Sunday Sermon: ‘Train Them in the Way They Should Go’

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One of my favorite TV shows is the Andy Griffith Show and one of my favorite episodes on that show is the one where the spoiled kid moves to town. Recently I found this condensed version on YouTube.

There is a lot of good ol’ common sense in that short clip. Today I want us to focus on an important verse of scripture from the book of Proverbs-

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

I. The Proverb of Probability

First of all we need to understand that Proverbs 22:6 is not a promise; it’s a proverb of probability.

A. Not a Promise

As we have said many times along the way, there are no guarantees in raising children. There is no magic formula that says:

A + B will always = C

Every child has an individual will and with that will they choose whether or not they will walk with the Lord.

B. A Proverb of Probability

Proverbs 22:6 is not a promise; but a proverb of probability. A proverb is wise saying. Solomon’s wisdom is that if we do all we can to raise our children in the Christian faith, the probability is that they will remain in the faith once they grow older.

II. The Process of Parenting

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

The great object in parenting is to help our children choose the right way in life. The Bible teaches us that there are two ways each of can go:

1. The Way of the World
2. The Way of God

Our job as parents is to help our children choose the right way which is the way of God.

A. The Way of the World

One of the mistakes many parents make is to underestimate the influence the world has upon our children. Some experts believe that the average child is exposed to over 50 hours per week of TV or some other form of entertainment media. In addition, the average child spends at least another 30 hours a week with friends and peers, many who aren’t Christians. Compare that to less than 100 hours a year in church and it’s not hard to see where the greater potential for influence lies. The average child is constantly being bombarded with a philosophy of life that is completely opposite to biblical Christianity.

The Bible says –

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

B. The Way of God

1.  According to the Way of Wisdom

There is the way of the world, and there is the way of God. God’s way is the ‘way of wisdom.’

Proverbs 4:11 I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.

The goal of every parent is help their child understand and embrace God’s wisdom. But how do we do that? How do we raise a child according to God’s way?

2.  According to the Way of the Child

There is also another interesting angle for interpreting Proverbs 22:6.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

‘The way’ can mean “God’s way”, and it can also mean “the child’s way.”  Train up a child according to the child’s way. What does that mean?

The first time I was ever exposed to this truth was from a book written by Bible teacher, Chuck Swindoll in his book, You and Your Child. I strongly encourage every parent to read this book. In it Swindoll writes-

“We receive our children from the hand of God, not as soft, pliable lumps of clay, ready to be molded into what we think they should become. Each child comes with a set of abilities, intellectual capacity, and a way of perceiving and thinking, all of which were endowed by God.”   [1]

a. The Two Bents of a Child

It might be said that every child has two bents –

– A bent towards good
– A bent towards bad

b. Train Them According to Their Bent

i. According to Their Bent Towards Good

Children aren’t born perfect, but they are born with a great deal of innocence. Small children have a natural hunger for the things of God. They love to read Bible stories and to hear about Jesus. Therefore, we as parents need to do all we can to cultivate that good that is in their hearts for as long as we can.

How do we cultivate the good? Again we refer back to our passage of scripture-

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

The phrase ‘train up’ has a rich meaning. It can mean:

– To train
– To dedicate
– To Inaugurate

Probably the best definition is

– To stimulate

This word is the root of the Hebrew word for ‘palate’. It was sometimes used to describe the process of a nursemaid rubbing some crushed dates on the roof of a child’s mouth in order to stimulate their taste buds.

We can’t force feed biblical principles to our children. We must stimulate their taste. How does a parent do this? I think that there are two powerful way to stimulate your child’s taste for God’s wisdom:

(I) By making it real and practical

Deuteronomy 6 says that we should ‘talk of it’ as we go through daily routines of life. We should look for opportunities to discuss God’s wisdom with our children and to weave it into the fabric of their lives.

(II) By modeling it before them

Perhaps the most powerful thing we can do is model biblical principles before our children. I can’t guarantee you that if you live out God’s Word before you children that they will always buy into it and follow. But I can about guarantee you that if you don’t – they won’t.

ii. According to Their Bent Towards Bad

Children are born with a bent towards good. Unfortunately, they are also born with a bent towards bad. Every person is born with what many call a ‘sin nature.’

Romans 5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners…

That one man who introduced disobedience and sin to the world was Adam. When Adam sinned in the Garden, he not only broke the Law of God personally, he also brought sin into the human race. We are all born with a bent towards evil. The Bible says

Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

One translation says -“Foolish ways are deep-seated in the heart of a child.” (BBE) The word ‘foolishness’ can mean folly or mischievousness. It can also refer to one who is quarrelsome and who despises wisdom.

