Proverbs 22 (7-3-21)
In Proverbs 22, we are given some simple but often overlooked advice when it comes to raising children. For example:
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
I want to get very practical today as we go deeper into this proverb. Raising children can be one of the most precious things and truly one of the hardest things we do in life. Many people can struggle in knowing how to do this well because they were not parented or raised well themselves. Many of us struggle to parent well because sin is real, and it is a lot of really hard work for 18 plus years of our lives. It is so easy to get busy with our own life priorities and interests; therefore, we don’t properly discipline because we are tired and don’t have the energy to invest the time into our kids’ formation that they truly need. Many who desire to raise their kids faithfully in the Lord simply don’t know where to start or how to see it through, so we end up winging it. While, by God’s grace, many of our kids turn out great, it is not always that way and/or not without some real heartache along the way.
So, how do we train up a child in the way he should go so that he does not depart from it? I want to give you a very cool insight I have been working on for years in my own parenting and fine-tuning with the help of Scripture and other pastors and friends. One of those pastors who gave me some great insight of how to frame this process up is Voddie Baucham Jr. He has helped bring some terminology to this process, and it has been helpful for me. I pray that these three steps are super practical and helpful for you. With that, let’s dig in.
What: The Attention and Obedience Phase
When: Birth to when the child can communicate with words/sentences
The first few years of a child’s life are incredibly vital to their long-term trajectory. This is the phase when parents get to lay the foundation for everything else. This is the phase when we teach our children to give us their attention and obedience. Teaching the child discipline and obedience in this phase will help prevent a ton of heartache later. We love our children well, not by making them believe the world revolves around them, but by helping them understand their priority is to submit to and obey Mom and Dad.
Colossians 3:20 says, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”
The God-given primary way a child worships God in his/her youth is by submitting to and obeying his/her parents. This honors God. His design is that a young human being doesn’t act on her own authority, get her own way, or go her own way; rather, each child submits to and follows his/her parents’ authority and way. To let our kids have what they want and get their way is to undermine the very design God has put into place whereby they will thrive and He will be honored.
A big part of this season is teaching them to “give you (the parent) their attention.” They need to learn the discipline of responding to their parents’ words and commands—not the third time the parent asks but the first. It is too often that parents actually teach their children to respond only the third or fourth time because they never hold them truly accountable to listening the first time. Not only is this to be expected of them, but if it is not done, then discipline has to happen, or they will learn they can get away with it. Parents must realize that while this is very hard work, it is essential for developing good habits of the child respecting and listening to the authority of the parent. It is on this foundation everything else is built.
What: The Catechism Phase
When: Communication until the age of 12-13
This is the phase when the parent needs to focus on teaching the child what to believe and not to believe.
In phase one, we said, “Give me your attention and obedience.” In phase two we are saying, “Give me your mind.” This phase is so critical because we are intentionally walking them through the basics of how the world was made, how the world works, who God is, and how we are to honor Him with our lives. This is the phase when we are to raise them up in the ways and truths of the Lord. The key is to do this according to Scripture and not your personal ideas or the priorities of ideas of the culture.
This is the critical season where we see Proverbs 22:6 come into play: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Now, let’s be clear about something: Salvation belongs to the Lord. When and if our child will ever be saved is not up to us. This verse is not speaking of salvation; it is speaking of raising our children in the truths of God. If you lay a foundation of biblical truth under them, then they will have that foundation for their entire lives. If you never lay a true and solid foundation under their feet, they do not have it to draw on later in life and will drift into other beliefs and understandings.
This is the phase when we are shaping their worldview. This is when we really focus on, with great scrutiny, all the things we let our children watch and listen to. It is when we really consider what they are being taught and what they are being exposed to.
Not only is this phase driven by regular and serious time in God’s word together, but it is paying tons of attention to the other things we let them see and know and do. The number of hours a child spends playing video games, watching Disney movies, etc. is all a part of their worldview training. If you watch Frozen enough times, you will be shaped by the worldview it is selling. What parents have to always ask is, “What are these things teaching our children about life, about God, and about who they are?” This is especially true if they are going to watch it 50 times or play that game for 100-plus hours.
One of the great tools to raising our children in these critical elementary years is with regular Bible teaching. We cannot lean on Sunday school alone to do this for us, but we must lead our children faithfully and regularly from home. This is the call of God on us as parents. The study and teaching of a catechism is a great tool for this. A catechism contains short questions with answer responses which teach Bible doctrine with Scripture references. These are simple questions with concise responses that will help you understand biblical truths, be able to give a defense for the hope that is in you, and spot theological error. A catechism is meant to be memorized and continually reviewed. The hope is by the end of this phase, a solid and complete biblical foundation has been laid under their feet whereby we can build on in the discipleship phase.
What: The Discipleship Phase
When: The early teens (12-13) to adulthood (18-21)
Many children who are raised in the church come to a true confession of faith somewhere in their early teens. This is because while they might know that God loves them and they love God when they are young, they are still lacking a full and right view of the depravity of their sin and their desperate condition for Christ alone to be their Savior and Lord. It is in these years that many (not all) kids who are raised in the church take ownership of their walk with God and make a profession of faith whereby they truly know and submit to God on their own. It is in this time as newborn babes in the faith that they are desperate for discipleship.
