Description / Transcription
Let’s pray again. Father, it is with somewhat of a heavy heart that we come this morning, those of us aware of the events in our country again just yesterday, reminding us of the importance of a topic like this, thinking of the next generations, and the way that you might use us to shape them as they come after us. And Lord, we see here written prayer for illumination and we’re reminded just how much we need that. We are sinners and we desperately need the illumination of Your Word for ourself, for our church, for our nation, so help us now. Lord, we pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Well, you can open up your Bibles to Proverbs. We don’t have a particular passage. We’ll be flipping back and forth this morning. But if you want to start somewhere, you can start in chapter 1 as we’ll be continuing our series in the Proverbs this morning, Sunday mornings as we’ve been doing through the summer.
I asked Nathan if he’d be willing to sing that song Little Trees even though I knew it was risky for myself, quite a sentimental fella at points, and I knew that song had the potential to get me, so as he was starting that song, I leaned over to Mike Miller and said “if I start crying, you just go ahead and punch me.” [laughter] And I’m pretty sure y’all almost saw the first pastor punched on the podium before preaching. Lots of little trees in this room this morning, some of them in my own home.
And I must say that my kids have I don’t think ever been more excited about a sermon that I’m going to preach than this one. Not every pastor’s child appreciates being an illustration in their dad’s sermons, but mine seem to have no objection to it, and felt a bit excited about the possibility this could be their one shining moment. In fact, one of my children last night asked if she could see my notes for the sermon [laughter], wanting to read them ahead of time. I’m pretty sure that has never happened before, I’m not sure it ever will again. So they’re excited. I, on the other hand, maybe I’ve never been more intimidated. I’d probably rather listen to a sermon on parenting than to give one. Partly because I had to bring my kids here with me this morning, and so they’re here in the room with me, on strict orders to behave well. [laughter] And partly because I know there are many more experienced parents than myself here in this room this morning. I am a parent of six kids and while we’ve got six in the home, we still yet to hit the teenage years, which is pretty remarkable.
And so preaching a sermon on parenting without having actually put one out into the world yet feels a bit like giving a seminar on how to produce a really amazing car when you’ve never actually seen one go off the production line and onto the streets, you know it can work out there. I wouldn’t be surprised if some folks were thinking “How do you know about parenting? You haven’t even finished one yet.” [laughter] And that’s perhaps fair, but I’m thankful this morning, as you should be, too.
This morning as it is every morning that our confidence depends not on the preacher’s expertise or even experience, but on the authority of God’s Word, which is what we’re looking to this morning, in Proverbs, specifically asking what Proverbs has to say to us this morning about parenting.
And I want to mention that one other trepidation that I have is that in mentioning this is a sermon about parenting, it’s very possible that a good number of you might check out: “Well, it doesn’t apply to me.” I want to encourage you. I think there’s something here for us this morning, for everyone here in the room. I hope that’ll be clear by the end, so I want to encourage you to stick with me as we look through this. What does Proverbs have to say to us about parenting?
Well, the first thing we might notice this morning that Proverbs has to say to us about parenting is that parenting is a priority. We see the priority of parenting. According to Proverbs, parenting is a priority. We might tend, when we’re coming to Proverbs, to be looking for wisdom for ourself. What does this teach me about how I ought to live my life and read right over then the kind of a wavelike repetition of a very important contextual marker. We find it right here in chapter 1, verses 8 and 9.
“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for you neck.”
Over and over in these first chapters of Proverbs we hear these words “my son.” My son. Chapter 1, verse 8 and 10, 1:15, chapter 2 verses 1, chapter 3 verse 1 and verse 11, chapter 4 verse 1 and verse 10 and verse 20, chapter 5 verse 1 and 7, chapter 6 one and 20, 7 one and 7:24. My son, my son, my son, my son, my son… Over and over and over again. In fact, it’s chapter 8 that we come to in Proverbs which is the first time when we don’t begin a chapter with a direct mention or address to sons.
