Sunday Sermon: ‘Choosing the Right Path’

Standard

This morning I have chosen to entitle my message, ‘Choosing the Right Path.’ A few years ago, many were telling us that it doesn’t matter which path you choose because all paths lead us to the same destination. Today there those who are telling us that it doesn’t matter which path you choose because all paths lead to nowhere. But the Bible tells us something very different.

Proverbs 4:10 Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many. 11 I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.

The Bible says that there is the ‘way of wisdom’ and it is the parent’s duty to do all they can to teach this way to their children and to help them walk upon it. Look with me at Proverbs 22.

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

This is perhaps the best-known verse in all the Bible concerning Christian parenting. What is this verse telling us and how do we apply it?

The first thing we need to recognize is that this is a principle and not a promise. God is not promising us that if we do certain things, we are guaranteed success in raising our children. We all know that it doesn’t always turn out that way. Sometimes parents do everything they can to raise a son or daughter to know and love God, and yet that child rejects it. Why is that? It’s because God has given to each of us an individual will and with that will we have the ability to choose. Parenting would be a lot easier if we could make all the choices for our children, but unfortunately, we can’t. They have to choose for themselves. Our job is to present them with God’s truth and pray that they will embrace it.

I. The Right Path

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

A. “In the Way He Should Go” 

The word ‘way’ is a popular concept throughout the book of Proverbs. It’s used in almost every chapter of this book. When it comes to raising children, there are a couple of theories as to what ‘the way’ means.

1. According to the Child’s Way or Bend

Many believe that this is telling parents to seek to understand the individuality of their child and then parent them accordingly. Last week we saw from Psalm 139 that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ God uniquely forms each of us in a way that we can best be used for His glory. One translation states this verse as, “Train a child in the way appropriate for him…” (ISV)

What may work for one child may not work for the other. This is true not only in teaching our children, but also in discipline. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to parenting. Each and every child has their own unique set of mannerisms, needs, and characteristics. Sometimes parents make the mistake of assuming certain things about our children. Because something is true for one of our children, we assume that it’s true for all of our children, yet that may not be the case.

Therefore, it is the wise parent who studies their child in order to understand that child’s particular needs and characteristics, and then alters their way of parenting in order to connect with that child and raise them effectively.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It takes tremendous strength and courage. Dr. Ray Pritchard[1] states that it takes:

Sensitivity to your children, to understand their individual needs.

The willingness to get involved in the affairs of life with your children, especially when they have done wrong.

Flexibility, because you are going to discover that what worked yesterday and the day before and last month no longer works. As your children grow up, the methods have to change and be flexible.

Staying with the stuff in regards to your children, because raising children today is difficult. It is not a one day or a one month or one year job.

A great deal of time. A specific investment of your heart and mind.

2. According to the Way God Would Have Him to Go

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

Some believe that this verse is telling us that we should train up our children in accordance to the unique characteristics of that child, but there is also another way of interpreting this verse. Traditionally this verse has been understood as – ‘train them in the way God would have them to go.’

Throughout the book of Proverbs, the term ‘way’ is almost always used to refer to the way of God. Actually, the book of Proverbs teaches us that there are two primary ways we go in life.

      a.  The Way of Wisdom Which is the Way of Godliness                

Proverbs 4:10 Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many. 11 I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.

Solomon tells his son, “I have given you wisdom from God which will enable you to choose and walk the right paths.” That’s the primary duty of parenting and I’m sure that it’s the heart desire for many of you.

But it’s not always easy. Someone has said, “It is not train up a child in the way he would go, but train up a child in the way he should go.” Sometimes the right way runs against the culture and we are met with resistance whenever we try to teach our children what is right and what is wrong. In today’s modern way of thinking, the only truth is that there is no truth. Yet we all know that is utter foolishness and therefore we cannot grow weary in well-doing. We must stay focused and steadfast.

Proverbs 4:1 Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. 2 For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.

Notice the passion in Solomon’s words. He’s pleading with his children to listen to what he is trying to tell them.

Notice also the intimacy and tenderness in his teaching.

3 For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. 4 He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.  

Solomon also tells his children why he is trying to teach them these things.

