Sunday Sermon: ‘Nurturing Them in Their Faith’

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Please take your Bible and turn with me to Ephesians 6:4. Last week, being Father’s Day, I preached a message from this verse on the importance of fathers and the impact they make upon their children. Perhaps some of you will remember the illustration I used about children preferring their dads to be their playmate.

“Studies indicate that, by the age of 20 months, children are as attached to their fathers as their mothers, but significantly more responsive to play initiated by their fathers.”[1] As a matter of fact, these same studies show that 7 out of 10 children actually prefer their fathers to be their primary playmates. [2]  This is not to take anything away from moms and their importance in the lives of their children. We all know that no one can replace mom. But this does emphasize the importance of fathers. Let’s consider once again what Paul teaches us in the book of Ephesians.

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

Although this is only one verse of scripture, it contains two very important commands:

– one command has to do with what fathers must not do,

– and the other command has to do with what fathers must do.

I. Fathers, Do Not Provoke Your Children to Wrath

Many translations say, “do not provoke your children to anger.” The New Living Translation says, “do not exasperate your children.” Paul is not telling parents to always pamper their children and do nothing that will ever make them mad. Paul is not saying, “Do no ever tell your child, ‘No.’” As we will see in next week’s study, appropriate discipline is a part of instructing children. What then is Paul saying?

Paul is commanding fathers to not do things that will produce ‘bitter resentment’ in their child and thus cause their child to close their spirit. Paul repeats this command in Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so they won’t become discouraged.” (NASB) Normally one single event doesn’t bring exasperation. Exasperation develops when the same annoyance occurs over and over again.

Notice the danger of causing children to become exasperated. Exasperation leads to discouragement. Literally the word Paul used here means that the child will lose their ‘passion for life.’ They will give up. They will shut down.

What can produce exasperation in the heart of a child? Consider how the Amplified Version of the Bible interprets Ephesians 6:4 – “Fathers…do not exasperate them to the point of resentment – with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them…” Notice, a child can become exasperated when:

– ‘There are demands made of them that are trivial or unreasonable’
– ‘When there is verbal or physical abuse’
– ‘When they are humiliated’
– ‘When they observe favoritism being shown among their siblings’

That’s what Jacob did with his sons. He favored Joseph over the rest of his sons and as a result, the ten oldest sons became exasperated and grew to resent their father.

That’s the negative side of this verse. What is the positive side?

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

II. Fathers, Bring Your Children Up in the Nurture and Admonition of the Lord 

Parents, and especially dads, have the awesome privilege of helping their children come to Christ and receive Him as their Savior, and then follow Him as Lord.

A. ‘Bring them up…’ 

The term ‘bring them up’ literally means to – ‘nurture them up.’ What is involved in the concept of nurturing? Here are some of the thoughts that came to my mind:

Time
Care
Love and affection
Tenderness
Compassion
Provision
Commitment
Hope

To say that we are nurturing something implies that we are committed to do everything we can, for as long as it takes, to help it reach a point of complete health. That’s the word Paul used when he instructed dads in their duty of raising their children.

B. How Can a Father Nurture His Child’s Faith?

As far as we know, the Apostle Paul was never married; therefore, he was never a father. Yet apparently, Paul had a very high view of fatherhood. Notice how he used it in his letter to the Thessalonians.

1 Thessalonian 2:11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.  NIV

Though Paul is not speaking directly to fathers in this passage, he is using the concept of fatherhood to describe how he ministered to the saints at Thessalonica. Notice the three verbs he used: encouraging, comforting, and urging.

1. Fathers Can Nurture Their Children’s Faith Through Their Personal Involvement

Paul speaks of his ‘encouraging’ the church. The word he used here can be translated in a number of different ways. Most translations say ‘encouraging.’ The King James Version says ‘exhorting.’ Often this word is used in the Bible to describe someone making an urgent appeal. Jesus used this particular word to refer to the ministry of the Holy Spirit when He called Him ‘the Comforter.’

It is actually two words put together. One word means ‘alongside’, and the other word means ‘to be called.’ Therefore, the thought is that someone is called to come alongside of another and help them. Fathers are called to come alongside of their children and help them through life.

That’s how Paul described his ‘fatherly’ ministry to the believers at Thessalonica. Like a father, he came along side of them and nurtured them in their spiritual development. Go back a few verses with me and look at how Paul described the intimacy of his relationship with these young believers.

1 Thessalonians 2:5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.

Godly dads aren’t selfish. They don’t use their authority over their children for selfish purposes. Instead, they show great tenderness and humility.

7 Instead, we were like young children among you…

Notice that Paul said that he and his companions were like children themselves among the saints. They were not haughty and arrogant. They were kind and humble. It’s like the dad who gets down on the floor and plays games with his children. He gets into their world so that he can eventually lead them into his.

7 …Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.

Paul and his companions made personal sacrifices in order to care for these young believers.

9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children… NIV

In Paul’s mind, this is how a godly father interacts with his children. They nurture their children through a relationship of personal involvement.

I emphasize the thought of ‘personal involvement.’ By that I not only mean that we as dads become personally involved, but we also seek to know and care for each child personally. If you are the parent of more than one child, you know that no two children are alike. There are no cookie-cutter children. The Bible says that each and every child is uniquely and wonderfully made. Therefore, what might work for one child, will not work for the others. Therefore, because each and every child is different, establishing a personal relationship with each and every child is extremely important.

Again, consider Jacob and his performance as a father of twelve boys. Why did the ten oldest boys resent their father while Joseph loved him? It was all about because of Jacob’s personal relationship with each of his sons. Where there was love and personal interaction, the relationship flourished. But where love and personal interaction were absent, there was bitterness and resentment.