Though a child is born with a great deal of innocence, it doesn’t take them long to learn how to sin. The Bible says that if that child is left to themselves, they will eventually bring shame to their family. Every child must come to the point of receiving Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and then be discipled in the ways of God.

According to Paul, there are two basic steps to discipling a child in the things of the Lord:

– Instruction
– Correction

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

(i) Instruction

The word ‘admonition’ means instruction. It refers to instilling something in the mind. We have already said right much about parental instruction. Deuteronomy 6 tells us that biblical teaching in the home must be consistent, repetitive and practical. Each and every day we should look for ways to instill God’s wisdom in our child’s heart.

(ii) Correction

Instruction is good, but instruction alone is not enough. There is also a need for correction. The word ‘nurture’ refers to the whole instruction of a child which sometimes includes chastening and discipline.

Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

(a) The Rod

There are a variety of opinions concerning the physical disciplining of children. Some believe in it and others do not. Regardless of which way we lean, we must realize that Proverbs 22:15 deals with something much deeper than just the issue of spanking.

(i)The Rod – a Symbol of Authority  

The word ‘rod’ is sometimes translated as ‘scepter’ and other times as ‘staff.’ A scepter is a rod that a king carries that symbolizes his authority. A staff is a rod that a shepherd carries and uses to help protect his sheep. The ‘rod’ Solomon refers to could mean an actual paddle, or it could be a reference to the parent’s responsibility and authority to correct their children when they go astray. Discipline is a way of protecting our children from the dangers of life.

 (ii) The Rod – a Symbol of Correction

Many years ago I was taught something very important about spanking. If we do spank, it should not be with our hand. The parent’s hand is a symbol of love. The rod or paddle on the other hand, is a symbol of correction.

(b) Of Correction

How you choose to discipline your child is between you and God. However, as parents we must understand this – Every child needs discipline in order to properly develop. Interestingly enough, according to the ONLINE ETYMOLOGY DICTIONARY, the word ‘discipline’ and ‘disciple’ have the same origin. Discipline, conducted in the proper way, is a part of the process of discipling.  Consider these words from the book of Hebrews –

Hebrews 12:5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth , and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Someone once told me that God is not an abusive parent. I agree wholeheartedly. But after I thought about what they said for a moment, I responded back by saying– ‘Neither is He a permissive parent.’ God does what every godly parent should do. God disciplines His children in order to correct them and to produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

11 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.

(c) Correction vs. Punishment

Let me point out something very important here – there is a great difference between correction and punishment.

Some parents punish their children with very little positive results. They yell and scream at them for every little thing and then they paddle them so much that it becomes a game. Tammy and I did not yell at our children and we would not allow them to yell at us. As far as paddling goes, we never did it anymore than what was absolutely necessary.

Swindoll writes –

“Too often I’ll see a mom or dad lean down and say in a stern voice, ‘I told you not to do that …(swat)!”  The blow doesn’t come as a lesson but as a punctuation mark. It’s impulsive, rash, purposeless, often brutal, and only teaches the child to fear the parent. The rod is a tool that has a specific purpose and it requires proper technique.”

If I could add anything to that it would be this- abuse (whether it’s physical, verbal or emotional) will not only cause the child to fear the parent, it will also cause the child to tune the parent out. There are a lot of creative ways to get the message across to our children without abusing them. I once heard Bible teacher Dennis Rainey say that he once took his daughter’s bedroom door off the hinges until she learned to not go to her room and pout.

The biblical  reason for discipline is to help our children learn a valuable lesson-

Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap

Children must be taught to take ownership for their decisions. They cannot go through life always be the victim. They must learn that if they make good decisions, they will reap a good reward; and if they make bad decisions, they will reap a bad reward. Learning that one lesson can help change a person’s life. Too bad many adults have never learned it.

Conclusion

Over the years I have read a number of books on parenting in order to try to learn as much as I can about what to do and what not to do. From my years of studying this topic I have gleaned six important truths:

Successful biblical parenting requires us to-

 1) Diligently teach our children biblical truth

2)  Model biblical truth before them

3) Integrate biblical truth into their daily lives

4) Help our children become personally involved in serving Christ

5) Continuously offer fervent and often heartbreaking pray for our child’s spiritual well-being

6) Shield them from negative outside influences

There are no guarantees in parenting, yet there are some great probabilities. The probability is that if we will faithfully train up our child in the way he should go: when he is old, he will not depart from it.


[1] Chuck Swindoll, Parenting, From Surviving to Thriving

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