In last week’s Pastoral Exhortation, 5 biblical lessons foundational to Christian parenting were given. A few more lessons vital to biblical nurturing of our children are discussed in today’s article. These lessons are crucial to effective Christian parenting. Parents themselves must be committed to the correction and changes of their habits and attitudes, if they are to spiritually nurture their children for God’s glory.
Impatient parents will drive children to be bitter, disillusioned and uncooperative. We must show them the same longsuffering and patience that the Lord graciously extends to us. Parents must pay attention to not being easily irritated or quicktempered. Colossians 3:21 advises, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Likewise, Ephesians 6:4 counsels, “Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
We cannot be in a hurry to get our children to cultivate godly thinking and attitudes in their lives. We need to have the patience to guide them and help them to overcome their sins, and nurture within them godly virtues. In the process, we also find ourselves being shaped for His glory.
Patience is needed to firm up our children in the way of the Lord. Being patient does not mean we allow our children to misbehave or live foolishly without fear of the Lord. Proverbs 27:5 reminds us, “Open rebuke is better than secret love” (cf. Proverbs 28:23). On the same token, Proverbs 19:18 puts parents in mind of the need to rebuke and chastise their children when they stubbornly err – “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” In addition, Proverbs 13:24 warns, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” (cf. Proverbs 22:15).
Though parenting is full of toil and, at times, even forebodings, Scripture calls us to be joyful parents. Jesus spoke about the joy of motherhood in John 16:21, “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.” Not only the birth but also the upbringing of the child is to be a joyful experience. Psalm 113:9 assures every mother that with the Lord’s help, she can “be a joyful mother of children.” Chastening our children is no easy or enjoyable process for either the parent or child. However, Hebrews 12:11 says, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” A father or mother who corrects the child is advised to say, “My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine. Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things” (Proverbs 23:15-16). Parents who patiently and firmly follow the biblical counsel on nurturing their children are promised greater joy concerning their children – “The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice” (Proverbs 23:24-25)!
Nothing makes children sad and disgusted in a home more than their quarrelling parents. Where the husband and wife remain faithful and sincerely, tenderly and passionately love one another, children will find much joy, encouragement and comfort as they grow up. Do not let our marriage lack vitality or fail. “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:9). Its health is paramount to good and effective parenting. Our mutual commitment and fidelity will be an example for them as they grow up to love their spouses and children. Children should learn from us how to love, forgive, forbear, care, strengthen, provide, protect, respect and nurture one another. Proverbs 5:18 pronounces a blessing on a loving couple’s offspring – “Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.”
Parents should guard against depending on their own wisdom and strength. Apart from the Lord, we cannot nurture our children for His glory. “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127; cf. Psalm 128). Ultimately, we must wholly entrust our children to our heavenly Father’s care. We love our children and desire their good, but have not the power to secure it. Let us trust Him who knows how to give good gifts to His children (cf. Matthew 7:11).
Peter and his fellow apostles prayed for God’s leading in the appointment of a man to replace Judas. “And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place” (Acts 1:24-25). Scripture clearly records in another text that the prayers of the early church for godly men to lead the ministry were answered - “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2).
We need the help of the Holy Spirit in determining the right persons for the offices of the church. The Spirit knows every man’s heart. From the example of the anointing of David as King, we know that in the selection of leaders, God is interested in the spiritual condition of the heart, rather than outward appearance. “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). This is why Peter and the rest of the apostles prayed, “Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship”. If we have to have men of God’s choice in the leadership, we must sincerely seek His mind in prayer, even in fasting.
Another reason why we must pray in our selection of godly leaders is that it is the Spirit who equips men for the offices of the church. The Spirit is the giver of spiritual gifts that are necessary for the offices of the church. “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Corinthians 12:11). So only the Spirit can show who are the men whom He has equipped with the appropriate gifts for the edification of the church.
Even our Lord Jesus prayed all night long, before He chose the apostles. “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles” (Luke 6:12, 13). So let us pray for godly leaders during our prayer meetings on Tuesday nights and in all other prayer gatherings. We must seek God’s will in the appointment of church leaders, in a manner similar to Moses, who prayed: “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation” (Numbers 27:16).