Here is what one dad said about the importance of his relationship and personal involvement with his children:

“Relationship is necessary in order to be an effective teacher in the child’s life…” “My desire is to create a relationship with my children that is more powerful than the relationships they develop with their friends.”

Parents, dads, are you worried about the negative affects peer pressure might have upon your children? Then I encourage you to be doing everything you can to build strong relationships with your children. You as a parent will never replace your child’s friends, but your influence upon your children can carry more weight than that of their friends.

Here is something else that is very important for us to consider. According to the Bible, it is through these personal relationships and involvement with our children that we find ‘teachable moments.’

Deuteronomy 6:6 Commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.  NLT

First of all, notice that parents themselves must first be wholeheartedly committed to living by the Word of God. I have heard that character is more ‘caught’ than ‘taught.’ Children learn, not just by what they hear, but also by what they see. Therefore, the first principle Moses taught these parents was to commit themselves wholeheartedly to God’s commandments.

Secondly, Moses instructed them to be diligent in teaching them to their children. Many of you may remember how I have taught in the past that this particular word refers to the sharpening of a knife. If you’ve ever tried to whet a knife and sharpen it, you know that it takes skill and diligence. One or two licks across the stone doesn’t get it done. It’s a process of repetition. That’s what Moses said to the parents of Israel. Repeat these commandments to your child ‘again and again.’

Thirdly, illustrate these principles through the events of everyday life. Talk about them when you are at home. Talk about them when you’re driving your kid to school or soccer practice. Talk about them when you’re putting your children to bed and helping them say their bedtime prayers. And start each day with them again. Repeat them over and over again, breaking them down into bitesize portions and applying them to everyday life.

I have run out of time today, and therefore we will return to this passage of scripture again next week to study principles #2 and #3 concerning nurturing your children in their faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a second aspect to a father nurturing his children:

 

  1. Fathers Can Nurture Their Children’s Faith Through Their Genuine Concern

 

1 Thessalonian 2:11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting

 

The Greek word translated as ‘comforting’ means to come alongside of someone and ‘speak a word.’ Some translations translate it as ‘comfort’, while others translate it as ‘encourage.’ Later, in this same letter, Paul used it again as a reference to building up those who are fainthearted.

 

Parents and especially us dads, rather than beating our children down, we need to be building them up. That doesn’t mean that we need to be puffing up their ego. We don’t need to put our children on such a pedestal that sooner or later they will fall off. But we do need to come alongside of them and speak words of affirmation that will encourage them to live for the Lord. Dads, you are especially important in this matter. Your children need to know that you are on their team. So desperate is this need that sometimes siblings can become jealous of each other and their dad’s attention. That’s what happened with Jacob and his sons. How do you think the ten older sons felt when they saw Joseph wearing his new tunic? A careful study of the robe Jacob gave to Joseph reveals that it was not only elaborate and multicolored, it also extended to the wrist and ankles. Why is that significant? The average work garment was sleeveless and mid-thigh so that the man was free to move and work. How could anyone do any labor in a garment like the one Jacob gave to Joseph? That was the idea. By giving Joseph this garment, Jacob was declaring that Joseph the leader and most-favored son. Even though he was number eleven in the birth order, Jacob placed him over all the rest. It’s not hard to see why the ten older sons became discouraged and resentful.

 

Consider once again how Paul described his father actions among the believers.

 

1 Thessalonians 2:5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7 Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.

 

  1. We were honest and upright with you
  2. We were gentle and cared for your needs
  3. We always had your best interest at heart
  4. We were willing to make personal sacrifices on your behalf
  5. We were always blameless before you
  6. In other words, we really cared about you!

 

  1. Fathers Can Nurture Their Children’s Faith Through Their Personal Testimony

 

1 Thessalonian 2:11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.  NIV

 

The word ‘urging’ refers to someone who bears witness to what they have seen and heard. It is the Greek word from which we get the English word ‘martyr.’ What is a martyr? We normally think of a martyr as someone who dies because of their faith in Christ. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as: ‘a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle.’ I think that the thought Paul had here was that he and his companions were not ashamed to declare what they believed with all their hearts to be the truth.

 

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Here is what seems to me to be Paul’s line of reasoning: dads who become personally involved in the lives of their children, and who demonstrate to their children that they really care about them, will find more opportunities to share with their children what they as dads believe to be God’s unchanging truth.

 

Recently I had a conversation with one of my sons-in-law about this important subject and he shared with me how overwhelming this responsibility can sometimes be. I reminded him that he wasn’t perfect, nor is any mom or dad. We’re all sinners saved by grace and sometimes we mess up. When we do, we need to be honest with our children and admit our sins and perhaps even ask for their forgiveness. But I also encouraged him by reminding him that as a believer, he had the Holy Spirit living inside of him to teach and guide him. The best way to be the best dad is to seek to be a Spirit-filled dad. Walk daily in the Spirit as we studied last Wednesday night, and let the Spirit guide you. As believers, we have God as our heavenly Father and He is 100% dedicated to help us.

 

If you are a dad and not a believer, the first step to becoming the dad God wants you to be is to come to Christ for salvation. Your journey down the pathway of fatherhood needs to begin at the foot of the cross. You need to come to Christ for salvation and thus become a new person in Christ.

 

Years ago, I heard an old gospel song about a dad who was once a drunkard and abusive to his children. His children were afraid of him and hid whenever he came home. But one day he found Jesus and his life was changed forever. When he arrived home, he called out to his children and told them that their old dad was now gone, and their new dad had arrived. And from that day one, he sought to be a godly dad who raised his children to know Christ.

[1] H. Norman Wright, Always Daddy’s Girl (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1989) 120.

[2] ibid

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