And so, all the wisdom that’s contained in these first seven chapters, much of what we’ve been looking at over the past few weeks in this series on Proverbs, is communicated within the context of an address from a father to a son. Indeed, nearly everything in Proverbs, all the wisdom that we’ve been discussing, could be said to be either explicitly intended for or either implicitly intended for parents to be communicating to children as they pass on wisdom.
Proverbs is a book about wisdom. But it contains wisdom given in a context that communicates something very important to us, and that is this: That wisdom gained is meant to be wisdom given. Wisdom gained is meant to be wisdom given, and God intends among other means to use Christian parents to do that.
Bruce Waltke has written kind of what is generally considered the preeminent commentary on Proverbs, acknowledges there’s a royal court setting for the origin of much of these proverbs, but he also highlights the home setting as the place for much of their dissemination. He highlights references to the father and sons in the prologue as literal references. The lack of evidences for schools in ancient Israel. And even highlights the references to the mother as putting things beyond reasonable doubt that indeed the home was the place where God intended through the Proverbs to communicate wisdom to children. In some, he says, Solomon intended to transmit his wisdom to Israel’s youth by putting his proverbs in the mouths of godly parents.
We’re blessed here at Christ Covenant Church with a wonderful children’s ministry, a fantastic youth program. We have an amazing school here that is part of the ministry of this church. My family is blessed by all three of those. We have other schools in our community. We have homeschooling going on and all of these are wonderful gifts around us. We wouldn’t want it otherwise.
But Proverbs is reminding us that when it comes to parenting, this is something that cannot be farmed out. The central, most fundamental education of our children is something that must be given from parents to their children. There is no outsourcing for this. And so if you have children in your home, then God means for you to be the central means of their education, especially their spiritual education. And so parenting is priority work.
Of course, it’s possible to prioritize parenting, prioritize your kids, but prioritize the wrong things in the parenting of your children, and so Proverbs also tells us that parenting is a work with particular priorities. Namely the passing on of wisdom and of fear, fear of the Lord. Passing on of wisdom, Proverbs 4:1-5 and 10 and 11, or 15, verse 20. Chapter 4 verses 10 and 11: “Hear, my son, and accept my words that the years of your life may be many. I have taught you the way of wisdom. I have led you in the paths of uprightness.”
Or passing on the fear of the Lord. We see in verses like chapter 2, verses 1 through 5, and 23, verses 15 through 17.
Chapter 2: “My son, if you receive my word and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find knowledge of God” and it will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
Passing on wisdom and passing on the fear of the Lord. Of course, these aren’t really two separate or totally distinct priorities. They’re really more of one as Proverbs 1:7 and 9, 10 tell us. The fear of the Lord is what? The beginning of wisdom. Wisdom is living life in light of reality. And the ultimate reality in life is God, and so living with wisdom is living life in the reality of who God is, in right relationship with God and all that He has made.
David Hubbard, commentator, says that fearing the Lord is reverent obedience which extends outward from our inner adoration and worship of God to our everyday conduct, that sees each moment as the Lord’s time, each relationship as the Lord’s opportunity, each duty as the Lord’s command, and each blessing as the Lord’s gift. It’s a new way of looking at life and seeing what it’s meant to be when viewed from God’s perspective.
And so, when it comes to our children, we’re not teaching them fundamentally just to follow Allah. Rather, we’re teaching them to know, to love, to trust, and to obey a person. We’re leading our children to Christ, and to walk in His ways.
That’s what we should want for our children. It’s the priority of parenting. Of course, there are so many good things that we could do with our children, or teach to our children. Good things, even important things. Things like throwing a ball, or learning how to thread a needle, perhaps memorizing multiplication facts or practice of social etiquette, how to balance a budget or change a tire, prepare for an interview, or even find a spouse. These are not unimportant things that communicate love and help our children grow into whole people.
