Recently, I was asked to lead a Bible reading on this subject. Normally, I am hesitant to speak or write about this because I join the ranks of many who admit failure. However, some have encouraged me to share the outline for the reading. I present this article to you with the hope and prayer that it might help young Christians in their family life.
Let me also say there is “no easy recipe” for raising a family in a dark and independent age. There are no guarantees for complete success. Even the greatest and only perfect Father acknowledged; “I have nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against me” (Isaiah 1:2). May this encourage and console us when we become discouraged with our children. Our Father understands our heartaches when our children go astray.
Therefore, my beloved brethren and sisters, we also should reach out a sympathetic hand toward those who have unsaved children that are far away from the gospel influence. Never let us reduce ourselves in pride to look down upon such parents. Rather let us pray for them more fervently.
We acknowledge that there are many books written on this subject. However, the Book of God is our final appeal and foundation for instruction on family life. There in no greater classic on the subject that the book of Proverbs. Believers who follow the advice in this book will be preserved from many heartaches, sorrows and tears.
1. The Purpose of the Family.
1 Samuel 1-2 reveals a deep insight into family life. In this remarkable story, a woman (Hannah) prays for a “man-child” to give back to God. This beautiful account teaches us that God gives children to parents as a stewardship. God lends them to us so we can give them back to Him. This is the highest objective in family-life. I appeal to young parents to follow the example of Hannah whose prayer was answered. She then fulfilled her vow and gave him back to the Lord all the days of his life. It is an excellent exercise to commit our children into the hands of God for salvation and service even before they are born. This will guide and preserve us in our priorities for our children. “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psalm 127:3).
2. Preparation of the Children
Exodus 1-2 is a classic example of how to prepare children to live in an ungodly world. Amram and Jochebed had their child in days of despondency, darkness and dread. The Scripture commends them as faithful parents. Aaron became the high-priest, Miriam the prophetess and singer and Moses the greatest leader the nation had. What parents would not covet to have three children like they had? Moses was born in difficult circumstances. The Egyptian Empire decreed that all male children that were born were to be killed. No matter how dark the day is, God’s design still stands for family life, raising children and training them for services for God.
It is obvious that spiritual principles take precedence regardless of circumstances. We should also note that both parents were in agreement in all they did for Moses. This is an important and vital principle. Parental unity is a goal for every couple which children. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3).
The parents also acted in faith when they “hid the child” for three months, “made an ark” for him, “placed” him at the river’s brink, placed his sister Miriam nearby and waited for Divine intervention in the circumstances (Heb. 11:23). They moved in total confidence in Jehovah. What a lovely virtue to emulate! All these simple but vital actions were taken to preserve Moses so he would become something for God. They saw beyond the skin of the baby. They recognized the child was “fair to God.” The child was a child of destiny who would be a mighty influence in the nation. May all of us be exercised to preserve our children for usefullness for God!
Moses was raised in a palace, educated in Egypt and perhaps groomed to be a king. However, there came a day when Moses was forty years of age that he turned his back on the pleasures and treasures of Egypt. His parents had waited 40 years for that day. Many today would say, “What a waste!” However, the name of Moses is etched on the pages of Holy Writ, and he is reckoned to be the greatest leader ever, apart from Christ. Was it worthwhile putting a premium upon God’s things? What I am saying is that preparations for the spiritual welfare of your child far exceed any secular, academic or social ideals. Dear believer, far better your children make their mark among the Lord’s people gathered unto the Name of the Lord Jesus than aspire to fame and fortune in a doomed and corrupt world. You should try to instil these values in the formative years in the home.
3. Principles of Values
Judges 13 informs us of a simple and valid principle. It was a Nazarite mother who raised a Nazarite son. The prohibitions that were upon Samson were first placed upon his mother. She was not to drink wine or strong drink or eat any unclean thing. The woman then bare a son and called his name Samson. The child grew and the Lord blessed him. This teaches us the principle of “values”. We cannot expect to see right principles learned by our children if we do not exhibit them first. This principle is valid for both parents but the emphasis in the home-life is on the mother. A spiritual or a wordly mother will often produce like-kind. Therefore a Christian mother should life out convictions each day that are founded clearly on the Word of God. Then, she can transmit them to her children. While it is no guarantee that the children will prove a success, it is a principle to guide us in forming their values.
4. The Priorities of the Home
“Bring back the family unit!” is the cry from different parts of the world. People are concluding what Deuteronomy 6:6-15 taught the Jewish people many years ago, that the family unit is where a nation’s power lies. The rest of the Bible echoes repeatedly the prime importance of the family.
This passage teaches us the prominence of the Word of God in the home. “These words…shall be in thine HEART: and thou shalt teach them diligently (not forcefully) unto thy children and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house…Thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy 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.” A good text is the loveliest decor for the walls of our Christian homes. It is a high honor to display the Word of God prominently to all who visit.
These instructions also teach us the equally important principle of the “family alter”. Jewish families would set aside specific time for “teaching” the children and “talking of” the Scriptures. The practice of reading and praying together as a family has been neglected and the results have been devastating. A return to the “family alter” would be of great spiritual blessing to young families. We encourage those who currently practice it to keep at it. It is a good work and will pay eternal dividends.
