Please take your Bible and turn with me to Ephesians chapter 6.
Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
The New International Version says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
This one verse contains two commands:
Negative Command: Fathers, do not exasperate your children
Positive Command: Fathers, bring your children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord
Much has already been said in previous messages about the danger of exasperating our children; therefore, we will focus on this part of the verse for only a moment. How can parents exasperate their children?
The Amplified Version of the Bible says that we can exasperate them through:
- Making demands that are trivial or unreasonable
- Through verbal or physical abuse
- Through humiliation
- Through showing favoritism of one child over the others
As I have shared with you already, reaching the point of exasperation normally doesn’t occur with just one incident. Such anger develops when the offense is repeated over and over again. Paul tells us in the book of Colossians that exasperation can cause a child to become discouraged, lose heart and give up.
That’s the negative side of this verse. What about the positive side? Paul also tells us to ‘bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.’ In other words, raise our children to know God and to live for Him. How can we do that? Perhaps part of the answer lies in the fact that the phrase ‘bring them up’ actually means – ‘nurture them.’ Paul is instructing dads to nurture their children up to know and love God.
What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘nurture?’ To me the word nurturing speaks of:
- Love and affection
Someone has defined nurturing as a commitment to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, in order to help our child reach spiritual maturity. That being the case, perhaps I should also add the word ‘prayer’ in our description of nurturing. Nurturing a child up in the Lord requires an enormous amount of prayer.
Last week we look at another passage of scripture to help us get a better idea of how Paul viewed nurturing children. Our passage is 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12.
1 Thessalonians 2:11 And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. 12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory. NIV
As I pointed out to you last week, there are three key words used in this passage to describe nurturing:
I. ‘Nurturing Their Faith Through Our Personal Involvement’
Paul says that he nurtured the young believers at Thessalonica by ‘encouraging’ them. How do we encourage our children?
A. To Encourage Means to Put Courage into Them
The word ‘encourage’ means to put courage into someone. Encouragers help to make others become stronger in the Lord. Consider how God encouraged Joshua as Joshua took leadership over the nation of Israel –
“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-9 NIV)
B. ‘Encourage’ Means to Come Alongside of Them to Help Them
A literal definition of the Greek word translated as encouragement is – ‘to come alongside of someone in order to help them.’ Jesus used this word when He referred to the Holy Spirit. Most of our translations call the Spirit ‘the Comforter’, yet perhaps a better translation would be ‘the Encourager.’ God the Father sent His Spirit to come alongside of us in order to put spiritual courage in us, and to help us live the Christian life.
C. Encouraging Parents Become Personally Involved in Our Children’s Lives
In order to encourage our children in the things of the Lord, we must become personally involved in their lives. Personal involvement involves two things:
1. We Ourselves Must Become Personally Involved
It’s hard to nurture children from a distance. Nurturing implies intimate involvement. As parents, we should make time to be personally involved in the lives of our children.
2. We Must Deal with Each Child on a Personal Level
1 Thessalonian 2:11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children…
Notice that Paul says that they dealt personally with each and every believer. No doubt there were times, like this morning, when all the church gathered together and Paul taught them as a group. However, there were also times when Paul and his companions met with believers individually.
Effective parenting requires us to work with each child on an individual level. In a couple of weeks we are going to study a familiar portion of scripture that talks about raising children, and emphasizes the importance of parenting each and every child on an individual basis.
D. The Value of Developing Personal Relationships with Our Children
Before we move on from this part of our study, allow me to share with you something I read the other day about a dad’s desire to develop personal relationships with each of his children. He said:
“Relationship is necessary in order to be an effective teacher in the child’s life.”
“I strive to create a relationship with my children that is more powerful than the relationships they develop with their friends.”
That second statement is the one that hit me the hardest. He’s not saying that he tries to replace his children’s friends. Though we may dress young and look cool, we will always be of another generation. What he is saying is that he strives to build a relationship with his children that is so strong, he can influence them for good when they are being tempted to be influenced for bad by their peers. In other words, one of the best antidotes for peer pressure is a strong relationship with mom and dad.
II. Nurturing Their Faith Through Our 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…
Literally the word used here means to ‘come alongside of someone and say something significant.’ Apparently, Paul did more than just console the Thessalonian believers. Apparently, he also said and did things that helped to build them up and inspired them to go forward.