But what is the essential thing? To fear the Lord. To know and to love Christ, who is the way and the truth and the life.
We could do everything else and if as parents we neglect this one central thing, then we really have missed all that parenting was to be about. That’s the priority of parenting.
It’s the priority of parenting and it presumes then a certain motive. It presumes a particular posture of parenting, a particular posture towards our children that should animate and drive faithful parenting.
We have six kids in the home, as I mentioned, and I like to joke that we have six kids ’cause I’m raising up farmhands. My anticipation is that at some point in the near future I won’t have to do yard work anymore, that maybe perhaps more because I’ve gotten no yard left to actually work than I’ve got willing and ready hands to help me work it. Six kids and a dog can be hard on grass. You throw in a couple of trees and you’ve basically got the equivalent of a couple of really good hardworking goats in your yard, although I think goats are cheaper than our plan.
But it raises an important question, and that is this: What are we raising our kids for? What are we raising our children for, or whom are we raising our children for, for their welfare and benefit or for ours? Again, we don’t tend to think of Proverbs, perhaps, as a mushy book or a tender read, but consider again much of the context laden with this tender address of “my son,” a familial address.
Chapter 3, verses 11 and 12: “My son, don’t despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of His reproof, for the Lord reproofs him whom He loves, as a father, the son in whom he delights.”
Or verse 13, chapter 13, verse 24: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”
Proverbs assumes that love and delight in children serves as the proper motivation, the appropriate heart posture for parenting.
Of course, if you actually are a parent in the room, as I am, then you know the unfortunate reality is that our sin often gets in the way. We’re so prone to replace God’s goals for our kids with our own.
Paul Tripp says it this way: “When it comes to our children, we tend to replace God’s perfect law with a sorry human second best. Somehow, some way God’s law gets replaced by our law, a law that’s sadly driven by our craving for affirmation, control, peace, success, and reputation. So we make selfish, impatient, and angry demands on our children, treating them like indentured servants, who exist to lessen our load of daily chores and to make our lives more comfortable. The fact is that our children weren’t created or given to us for our sake, but for God’s sake, and for their good.”
How easy it is to be concerned with our children’s behavior, not because of how it reveals their hearts, but because of how it rather reflects on us. Not how it affects their relationship with God, but how it affects our relationships then with others, or even perhaps our opportunities, our little moments we get to relax.
It’s with regret that I would share I know there’s been Sundays here in this congregation, where what has animated my response to my children is a greater concern with what you all might think of me than what they might come to think of God. And that not ought to be the motive for our parenting. We must parent our kids from love. They must know that we love them. Of course, that doesn’t dictate necessarily a certain set of behaviors, it doesn’t mean a specific quota of hugs and kisses each week or a particular bedtime routine, or that we’re at every single extra-curricular activity, but it bears asking. Are you parenting if you are, are you parenting out of love? Do your kids know that you’re parenting out of love?
Or as we’ve already seen, love is more than a feeling. Love wants true good. It aims at the true good of another, and so love necessarily then leads to action. Proverbs tells us the father who delights disciplines, and the father who loves reproves. And so a right posture in parenting dictates then a particular practice of parenting. What’s that practice look like?
Well, Proverbs 22, verse 6, is a kind of a classic text, easy to refer to when it comes to parenting: “Train up a child in the way he should go and even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
That word “train” includes both aspects of ritual commitment, like setting something apart for a sacred or a holy or a special purpose, but it also includes an aspect of instruction, of seeking to shape behavior according to a certain set of expectations or goals.
Again, with six children in the home, it might be appropriate for some of you to ask why would you think about adding a dog to the mix. And almost two years into the experience, I can assure you that we have asked ourselves why did we add a dog to the mix. Some of you know our stories. We’ve had some help from some, some good neighbors and friends who know a little bit more about training animals than we do, but there’s one thing that is abundantly clear that I’ve learned, is that training is not something that happens by accident. Whether it’s training a dog to stay put or whether it’s training yourself to run 26 miles or whether it’s training a child in the way that he should go, training is something that must be intentional. Training is something that only happens with intentionality.
