My wife and I had been married about two years when her pastor, who had married us, asked me to come and preach an eight-day revival meeting. After the last service he pulled me aside and said some nice things about my preaching. His countenance became very serious however and I will never forget his challenge to me. He said, “John, I appreciated every message, but I would have thought that in a series of twelve messages, you would have preached at least once on the family.”
I chuckled slightly and said, “Pastor, that’s your job! You’ve been in ministry for two decades and have raised some great kids.”
His next words pierced my heart as he held his Bible in front of me. “Our authority to preach on the home comes from God’s Word. You have just as much responsibility to preach on it as I do.”
No one is an expert on raising children because all of us are still raising children regardless of their ages or ours. It is a life-long process and a full time responsibility. None of us can know if we have been successful until both our lives and theirs is over. While we can learn from the example of others, it is wise to focus on the instruction that God gave us in His Word.
Deuteronomy 6:6–9 is a template on mentoring children. This passage was called the “Shema” by the Jewish people from which we get our word schematic. It is a pattern for parents who seek to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
While the key component of this process is “these words,” the emphasis is on the constant and consistent declaration and display of God’s Word. As parents, we fall into the trap of compartmentalizing the Bible to a few hours at church each week or perhaps a few minutes of “family altar” in our homes each day. The rest of the time our children are being spoiled, “Through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
Now God is certainly in favor of the formal preaching and teaching of the Bible. Scripture would support that practice to the fullest. The Lord knows however, that it is through the informal settings that truth has its greatest impact on our children. When we can take an incident or circumstance in our child’s life and apply biblical teaching to provide comfort, challenge, conviction, or change, a lasting impression is made. Jesus Himself gives us this example over and over as in the middle of a temptation or crisis, His response was, “Have ye not known?” or “It is written,” or “Moses and the prophets….” He was always directing His follower’s hearts back to the Word of God.
Growing up on a dairy farm, things did not always go exactly as planned. Yet in the midst of machinery breaking down or cows getting out of the fence or the weather not cooperating with our plans, I never heard my dad curse or complain. Instead, he would quote a verse from the Bible or sing a verse of a hymn or take the situation to the Lord in prayer. When decisions needed to be made or discipline administered to one of us kids, it was always in the context of God’s Word.
We will never be able to pass the Word of God on to our children in those critical moments if we as dads are not saturated ourselves with truth. We cannot teach what we ourselves have not learned.