 5 Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. 6 Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.

 7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

It’s not just teaching our child a Bible story or having them memorize a verse of scripture. It’s much more than that, it’s helping them to understand the underlying principles of wisdom. The Bible doesn’t tell us whether to buy a blue car or a red car. It doesn’t tell us whether to buy a new car or a used car. But it does teach us how to manage money.

8 Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. 9 She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.

“Exalt wisdom and wisdom will exalt you,” Solomon is telling his children. Learn how to live your life by the principles of God’s wisdom and you will be blessed.

b. The Way of Foolishness Which is the Way of Godlessness    

In contrast to the way of wisdom, the book of Proverbs also teaches us that there is the way of foolishness and evil.

Proverbs 4:14 Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. 15 Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away…

“Why dad? Why can’t I run around with so and so? Why can’t I do what everyone else is doing? Why can’t I be like all the other kids?”

19 The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.

“Son, I know it looks like I’m being mean to you and trying to stop you from having fun, but in reality, I am trying to protect you from the things that will destroy you.”

It is not easy. It is not always fun. It is not always popular.

Oftentimes it is met with strong opposition. Sometimes your child might even say, “I hate you.” But if you love your child, you will do whatever it takes to try to keep them safe.

Friday, I went up and got my mom and went for a long ride. We went down roads neither of us have been on for years. We talked along the way while we looked at old houses and tried to remember who used to live there. Later we stopped and got some lunch, and best of all – we laughed. We were as two friends having a good time together.

But years ago, my mom told me something that I always tried to remember while we were raising our children. She told me that the day would come when a parent and child can be best friends. But when the child is young, what the child needs most is a parent. Children need someone who will love them enough to set boundaries in their lives that will protect them.

II. Helping Our Children to Choose the Right Path

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

What does it mean to ‘train up a child?’ It might surprise you to know that the root meaning of the word ‘train’ is the word is ‘mouth.’ How do ‘mouth’ and ‘training’ go together?

A. Helping Our Children Develop a Taste for God’s Wisdom

According to many resources, during ancient days when a baby was born, the midwife would often dip the tip of her finger in a paste of crushed grapes and then gently rub the gums and roof of the baby’s mouth. Why did she do that? She did so in order to stimulate their taste buds and thus initiate their desire to feed. Then she would give the child to the mother for her to nurse them.

That’s a pretty powerful thought when you apply it to raising children to know and love God. It’s not just ‘what’ we teach them, but ‘how’ we teach it. Training a child in the way he or she should go involves creating a taste in that child’s mouth for God’s way of wisdom.

Again, to quote Ray Pritchard: “Take the food of life, the water of life, the truth of life, the instruction about life right to your child and put it on his lips. Feed him now so that later he’ll be able to feed himself. Show him the right direction to go so that when he is old he will stay in the same direction that you have started him.”[2]

One of the things I have learned both from being a parent and a pastor is that the early years of a child’s development are extremely important. The foundation that is laid in a child’s life when they are small will have a huge impact upon the rest of their life.

Consider what the Socialist leader Vladimir Lenin said about teaching children about Communism –

“Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”

In other words, let me have just four years to indoctrinate that child with my philosophies, and I will control the rest of their lives.

If that can work in a negative way, why can’t it work in a positive way?

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

B. Trusting God to Help Us in Our Parenting

Some of you may be thinking, “But Pastor, I did everything I could to raise my son or daughter to love God, and they chose to walk away from Him.” Let me give you some words of hope.

1. Keep Believing in the Power of God’s Word of Truth 

The Bible says – “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11 ESV)

If you sow the right kind of seeds, you will reap the right kind of harvest.

2. Keep Believing in the Power of Prayer 

Again, to quote Ray Pritchard:

a. Never give up hope. Our God is the God of hope.

b. Love your children no matter who they are or where they are or what they’re doing.

c. Keep on praying. Don’t ever give up. [3]

 _____________________

[1] Ray Pritchard, sermon: Discipline: Coaching Your Children to Greatness, http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1995-01-15-Discipline-Coaching-Your-Children-to-Greatness/ August 10, 2017

 

[2] ibid

[3] ibid

Comments are closed.