with your child, kids learn more by what is caught rather than what is taught. Birds make birds. Fish make fish. You make little yous. Being imitators of what we do is important. You know modeling is a powerful tool to teach people, especially young minds. You know, since I’ve lived in Utah, I’ve lived in Utah longer than I’ve lived anywhere. But you know what’s funny? No matter how long I’ve lived here, the question I get asked more than any other question? “Boy, where are you from?” Because I have an accent. I can’t even tell I have an accent, but I have an accent. You might even see it at some point during this sermon, I don’t know. Maybe you’ve seen it several times. I feel like I sound like everybody else.
But I have an accent. I can’t get rid of my accent. I don’t know how I picked up this accent, like I watched TV as a kid. I’ve listened to people all over the country, but you know where I got the accent? It was modeled. It’s how I heard mom speak in the home. I caught it. Kids learn by what is caught more than what is taught. And when you think about discipline and instruction before the Lord, you are the number one teacher in their lives.
Parenting is an outflow of who you are in Jesus. Discipline and instruction happens in their lives because it first happens in your life. Kids see who you’re surrendered to. Children are born into this world under an authority, but I think it’s important as parents to demonstrate that so do you rest under an authority. You don’t wake up everyday and just determine to do what you want to do because you’re God of everything. There’s already one that has that position, and he made you for a purpose. And walking in that purpose and discovering that purpose and modeling that for your child is important.
And unless you have a walk with Jesus, the idea of determining a target becomes stressful, right? You hit a panic button, you go and try to learn as much as you can, but if you meet with the Lord, out of the outflow of your walk with Christ, comes and inflow into the life of your child. Your walk with Jesus becomes paramount. That’s what Paul is saying in this verse. “Mimic me. Be imitators of me.”
Parents, I think one of the most powerful things you could do is let your kids see your daily walk with God. Even though it may be chaotic, sit down with your Bible in the living room where they’re going nuts and just have your quiet time. Model that. Let them see you under his authority. Show them what it means to confess your sins when you fail. And you can go to your kid and be like, “look, I shouldn’t have responded the way that I did. What you did was definitely wrong, but before you, I just want to confess and say it was wrong. I love the Lord, this is who I want to be.” Kids learn from that.
They just released some research, Ben Trueblood was the one that headed up the research on kids. They were trying to investigate children and what happens to them in the college years and why many kids, about 2/3 of kids once they hit the college age, leave church and about only 1/3 of them return. And so they’re investigating, what happens, why the kids do that, why only a third of them come back to the church. In the research, they noted a few things.
They said one, they noticed that there was a higher probability of kids leaving the faith and not returning if their father didn’t take their faith seriously. Two, they said that kids were most likely to return to church, out of all the kids they investigated, they looked at adults, young adults now into their 20s and their early 30s, and they said out of that age range, when they inquired what brought them back to church, like why all of a sudden did they make the decision to return to church after they left and they found that the most powerful thing they received was an invitation from a parent to go back to church.
Invitation of a parent. So, you think even if a kid walks away from the faith that your influence over them has not ended. It’s more of a wisdom role in their lives, they’re not under your authority anymore, but that influence of mom and dad inviting them into the Lord has not lost its ability to be influential over them.
And the third was this: kids were more likely to stay in church when they had three Godly mentors they could identify with in their congregation. You know what that says to me? How important your role is here. I think about the future of our church and the influence in our community, how important it is to invest in the lives of our young people. To show care for them, to encourage them. So let me ask you, parents, thinking about mimicking or church, how are you modeling? Mom, dad, how are you modeling?
Do you express your frustration the way you want your kids to? Are you generous the way you want your kids to be? Do you serve the way you want your kids to? Do you work like you want your kids to? Do you love like the way you want your kids to love? Do you talk the way you want your kids to talk? Do you drive the way you want your kids to drive? You create little yous. Because when Dad drops to his knees in praying for the family, kids learn something.
John White, I’ll end with this, but John White was doing some discipling. He was part of InterVarsity and he was doing some discipling on a college campus and he went up to a young man and he started to talk to the young man, wanting to just disciple this young man and he asked the young man “what do you want to be when you grow up?” And the young man responded “I want to be like my dad.” And John White, in talking to him, found out his dad was an engineer and he’s like, “oh, that’s great, you want to be an engineer like your dad?” And he was like, “No, I don’t want to be an engineer like my dad. I want to be a Christian like my dad.” He said, John White, in all of his years of ministering to college people, he had never heard that. And he went to that conversation feeling like he was going to disciple this young man, and he laid down his pen and he just started to let this young man share with him all that his dad had represented in his life.
The young man said, “I have never seen a more loving, generous, caring soul in my life. I want to be like my dad.” How does his dad do that? Can I just maybe throw out one thought? He first worshiped. He met with his Lord. And out of an outflow of who he was, he poured into his son. You guys, sometimes parenting is hard. But don’t underestimate the consistency of getting up and being the example despite adversity. Even when you falter, you can still teach them. Speak to their heart. Discipline and instruction gives you the target. You’re the warrior, they are the arrow. Discipline more when they are young, and as they grow, continue to help them think through why they do what they do.
So number one, hit the target. And number two, keep worshiping in your own life so that you can model well. Practice what you preach.