I should caution that wisdom needs to be used in this important activity in the home. It is best to read a short portion of the Word with the family and make just a few comments for them to think about. Don’t preach a long sermon from a lengthy passage. Far better to have a shorter reading and still something that children will remember. Prayer should also be short and specific when the family gathers together. This is especially important when children are small. Daily reading and praying with your children will put character into them and make impressions they will never forget.
5. The Pattern for Discipline
In Hebrews 12, we have “the Father’s” discipline in the spiritual family. God’s discipline of His own children is marked by correction, rebuke, scourging and chastisement. These four words are different. Our heavenly Father applies the right type of discipline at the right time always for our good. We learn from these words that there is variety in discipline. Not always the rod, not always the word of rebuke, but as the need requires. We need wisdom on each occasion to discern what will be most effective.
We should never administer discipline in an outburst of anger or in a fit of rage. In Samuel 14, King Saul commanded the people to fast. Jonathan, his son and the victor on the battlefield, did not hear him. He ate some honey. Saul warned of stern and ruthless judgement on all who ate. Saul wanted to kill his son. We need to learn that our demands should not be unreasonable or our discipline too harsh. Also remember never to humiliate children be correcting them in public, even when they have embarrassed you. Discipline privately instead for their instruction.
The undisciplined child will bring grief. Eli’s two sons are an example of this. Children need rules and boundaries to protect them and preserve them. Rules should not be over-demanding and within the bounds of Scripture. They should always be given out of love. “Train (by discipline) up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old (R.V.) it shall not depart from him” (Prov. 22:6). In all discipline we need the Lord’s gracious help and wisdom.
The purpose of discipline is primary to teach the child about God and that wrong (sin) must be punished. All discipline is for the ultimate good of the child both in this life and in eternity. “Thou shalt beat him with the rod and shalt deliver his soul from Hell” (Prov. 23:14). We need tenderness, compassion and love when we have to discipline. “As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him” (Psa. 103:13).
6. The Precept and the Promise for Children
Ephesians 6:3 in the NT reiterates the injunction of the moral law of Deuteronomy 5:16 in the OT, “Honor thy father and mother that it may be well with thee and that thou mayest live long upon the earth.” This law suggested that respect in the Hebrew home for parents would affect the national life of Israel. In the New Testament, the principle is that honoring my parents will effect my assembly life. If I “respect not” my parents, my contribution in the assembly will have no value. Disrespect for parents and “older” folk is rampant in our world today. Therefore, children must be taught from their earliest days to respect and honor those who brought them into the world. Children who are taught to respect and honor the authority of parents in the home will have no difficulty respecting and honoring elders and older saints in the assembly. Dear parents, you have the great privilege and responsibility of teaching this God-given principle with promise to your children.
7. The Plan for the Home
Sometimes it is absolutely necessary for a mother to work outside the home. Unfortunately, though, many young Christian mothers feel the pressure today to leave their children at a child care center and pursue a career for themselves. The world tells them that they won’t “reach their potential” or “won’t feel fulfilled” if they stay home with the children. They speak of being a “housewife” as if it was paramount to slavery. This conception is totally wrong. The “noblest calling” and the “highest honor” for young mothers is to raise sons and daughters for God. Even though our world changes and parenting is hard, God’s plan never changes and cannot be improved upon.
First Timothy 2 teaches us how women will be preserved, “She shall be saved through child-bearing if they continue in faith and charity (love) and with sobriety, (discretion JND). “This is no small task and it is of “highest esteem” in the Lord’s reckoning. A mother at home will receive Heaven’s acknowledgement now and Heaven’s recompense in the future. In addition, the promise of the Scripture, “Her children will arise up and call her blessed” (Prov 31:28). One additional blessing is that a mother becomes a “great student”. Her children teach her how to deal with humane nature and difficulties. God uses the daily experiences in the home for her education and advancement in God’s training school. There are lessons she can learn in raising children that cannot be learned anywhere else.
In closing, we recognize we have not touched many aspects of family-life with all the difficulties and challenges. The stresses of parenting cause many headaches and heartaches. Parents’ bedrooms are often filled with prayers and the bed covers stained with tears as they wait on God to save and preserve their family. There may be no diplomas on the walls of the home for this tireless work and there may be little encouragement from others, however, do not forget all the joys in this God-given privilege. The triumphs and the joys will outshine all the sorrows and sacrifices. Let us remember most of all, any success in family life is for the glory of God and it is all of grace.
Ye wives and mothers of children,
Your tasks are not unknown,
Your deeds are not forgotten,
But written where all is well-known.
Not etched by man’s hammer or chisel,
But written by a hand that’s Divine.
Written, never to be forgotten
In that land where all is sublime.
Yes, she raised that little family
Whom God in grace has redeemed,
And she gave them back to the Saviour
To serve Him by word and by deed.
Forgotten? forgotten? forgotten?
Ah, never that mother will be
Who toiled in the home for her family,
To win them for eternity.