Text: Proverbs 2:1-5
Title: King or Prince
Theme:Since children are gifts from God, therefore as parents, it is our responsibility to train our children that they will grow up to be like their King, our lord, Jesus Christ.
Several years ago I was inducted into the "雍正王朝" tribe. I remembered how everyone listened and obeyed the king. Everyone in the palace was there to serve him. Then there were also the princes and princesses. Yes, people also listened and served them, but I also noticed that they were being trained so they know how to be a king in the future.
As I was preparing this message on Parenting: Keys to a healthy family, I think of the families in this church. We have children ranging from new born to young adults and I wondered, are they kings or princes? Sometimes we have 4 adults serving one child. With the arrival of a child, our entire world turns upside down. Not only that, very often we even stop going to church because it doesn't fit the child's schedule. They are more like kings, right?
This morning, on Mother's Day, I would like to study with you the book of Proverbs regarding some principles of parenting.
I. Children are a part of God's plan for family.
As we look at the topic of parenting, again, we need to look at the big picture, the biblical world view.
Genesis 1:28, "神就賜福給他們，對他們說：“要繁殖增多，充滿這地，征服它；也要管理海裡的魚、空中的鳥和地上爬行的所有生物。”And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Children are in God's plan for his creation.
Psalm 127:3, "兒女是耶和華所賜的產業，腹中的胎兒是他的賞賜。 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward." Children are gifts from God. If they are gifts, then God in his sovereignty can give and also withhold the gifts to husband and wife. This giving or withholding does not reflect his love for us; that we are being loved more or loved less because we have or do not have children. His love for each one of us is complete and total.
Prov 17:6, "兒孫是老人的冠冕，父親是兒女的榮耀Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers." Here is the inter generational appreciation and joy. I'm impressed to see how some adult children among us are taking care of their elderly parents. Walking slowly with them, helping them to navigate in restaurants. Their body language is clear, This is my mom or dad and I am proud of him/her. Or when I see my son playing football or playing in the school band, I want people to know, that is my boy! Parents and children, we honor each other, adding joy and fulfillment to life.
In God's sight, children are important and are a part of God's plan for the family.
II. Children are also tinted by human brokenness.
22:15, 29:15, "愚妄束縛孩童的心，管教的杖可以把愚妄遠遠驅除Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. 杖責和管教能使人有智慧，放縱的孩子使母親蒙羞 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother." These verses tell us that there is the inherent evil in children's heart. They are born with it. Parents know this very well. By the time your child turns 2, your vocabulary has been reduced to No, Don't, You Can’t. That's why mothers yearn for intelligent, adult conversation. No one has ever taught their children how to do the bad things. Its natural for them. You see, our children are tinted by human corruption and brokenness at birth. They and we alike, are sinners not because we do bad things, but rather, because we are sinners, therefore we do bad things.
III. Children are in need of training to correct their sinful bent.
Children have the propensity to go astray and do what is wrong. Then, what? Do we let them follow their hearts, doing whatever they want?
1. Parents' responsibility.
29:17, "管教你的兒子，他必使你得安息；也必使你的心得喜樂Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart." Please note two points. First this is directed to the parents. Parents have the responsibility of training their children. Very often we have the tendency of expecting the school or church to train and discipline our children; to teach them moral values. I feel the scripture is very clear on this; we parents have the responsibility to training our children.
Second, it is not a promise that he will give you rest, but it is a purpose statement. Discipline your child, and this will lead to rest, a delight of heart. Not a promise.
2. How do we train our children?
Certainly there are many books of this topic. How to really love your child, How to really love your teenager and others. Even in this week's Time magazine, is an article on this topic. Many people have good insights on this subject. I want to encourage you to attend parenting classes and seminars. Today, we want to confine ourselves to the book of Proverbs.
1:8, 2:1, "我兒，要聽從你父親的教訓，不可離棄你母親的訓誨Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. 我兒，如果你接受我的話，把我的誡命珍藏在心裡， son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you,.." Here we have instruction. How do we train our children? We have to teach them. There are many platforms by which this can occur. At least on a weekly basis, sit down with the entire family, or it can just be around the dining table after dinner, read the scripture, share a simple truth and pray together. Or after watching a movie or TV show, ask, what do you think is the message, how do you feel about it? Or pointing to an event or headline in the Chronicles and asking, what do think? What would you do? We are to make use of various different opportunities to teach and instruct our children.
4:3-4, "我在我父親面前還是小孩子，在我母親面前是獨一的嬌兒的時候， 4父親教導我，對我說：“你的心要持守我的話，你要遵守我的誡命，就可以存活；When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live." The father is saying, hold fast to my words. Look at me. 7:6, "我在我家的窗戶內，透過窗櫺往外觀看 For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice," This is part of the father's instruction to the son. The father was saying that he looked out through his widow and saw this immoral woman seducing and enticing a young man. Stay inside the house, don't go near the adulteress, the prostitute. He is not only telling the son, he is showing his son by example.