Consider how Paul used this same word in another portion of his letter to the Thessalonians.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
Who are the feebleminded? Other translations say, “encourage the fainthearted.” Some translations say, “comfort the discouraged.” This word refers to someone who is struggling emotionally or perhaps spiritually over some troubling matter.
From other things that Paul said in his letter, we know that many of the Thessalonians were being persecuted for their faith. Perhaps some, who were new believers or who hadn’t matured yet in their faith, were struggling more than others. Paul tells the stronger believers to reach out and seek to encourage those who are struggling.
The word ‘comfort’ also has another side to its meaning. It also means to ‘admonish.’ What does it mean to admonish others? To admonish can mean either to warn, or to strongly advise. Warren Wiersbe defines admonishment as: ‘a stimulate that awaked us to do better.’
Notice the steps to nurturing children in their faith. First, we come alongside of them and develop a personal relationship with them. Then, through that relationship, we begin to say the things that they need to hear. It could be a warning, or it could be a word of encouragement and assurance. And then finally, we begin to share our faith with them.
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
Notice, Paul said that as a father, they encouraged, comforted, and urged the Thessalonians to live for the Lord. Proper nurturing produces growth.
III. Nurturing Their Faith Through Our Personal Testimony
What is Paul’s primary objective in this passage? It is to urge the Thessalonian believers to ‘live lives worthy of God’, or as some have stated it, ‘to live a life worthy to be called Christian.’
What is the primary objective of Christian parenting? It’s to raise children who know Jesus Christ as their Savior and who follow Him as Lord. There is an interesting verse in the book of Malachi regarding God’s primary objective for the family.
Malachi 2:15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. ESV
God’s goal for the family is that we raise up ‘godly offspring’, or in other words ‘godly children.’ The Bible says that ‘Children are a heritage from the LORD…’ (Psalm 127:3) The word ‘heritage’ refers to a portion of God’s possession that He entrusts to our care.
Paul’s objective was to urge his Thessalonian children to live for God. How did he do it?
– He established a personal relationship with them
– He demonstrated a genuine concern for them
– And then, through his personal testimony, he demonstrated to them what it means to know and love God
A. Paul Nurtured Their Faith Through His Personal Testimony
1 Thessalonians 2:12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
The word ‘urging’ actually means to bear witness, or to give a testimony. How did Paul share his personal testimony with these young believers? He built personal relationships with them. He spoke to them things they needed to learn and hear. And then he lived it out before them.
1 Thessalonians 2:10 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, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. NIV
Paul said, “You’ve heard what we have taught, and you have observed how we have lived.” We have done our best to be godly spiritual parents to you.
B. The Need for Our Children to Witness Our Faith Lived Out
Children need to see us living out our faith before them. Children need to see and know that God is real.
As I bring this sermon to a close, I want to take you back into the Old Testament to a time when some parents did something that became a lasting memorial for their children. The story is found in the book of Joshua.
First let me give you a setting for the story. Joshua is now the leader of the nation of Israel and it is his job to take the children of Israel into the Promised Land. But there’s a major obstacle in their way. The Jordan River stands between them and the Promised Land and the Bible says that it’s at flood stage. How would you get a million plus people, which included women and children, across a raging river?
God told Joshua to have the priests to go first and to carry the Ark of the Covenant on their shoulders. God promised that as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests touched the water, the river would divide and they would walk across on dry land. Sure enough, the river divided just as God said. Then the Lord instructed Joshua to do this –
Joshua 4:2 “Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe. 3 Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight.’”
4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. 5 He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the LORD your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. 6 We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”
Notice that God said that these stones would be a ‘sign’ to the children of Israel. The word ‘sign’ means a memorial that marks a miracle. In the years that followed, children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren would ask, “What do these stones mean?” To answer their question the parents and elders would then say, “These stones came from the middle of the river bed when the Lord miraculously divided the river and brought us over.” Or in other words, these stones are our testimony to you that God is real!
Perhaps one of the reasons so many children are departing from the faith once they are grown is because God has become little more than a Bible story we tell on Sunday mornings. According to the Apostle Paul, one of the ways parents nurture their children’s faith is by revealing to them that God is real and supernatural. He is a God to be praised and worshipped because he delivers us, and provides for us, and takes us through our valleys.