Discipleship is the committed season of adhering to the teachings and training of another. Your children are purposefully shadowing you, who will mentor and train them into maturity. In the case of Christian discipleship, the goal of the trainer is to train the disciple unto the ways of Christ, so the disciple becomes more and more like Christ. As we see Jesus model with the disciples and the Apostles go on to model with the Timothys of their world, we as parents are entrusted with the God-given priority of discipling our children in the critical years of their teens and early adulthood. This is when we take everything we have instilled in them in phases one and two. You are telling them, “Give me your attention and your obedience, and give me your mind, so I can train you up with the holy Scriptures and put them to work, as we walk together in life.”
This is the “give me your hand” phase. The hope is to spend a lot of time together in the children’s teen years so they can glean from you and be shaped and modeled by you unto Christlikeness. What is amazing is when I see parents really prioritize this kind of child rearing, their children want to spend more time with them in their teens and not less. It has been so cool to see other parents who are making the time and the investment into their children in this way develop a real close and shaping relationship with their teenage kids in this season that really prepares them for adulthood and the big, bad world like nothing else. The goal is to send our young adult children into the world having been fully trained up and matured in Christ so they are ready for all they will face.
This is the heartbeat of the most famous and central command of the Old Testament Scriptures for parents in the raising of their children”
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NIV) Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
It is essential we take this season seriously and make time in our schedules to invest real and regular time with our teenagers to disciple them up in the Lord. What this also means is they join you in what you do more and more. They shadow you and learn from you along the way, so you form a relationship of trust and closeness as you seek the Lord in all you do.
Phase one: Give me your attention and obedience.
I am the boss, and you will do well to honor and obey me.
Phase two: Give me your mind.
Let me teach you what to believe and why to believe it according to God’s holy word.
Phase three: Give me your hand.
I’m going to show you how to live out what I’ve taught you to believe.
Let me also point out that while each phase has its key focus, you really do all three of these in each phase of life to some degree.
Let me close with a couple key reminders:
Psalm 127:3 says “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”
We must recognize the fact that children are a gift from God—one we do not deserve, and He is not obligated to give us. Our kids are ultimately God’s children, whom He has entrusted to us to love and shape for His glory. We must never lose sight of the fact that it is a privilege to be entrusted with God’s children to love and shape and disciple. We must also be very aware of the temptation to make our kids our everything. When we make our kids the source of our happiness and our life’s identity, we set ourselves up to be crushed if they are never born, are sick, leave us, or die. God’s word is clear: “… have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Children are great but must be rightly prioritized in our lives and hearts far below who God is to us. This life is short and painful and hard. A right priority and grip on our kids will protect us from devastation if they ever abandon us, leave the church, or die before us. They ultimately exist, not for our glory but His.
Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” We must realize a newborn child is not innocent but wicked and sinful. The Bible is clear that the result of Adam's sin means we all enter the world with a fallen nature. This is what is known as original sin. The sinful tendencies, desires, and dispositions in our hearts with which we are all born is a sign of what is inherent in us. We are born with a morally ruined character.
When Adam sinned, his inner nature was transformed by his sin of rebellion, bringing to him spiritual death and depravity, which would be passed on to all who came after him. Just as we inherit genetic or physical characteristics from our parents, we inherit our sinful natures from our first parents, Adam and Eve. The original sin we are all born with manifests itself throughout our lives in actual sins—the actions, thoughts, and feelings we have that violate God's moral commands. We are sinners not because we sin; rather, we sin because we are sinners. King David lamented the reality of our condition in our fallen human nature in Psalm 51:5 (NIV), “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
So, let us realize that our children’s rebellion and folly at its core is a sin issue. Therefore, they are desperate for loving discipline and ultimately for Christ, who is the only One who can truly save them. It is our job to discipline them faithfully and with love, but it is God’s role to save or not save them. You cannot be your child’s savior or hold God in contempt if He doesn’t save them. You do your job to raise them in the word of the Lord and in loving discipline and discipleship and leave the saving and enduring them up to Him.
Therefore, let your love be genuine. Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” In other words, it is not loving to not abhor what is evil.
Because I love my kids:
I don’t let Savanna pull a chair up to the stove and play with pots of boiling water.
I don’t let my little Roman sip on the Windex bottle because it is a pretty blue.
Because you love your kids:
You do not let them enter into compromised relationships that dishonor God and entertain the flesh.
You don’t let them have access to graphic or sexual media, thereby defrauding their minds from purity.
We must love them in everything we do. In a world of sin with sinful priorities and offerings, it is so important we fight the fight of truly loving them well by disciplining them for what is best for them and honoring to God and keeping them from what is evil.
There is so much more to say on this topic. I pray this has been a helpful application for this proverb. If you are out of this season of raising children, then how can you apply these things as a grandparent or share them with someone you love who is in this season?
In closing, let me leave you with the third proverb we read this year. I pray it is a help and an encouragement.
Proverbs 3:1-12 (NIV) My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
By His grace and for His glory,
Joshua “Shepherd” Kirstine
Soldiers for Jesus MC