We all realize how important 身教is. We are to walk our talk. If I want my child to be a man/woman of principle, it starts with me. If want them to be kind and gentle towards others, do I have proper control over some of my angry emotions, or do I just let out whenever I feel like it. if I want my child to be honest, do I cheat and make those adjustments in my income tax? I feel the saddest thing parents can say to their children, is: don't do what I do but do as I tell you. My greatest challenge as a pastor and father is usually on Sundays. If they are in the audience listening to my preaching on humility, kindness, gentleness and holiness, will they believe me?
3:12, "…因為耶和華所愛的，他必責備，正如父親責備他喜愛的兒子一樣。for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights." This verse is also being quoted in the book of Hebrews. The lord disciplines the ones he loves. God's love is gentle and tender. He is like a shepherd leading us. How do we train our children? In Love. As fathers, often we feel when I come home with the money, this is love. Yes, this is certainly an expression of our love for our children. Take a closer look at this verse, 'whom he loves….he delights." It is more than bringing home money, or buying this or that for our children. They are important, but there is the gentle and tender aspect of love. Often we associate gentleness and tenderness with feminine traits. No, men also need to be gentle and tender. Listen to Paul, 1Thess.2:7-8, "我們身為基督使徒的，雖然有權利受人尊敬，但我們在你們中間卻是謙和的，就像母親乳養自己的孩子。 8我們這樣疼愛你們，不但樂意把 神的福音傳給你們，連自己的性命也樂意給你們，因為你們是我們所愛的。But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us." This is gentle and tender love.
13:24, "不用杖責打兒子的，是恨惡他；愛兒子的，必對他勤加管教。Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." In proverbs, punishment is often associated with the rod. However, we can also take this rod to mean a wide variety of punishments. It could mean a rebuke, specifically telling the child that this behavior is wrong and not acceptable. It could also mean withholding of privileges. For example, since you have done what you are told not to, you will not be able to talk to your friends for one week. Or you have come home past the agreed curfew time, you will not be able to drive for one week. Our children need to know certain things they do regularly, such as talking to friends on the phone, using the computers and driving are not their rights, but privileges. Therefore, privileges can be withheld from them.
3. Goals in training.
What are some of the purposes of our training the children? Many parents do well in training our children in the areas of study, music and other skills. Let's look at something that is more basic. 2:1-5, "我兒，如果你接受我的話，把我的誡命珍藏在心裡， 2留心聽智慧，致力求聰明； 3如果你為求哲理而呼喊，為求聰明而揚聲； 4如果你尋找它如同尋找銀子，搜尋它好像搜尋寶藏； 5你就明白怎樣敬畏耶和華，並且獲得對 神的認識My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God."
a. A life living by God's principle. In this passage the son is urged to keep and understand what is taught to him by his father and he is to pursue wisdom, meaning good judgment. God, and the fear of God must be an integral part of his life.
Last Wednesday's Chronicle was a headline news: A local pastor follows his heart. The article told us how the pastor in following his heart, decided to move to CA where he could openly live with same the sex partner and serve in a local church.. No, we want to raise children that do not just follow their hearts, because human hearts are a nest of worms! We want to teach them to follow God's heart. By doing so, they will be developing characters that are pleasing to God; such as: Love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, goodness, patience, faithfulness and self-control.
b. Self-discipline. In this same passage, one sees the son urged to pursue, to understand and keep in his heart what he learned. This requires discipline. Not a life that just goes with the flow. In one of the SS classes, the teacher took the students out to Starbucks. Each had a drink before him/her; to see who will reach out to drink it first. Self-discipline is important in life. Without it, it is almost impossible to tackle the problems that come into life. Proverbs 25:28, "A man without self control, is like a city broken into and left without walls."
c. Proper self-esteem. In addition to Proverbs, I'm very much convinced of the need to train our children to have proper self-esteem. Their worth and value does not come from their friends and their performance. Our self-worth is based on the fact that we are God's children, made in his image.
d. Then there are also those I consider as social civility. About 36 years ago, a missionary studying Chinese history in National Taiwan U wrote an article titled: Chinese, where is your civility 公德心? It created an uproar in that country. We parents need to teach our children to be considerate of others, respect others' property, keeping the place clean and orderly.
What is your family life like? Is your child a king or queen that you serve and cater to; letting them calling the shots, and pulling you away from God? Yes, it is important for us to nurture them, meeting their needs. But what is even more important is for us to treat them like a prince and princess. We have the responsibility to train them so they can be like the real king in their lives, our lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, it is the parents' responsibility to train our children. But we also need to know that we cannot make that basic choice for them, that is, their heart for God. This is a decision and choice they alone can make. Therefore as parents, with God's help we do our best to teach and train our children to walk in God's path. And we just have to pray, that God will keep our children, asking God to work in their lives, to enable them to make that most basic choice.
Note: Thanks to Dr. Collins for the permission to use his class Syllabus, pp.121