Before I became a parent I thought that I knew everything about being one. Once I became a parent I realized how untrue that first sentence was. Parenting is tough. Parenting is tough because it matters. Things that matter can be tough. I love being a parent, but some days I feel as though I have no idea what I am doing. I want my kid to be a decent human being, to succeed in life (whatever that means), to enjoy living, to stand up for what he believes in, to be courageous. What I want most for my kid though is for him to follow Jesus and pursue after him his whole life. I believe that is the most important role that any parent has, to point their children to Christ. To disciple them.
I am grateful for so many wonderful examples of that at Salem. There are so many parents that my wife and I look up to. We have truly learned so much from so many of you (another form of discipleship). I believe that if you are training up your child in the ways of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6) you are doing exactly that. Ultimately, kids make their own decisions though. Everyone is responsible for their own actions. Even a parent is only responsible for what they did. So, what are the responsibilities of a parent in discipleship?
Start with Prayer
Do you pray for your kids? I am sure you do, but do you pray for your parenting? Parents need to pray for themselves for a couple of reasons.
God Wants Your Worries
The first reason is because one of the items at the top of our worry list is our children (and how we parent them). We worry about comparisons, about fitting in, about saying the right thing. We worry. I don’t believe that worry or concern or anxiety in itself is a sin. I think it has more to do with the way we handle those worries, concerns and anxieties.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
When we give those worries to God, we are living in faith that he is in control. When we hold on to them and try and handle them on our own, we are living in fear and pride. I do my best parenting when I am praying for my parenting.
Pray For Wisdom
The second reason we need to pray is because parenting is a trial. It is a tough (but beautiful) process that sanctifies us (James 1:2-4). In the midst of trials James tells us that we should ask for wisdom.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. – James 1:5
We get our wisdom from our experiences, our perspective, and our knowledge. That scares me because I am limited in all of those areas. However, God, who calls us to ask him for wisdom is limitless in those areas. He has experienced everything through his Son, though was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). God has an eternal perspective. He is all-knowing. We need to ask God for wisdom from above as we parent and disciple our kids.
Teach and Talk
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 gives us a beautiful picture of how a parent should disciple their children. When Moses is giving the Law to the Israelites, he does not command the priests or the community to disciple the children (though they have their place). Instead, he commands the parents to be the primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives.
And these words that I command to you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. – Deuteronomy 6:6-7
It is clear from this passage that God intends parents to actively participate in discipling their kids. It is not up to the kid’s pastor or VBS teacher to disciple them (though they are an excellent help!). This is the responsibility of the parent.
In the Hebrew, the word for diligently is to “impress repeatedly”. As parents we are to consistently share the truth of the Gospel to our kids in word and deed. This means we teach the word but we also practice the word. Our kids are watching us always, and when we model the Bible in our lives it will be impressed on their lives.
I love how verse seven talks about how throughout the day a parent is teaching their kids. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is – morning, noon, or night – a parent is teaching and talking throughout the normal rhythms of life. The only way this is possible is by the first part of the passage. A parent must have the word on their heart. Does Scripture intersect every aspect of your life?
Parents, specifically dads, are called to encourage their children. This world can be discouraging. Your kids will experience losses and failures. They will fall into sin. I like to remind my boy about the first part of Ephesians 6. But, the only way that I can expect him to obey is if I hold up my end of the deal.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:1-4
I want my kid to take hold of the promise found in this passage. I want things to go well with him and for him to live long in the land (live abundantly). This happens when he obeys me. But, he will only obey when I speak words of life into him. When I as a parent love him the way Christ does. When I show him grace. As I encourage him to walk with the Lord. When I don’t set impossible expectations. If I don’t do these things, my kid will get discouraged and want nothing to do with the things of God.
Prepare to Shoot Them Off
I want my kid to have an impact for the Kingdom with his life. That is my goal. I want to disciple him so that when he leaves our house he brings light to the darkness wherever he goes. Solomon gave us some pretty cool imagery of what kids are.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. – Psalm 127:3-4
I love the imagery here (not just because I get to be a warrior). The idea here is that there is a point to parenting. A warrior doesn’t hold on to an arrow in the midst of a battle. A warrior shoots that arrow off and lets it penetrate the enemy. I want to sharpen my kid so that when it is time for him to go off into this world, he doesn’t sit back and play defense. I want to shoot him out so that he can have influence on the world around him.
Too many times we want to keep our kids from this world, but we need to train them to be in and not of it (John 17:14-16). This obviously comes in stages with the final one where they can go and have an impact for the Gospel on their own. Discipling is about helping someone become like Jesus. Jesus went to the darkness and brought light. This is what we need to prepare our children to do.
Praying that we as parents would live in grace, extend that grace to our children, and obey our Father in grace. We can’t do this alone.