Marriage and the Family (7): Teenage Years (2)

In dealing with teenagers, there may be occasions when parents, who have tried to bring up their children according to the Word of God, feel that the attitude of a son or daughter causes them to despair. At such a time, the words of the Lord to Hosea have to be remembered. “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. As they called them, so they went from them” (1:1-2). As the prophets appealed to them, the greater was their opposition. The words of the Lord at the opening of the book of Isaiah refer to the same rebellious condition. “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me” (1:2). There is a measure of consolation in the fact that the heart of the parents under these circumstances is known to the Lord.

Following the previous article, let us consider what else can be done to guide the teenage family.

Esau was a cunning hunter: unhelpful interests to be controlled or discouraged (Gen 25:27)

It is clear that Jacob developed into a competent shepherd whereas Esau honed his skills as a hunter. When his father felt that preparations should be made for his death he summoned Esau and asked him to bring him the savory meat that he had enjoyed from his hunting trips. He had obviously encouraged Esau to develop his hunting abilities, the opposite of shepherding, as he had an appetite for savory meat. This followed the ungodly example of Nimrod, who was a mighty hunter before the Lord (Gen 10:8-9). There is no note of him encouraging Jacob as a shepherd. The sad thing is that he was about to perform the patriarchal act of naming Esau as the firstborn and called for what was sensual to satisfy him.

The lesson for today is clear. Sons and daughters have to be encouraged in their education and be given advice as to their desired employment, but also guided as to their other interests. In all of these there is the danger of becoming so involved that spiritual matters are no longer prime. The danger is greater when a member of the family shows outstanding skills. Whereas excellence has to be encouraged, it must never be treated as being more worthy than that which is spiritual. No matter how great the ability or how great the accolade that comes from the world, it is not of greater value than going on for God.

And Dinah went out to see the daughters of the land: close personal relationships with the world to be avoided (Gen 34:1)

If only Jacob had not stopped on his journey (Gen 33:18-20), from the house of Laban to “the land of thy fathers and to thy kindred” (Gen 31:3), this tragedy would have been avoided. Jacob halted at Shechem, pitched his tent, purchased a piece of land, erected an altar, and settled down for some time. The sadness is that he exposed his daughter to a world unknown to her. Dinah may even have thought it to be a tremendous privilege to get to know the son of the prince of the city but, sadly, he defiled her and a marriage was arranged. Simeon and Levi had other thoughts; they slaughtered the males of the land.

There is danger in close friendships, associations, and relationships with the world. Care must be taken to ensure that sons and daughters are not encouraged to build their friendships in such company. No matter how honest the people might be, how pleasant their character, or how charming their demeanor, the warning still rings clear, “know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4).

Take heed to the ministry … that thou fulfil it (Col 4:17): young believers in the family have to be encouraged

Archippus is mentioned at the beginning of the epistle to Philemon. He is one of three who are mentioned and it is supposed that Philemon was the husband of Apphia, and Archippus was their son. He is referred to as a “fellowsoldier,” one who has been involved in the struggle for the furtherance of the gospel.

At the close of the epistle to the church in Colosse it would appear that Archippus was wavering in his work for the Lord. We do not know the cause of this, but he did require encouragement. Paul was aware of the situation and exhorts Archippus to “take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.”

When a son or daughter appears to be losing the initial fervor, their first love and devotion to the Lord and His service, this is a worthy exhortation to heed. Remind them that they have a place in the work of the Lord that He has given them and that their decrease in interest is known by the Lord. Help to go on must always be given.

Walking in truth (2John 4)

It is a great joy to parents when their children are saved and go on to develop their spiritual life. As they have seen them develop physically and intellectually, they now have the joy of marking their spiritual development. Even then there will be differences of views as a new generation will not agree with the old in everything. Allowance must be made for this when fundamentals of Scripture are not at stake. Little wonder it is that John rejoiced when he saw sons and daughters having a genuine interest in, and desires for, the Word of God. “Walking in truth” denotes not only their way of life, but the progress they are making in it.

But even when parents bring up a family in a godly way, there are those who turn away from what they have been taught. Parents will feel sorrow at this, yet must not blame themselves, but learn, rather, from the father of the prodigal son. He waited until the errant son saw the error of his ways and brought joy to the heart of his father. Bathe your longing for that day in prayer and keep in mind the opening paragraph above.