But how do we train up our children in the way that they should go? Well, that of course, involves more than we could cover this morning, but I just want to mention four, quickly, four aspects, four vital practices about parenting that we can see in Proverbs this morning.
A couple years ago my daughter Ellie walked into the kitchen and I’m sitting there studying or reading or working or eating or something, whatever I was doing at the kitchen table, and she interrupts and asks me a question, which I thought was an excellent opportunity to dive in some kind of theological treatise about an important aspect of life. I can’t remember exactly what it was, only that about halfway through my eloquent speech, she interrupts me, just kind of blurts out, “You know, this is the great thing about having a pastor for a dad, is that he can turn absolutely anything into a sermon.” [laughter]
I’m not sure if that was meant to be a compliment or not, as a pastor, but also a dad. The reality is we, you don’t have to turn everything into a sermon, but parents must be about the work of instructing their children.
Chapter 1, verses 8 through 10, Proverbs 2:1 and 5, 5:1-7, 7:1-5, or 23 verses 22 and 23.
Again, chapter 1, verses 8 through 10: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are graceful garlands for your head and pendants for your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.”
Faithful Christian parents must instruct their children, and that involves far more than just giving them some facts about life and leaving them to interpret them for themselves. It involves teaching them God’s law, God’s Word, including what they should pursue and what they should avoid. We’re teaching them where they ought to go for life.
Popular wisdom today would say, many would say, that it’s best just to let a child determine their own way. Not put pressure on a child regarding a certain religious tradition or faith expression, really just give them the facts, give them all the options and let them choose for themselves. Or even perhaps when it comes to the issue of gender – best to let the child decide for themselves rather than to instruct the child, patiently but persistently over time how to live life consistently with the biological gender that God has given to them. Leaving the child to determine things for their own way is not the biblical model. Christian parents are to teach their children a particular faith in a particular God, in a specific savior, and how they ought to love him and show their allegiance to him, for which he is owed, what that allegiance looks like, how to live a life of repentance and faith. Ultimately, how to love the Lord with everything they are and with everything they have.
Deuteronomy chapter 6, verses 5 through 7 says “you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your might, and these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you arise.” In other words, pretty much all the time. So in planned and regular ways, like family devotions or taking your kids to church and talking about the sermon, afterwards or perhaps in taking your child on a weekly breakfast outing, also in responsive in the moment kinds of opportunities where questions come up like on a hike through the woods or perhaps popping in at the kitchen table, definitely lots and lots of repetition. Lots and lots of repetition.
We’ve been catching up on summer packets in our home. That’s what you do in the last three weeks of summer. We have different children with different personalities who see these summer packets with different levels of importance. I’m not sure if their teachers gave different instructions regarding whether they should do them or not, but at least one child’s told me “it’s not important, I don’t even have to turn it in. In fact, it’s stuff we’ve already done, I already know it.” And I’ve been trying as a good dad, coming alongside the teachers to encourage this child, that you know, it’s not just whether you’ve done it once or been able to do it once, but whether you’ve mastered it through repetition. Repetition is necessary in instruction, and yet how weary we as parents can often grow through repeating things with our kids.
Perhaps you’ve been known to say as I have, how many times do I have to tell you this? I’m so tired of repeating myself. And yet, we could ask the question, why are we so surprised? Repetition is a necessary part of instruction as a parent. Many times over and over much time, I’ve often found myself in those moments when I’m saying to my kids or wanting to say to my kids, how many times do I have to tell you this? How many times am I going to have to repeat myself, that I am particularly helped by reminding how much repetition I need from the Lord myself.
