“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”
There is probably no more quoted and considered bible verse when it comes to parenting than Proverbs 22:6. Though the statement is not a guaranteed promise to parents, consider for instance other verses in Proverbs that clearly connect a child’s choices with the direction of his future such as the previous verse (Prov 22:5), it remains a verse either trusted or dreaded as parents think upon their own parenting and the lives of their children.
We can minister the gospel to older children. This is no small topic and most definitely not a “one-size-fits-all” answer! Christian parenting is far more art than science. We cannot simply “follow these five step” and insure the desired outcome when it comes to parenting. And yet, knowing the eternal consequences of what one believes in this life, it is no wonder there is no greater source of anguish for a parent than an unbelieving child. Regardless of what you get or don’t get out of this little reflection, may I encourage you to connect with Pastor Andrew or myself if this is an ongoing concern for you?
Primarily, set your heart upon Christ. By setting your heart I mean root your affection, confidence, ambition, and acceptance in Christ and his gospel alone. Besides being an anchor for your own soul through the trials of life, your faith can be a beacon of truth and light for your children. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:16)” You won’t be perfect, but make your relationship with Christ your top priority, and live the kind of life your child can follow and find Christ in doing so.
Second, consider your relationship with the child in question. It is likely to have limits. Even in the best of parent/child relationships you don’t parent a 30 year old like a 15 year old. What are the limits in your situation? How open and truthful can you be? Is there receptivity to a direct gospel witness? Sometimes, our ministry to our children is motivated more by guilt than by love, and so we “share Christ” with them to avoid feeling guilty rather than a true biblical “speaking the truth in love”. There is always the belief that one more admonition, one more bible verse, one more reminder that we are praying for them will turn the tide. Chances are, they have heard it all and could finish your own sentences! Make sure they know you love them, and seek the Lord’s help to know the relational limits.
Finally, remain steadfast in hope for the future. Be encouraged that though there may be significant relational limits, that doesn’t mean there are spiritual limits. Think of how great a salvation we all have: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)” So pray and hope for your children!
Proverbs 22:6 reminds us how much we as parents and we as children fail, but rejoice in the gospel’s power to temper our parenting faults and to soften the hardened heart of a child.
Mission Action Plan: Ask the Lord to help you assess the relationship you have with your child, and ask for one inspired, appropriate way of connecting with them.
Mission Action Prayer: Lord, thank you for so great a salvation, so totally undeserved. Help me to be a light to my children.
Resource: Come Back, Barbara, by John Miller and Barbara Miller Juliani
As we gather for Sunday worship, we want you to meet with God and be transformed by the Word. Prepare your heart by reading the passage and listening to the songs for Sunday.
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