The reality is that I have the same problem as my children. Shouldn’t I know this by now? Haven’t I already been taught this? Why am I repeating the same thoughts, the same words, the same behaviors? Our problem is the same. It’s not merely for us and for our kids a lack of information. It’s also a rebellious heart. We are not just blank slates, simply waiting for the right information to be written on them; we are born with a bent, with a soul direction and that bent is decidedly away from God, and in hostility towards others, which means that we need as humans, sinful fallen humans, more than instruction, we need correction.
Proverbs 22:15 says “folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.”
According to commentator Michael Fox, that’s Michael V. Fox, not Michael J. Fox, although he might be in the commentating business as well, I’m not sure, “folly,” Michael Fox says, “is the willing refusal to make moral choices.” The willing refusal to make moral choices. So it’s not just silliness, it’s not just childish ignorance, it’s willful refusal bound up, Proverbs says, in their hearts, and we might add, in ours. It’s not something that people just grow out of by getting older. It must be driven out of us by parental correction and ultimately by the grace of God. But it reminds us that the greatest threat to our children is not the sin that is out there. The greatest threat to your children, to my children, to our children, is the sin that is inside here.
And so Proverbs assumes that if we love our children, then we will be about correcting them through both reproof, that is verbal correction, and through the rod, physical correction. See this in Proverbs 3:11 and 12, it’s mentioned in 13:24, in 23 verses 13 through 14, or 29 verse 15, which says “the rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”
Proverbs assumes that both verbal correction and some kind of physical consequence are necessary in parenting, which brings up a delicate but important subject. Andreas Kosternberger says that if a child is left to his or her own devices, the only predictable outcome is shame. Some today find physical discipline deeply troubling if not poisonous pedagogy. And it may be good reason for that, given lots of awful experiences and misuse. Yet, he says, the inspired book of Proverbs presents discipline, including physical discipline, as part of wisdom, and thus the appropriate use of it should not be ruled out for Christian parents today.
It’s important as we think about that to recognize that a sinful application of a passage like Proverbs 29:15 was just as much possible in the day it was written as it is for us today, and as they needed to then we need to now recognize that we need to be very careful in how we imply this kind of instruction. We have to emphasize appropriate use. So while it should go without saying, it can’t, that correction must be done correctly, and that is with love and not out of anger. It’s so easy to correct out of anger. It’s so hard to correct out of love. Because correcting out of love requires sacrifice, it takes time. Anyone who’s done it and done it well knows it takes time. It takes effort. It takes significant self-control, and it is so often terribly, terribly inconvenient to discipline and correct and your children well.
But Proverbs is clear that instruction and discipline must be characterized by a willingness to put our children and their long-term needs ahead of ourselves and ahead of our immediate wants. The effectiveness of both the teaching and correcting will really depend on that.
It’ll depend on two other things as well. Mention them briefly. Knowing your child and growing yourself. Knowing your child and growing yourself. Again, Proverbs 22:6 says “we train up a child in the way he should go.” Of course, the reference here is to training a child to walk in wisdom, seeking to orient them to walk in the light of God’s revealed will. But there’s another possible sense at play here, where it says literally according to his way.
Derek Kidner notes that this implies respect for the child’s individuality and vocation, though of course not for his self-will. We can look at our child’s hand and note fingerprints, fingerprints that remind us that we parent inherently unique persons. There are unique aspects of who we are as individuals, which God has designed into us from birth. And if we don’t recognize that as parents, then we run the risk of squashing and even exasperating our children.
One implication of this is to remember that we’re not parenting ourselves. God’s goal for our parenting is not that we should turn our kids into smaller versions of ourselves, or perhaps even the selves that we wish that we were. Our children are not our second chance at our best life now. They are unique and individual souls with unique gifts and desires that they must grow to understand and to steward for God’s glory and part of our job as parents is to helping them to discover and to steward those very things. This implies that what we desire to see happen in our children in Christ is not the replacement, but the refinement of their unique personality and passions. We have a fixed standard in God’s Word which we must apply to our children, but that’s to unique persons, whose own temptations and gifts and opportunities and challenges will certainly vary from person to person.
So, a few questions. Is your child strong-willed? Are they sensitive? How do they respond to discipline? Are they easily crushed? Do you take that into account in how you discipline them? Have you noticed particular temptations which seem to be a greater struggle for an individual child? Are they especially prone to addictive behaviors? Are you paying attention to the things they they’re curious about? What do they seem to love? Are their particular aptitudes, desires, or passions that they demonstrate, and are you encouraging those?
We must be learning our children so that we can train them well.
And finally, we must be growing ourselves. Proverbs 20, verse 7, says “the righteous who walk in his integrity, blessed are his children after him.” In other words, consistency matters. Long before our children can follow and understand a family devotion or where it’s appropriate to give some measure of corrective discipline, they can sense our love for Christ in the way that we love them. And as they grow, they’ll see whether we cherish the faith that we commend. Our children will learn to sense whether the faith we commend to them is something we actually cherish for ourselves.
Have your little ones caught you having a quiet time at the kitchen table? Or with head bowed in prayer? Have they overheard you speaking about an opportunity you had to share Christ with a neighbor or a coworker? What do they see you prioritize, and how you spend your money, or what do you seem to get the most excited about? What do they observe in the way that you relate to your spouse? Or what about repentance? Have our children seen us, have my children see me, demonstrating repentance? Have they seen me fighting sin? Have they heard me ask for forgiveness? Have I asked them for forgiveness? We certainly have opportunity.
In fact, growing ourselves may not only be one of the first ways that we can point our children to God, but one of the last ways as well. Well after our children are in our home and under our authority, we can continue to pass on wisdom, to raise up the next generation by modeling how to walk well with God over the long haul. How to persevere, how to age well in Christ, or even how to die well in Christ.
We think about Proverbs again this morning, and it is one of the great ironies and tragedies that the very one to whom so many of these Proverbs are attributed, Solomon himself, wisest man who ever lived, at some point he stopped heeding that wisdom himself. That is, he did not finish well, and then neither did his son, and so we might wonder whether it was his words of wisdom or the witness of his life that had a greater impact on the trajectory of those who came after him.
Which raises a very sobering question for us to consider this morning: Are you trying to pass if you’re a parent in a room, are you trying to pass on a faith that you no longer cherish for yourself? Are you trying to pass on a faith that’s grown stale in your own life? And so perhaps for some of us then this morning, even with kids in the home, the call is not to recommit ourselves to godly parenting, but to recommit ourselves to God. To recommit ourselves to following Christ, teaching, correcting, knowing, growing. There are four practices involved in training up a child in the way he should go.
But what about the apparent promise that when he is older, he will not depart from it. It seems to be promise of many of the Proverbs that we’ve considered this morning, promises like chapter 10 verse 1 and 15 verse 20, a wise son makes a father glad. Chapter 23 verses 15, 17: My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart, too, will be glad; my inmost begin will exalt when your lips speak what is right. Or chapter 29 verse 17: Discipline your son and he will give you rest, he will give delight to your heart.
Those are good words. They are hopeful words, which ought to be an encouragement for weary parents in the room this morning. Parenting is certainly wonderful work with many wonderful and sweet moments, but I know that it can be exhausting work as well.
So these are important reminders for the generational consequence, the enduring impact of all these incredibly difficult little moments, incredibly demanding moments that come with parenting. You’ve heard it said that in parenting the days are long but the years are short. For those of us that are parenting, our moment for shaping will soon be over, and by God’s grace it’s possible that we will be able to enjoy some of these delights. The delight of watching our children walk in the wisdom and the fear of the Lord we labored so hard to pass on. And if so, it would certainly be one of the greatest delights to our souls.
But I know that there are many who have parented their children, not perfectly, but faithfully, consistently with the very principles that we have looked at this morning, yet sadly their children, some of your children, are not walking with the Lord. And so what is the promise of faithful parenting? It’s important to remember there the genre of Proverbs, that proverbs are brief expressions of truth, which by nature can’t possibly say as one has said they’re all there is to say about a topic. Or we might say, proverbs are like the tweets of the Old Testament.
There may be no more important topic in which to emphasize this than parenting. There are not absolute laws, they’re not unconditional guarantees. They are reflections of the way that life generally works according to the order of God’s world and the general trajectories of God’s grace. And they point to the complete and ultimate justice of God’s ways that He will bring about in the end, but in the meantime while they provide wisdom that we should live by, there is significant variance in the ways that some of us experience their outcomes. It should be said that in the end our children must choose for themselves whether to receive the instruction and correction of their parents. To adhere to the Word of God, to follow Christ for themselves.
There are many proverbs written to children as well as to parents, calling them to receive and to respond and warning against the rejection of God’s Word. Parents cannot secure this for their children.
And so while these outcomes are given to us obviously as a means of motivation to educate and motivate us, we should pursue the life they prescribe primarily because we trust the heart and the wisdom of the one who’s giving them to us. And this case, while I know that every parent in this room who loves Jesus Christ desperately wants for your children to do the same, that our final hope is not bound up in the lives of our children, but’s bound up in the love of our Father, a Father from whom as we are faithful in parenting just as if we are faithful in anything, again for all those who faithfully, not perfectly, but faithfully follow Jesus Christ and seek to live a life pleasing to Him, can expect to hear one day, that blessed word from God “well done, good and faithful servant.”
And so with that in mind, let me just mention three brief concluding thoughts, applications really.
First of all, connecting to children. Children, I said, I was going to speak to you this morning. I hope you’ve paid attention. This is a reminder. Your parents are not perfect, your parents are sinners just like you are, they need the same, the very same grace that you need. They will fail you, inevitably, in their parenting. But Proverbs reminds you that when your parents discipline you in love, when they are teaching your, when they need to correct you, this is a means of God’s grace to you, this is God’s gift to you and it benefits you not to resist it, but to receive it as such.
Or connecting to the church. Proverbs is consistent with the rest of the Bible in presenting parenting in its ideal as a two person, two gender job. Really, flowing out first where family life is led centrally by the father. Of course, that’s the ideal and we should be thankful for it and seek to as much as we can model our lives after it. But the real is at times very far from the ideal.
One commentator has said that Proverbs present a single component of truth that must be fit together with other elements of truth in order to approximate the more comprehensive confused pattern of real life, and in real life, there are single-parent homes. In real life, there are homes where only one of the parents is a believer. There are homes where young believers live without a believing parent to mentor them. There are children without any parent at all. In real life, there are young parents without believing grandparents, or anyone there to mentor them in the training of their children in the Lord.
And so while parenting cannot be farmed out, it needs to be said that parenting must be supplemented. The truth is that no parent is sufficient in and of themselves. We need community, we need youth staff and volunteers, we need leaders for Timothy Project and Seek the City. We need Sunday School teachers and pastors. We need Set Free support groups for parents. We need aunts and granddads and visiting missionaries and neighbors to help parents in this great task. One of the greatest benefits I have received in my life of vocational ministry, both ministering to college students and ministering now to young professionals here at Christ Covenant Church is having my children grow up surrounded by godly young men and women, Christ-seeking young women and men.
I’m not sure that I’ll know the impact that you all and many others have had on my children this side of heaven. And so in the church it’s a blessing that parents are armed with support and that we all have an opportunity then to join in on this parenting effort to raise up the next generation.
In fact, that opportunity extends beyond the Covenant children of our church. As we come to the New Testament, we find beautiful expansion of the use of familial and parental terms, like in Galatians 3:7: “Know then that it’s those who have faith who are the true sons of Abraham.”
Or the way that Paul speaks to Timothy, “To Timothy, my true child in the faith.”
Or to Titus, “To Titus, my true child in a common faith.”
Or the way that John writes: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
The reality is is that through evangelism and discipleship, parenting is a vocation that’s open to everyone in the church, which is so relevant to where we are today as a church. We are continuing to move forward, as you know, towards implementing a good number of these recommendations from the Strategic Vision committee. If you were trying to loop all of those together, tie them up with one common thread, though, we might say they all really center around one idea is that we would become increasingly effective as a church at making disciples who are equipped and able and eager to go and make more disciples. That is, to fulfill the Great Commission. What Christ commissioned us to do, to raise up the next generation of followers of Christ.
That’s why we’re talking a lot about things like the 4 E’s because they’re necessary components of this work, engaging, evangelizing, establishing, and equipping, to do the work of discipleship. It’s why we’re emphasizing the importance of intergenerational and inter-lifestage relationships. Not just it’s something good if it happens to happen, but something worth aiming for, and even structuring ourselves to try to make sure that we accomplish because we want to be a church that passes on wisdom, rooted in a fear of the Lord, from one generation to the next.
So connecting to the church and finally, connecting to Christ. How does this point us to Christ? It’s an important question we’ve been asking to throughout our series on Proverbs. Well, first of all, through highlighting our needs. I mean, the reality is that what our kids need most of all is something as parents we are utterly insufficient and unable to give to them. Our children need more than a law to follow, our children need a new heart, and that we simply cannot give. And so we pray, so we go to Christ. Folly may be bound up in our hearts, but all of our hopes for ourselves, all of our hopes for our children, they are all bound up in Jesus Christ.
Or perhaps it’s through our regrets. I couldn’t make it through preparing this sermon without staring face-to-face with some of my own inadequacies and failures as a father. Some of my own regrets as a dad. Where do we go with the sting of regret that comes from our parenting? We go to Christ.
Or perhaps it’s through our disappointments. I’m encouraged with the work that I see God currently doing in my children, but I don’t know what the future holds for them. Maybe you were faithful in your parenting, but as of yet you’ve not seen the kind of fruit that you long for. Where do we go with disappointment with our kids? We go to Christ, who says “come to me all who are weak and weary, and I will give you rest for your souls.”
And finally, these reminders about the nature of faithful parenting, help us to better appreciate what it is, exactly what it is that God is doing in our own lives, all that He’s doing in our lives, for those who are in Christ, God has become our father. And so it’s in that context of grace, of being a child of God, that He’s going to use, that He is using, that He has used and will use, all of our sins and all of our successes, all of our failures, and all of our faithfulness, all of our greatest joys, and even all of our deepest sorrows, to discipline us, to teach us to rely on Him more, to trust Him, to love Him, to find our greatest hope and joy and satisfaction in Him.
To finish up, we look at Hebrews chapter 12, verses 5 and 6, where the author actually quotes Proverbs, verses 11 and 12 of chapter 3. He says “and have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?” Then quoting Proverbs: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him, for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.” And then he adds this: “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons.”
What a great word. God is treating us as sons. God is treating us as daughters. Or as 1 John says it, “see what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God.”
And so it is, miracle of miracles, that we are.
Let me pray for us. Father, thank you for this time to consider a significant and perhaps lengthy topic, admittedly not a lot of time to do so and yet to try to search the riches of Your Word to speak to us about how we can be better, more faithful parents, and about what we could hope for in our kids, but where we need to ultimately place our hope and trust, and pray that in all of this we would be encouraged that the work that you’re doing in our lives, that your parenting of us is a priority to You, of your posture of love towards us, or the way that You faithfully teach and correct us, the way that You know us individually, and Father the promise that because of this You, Christ, will receive glory, a heaven populated with children who know and love the truth, so that in that we look now and rejoice in Jesus’ name. Amen.