Many parents within the church, especially conservative churches, know they have a responsibility to call their children to obey. One of their primary goals is to produce obedient children who love the Lord. But, some of those parents do not seem to understand that they have a responsibility to help their children be courageous and full of joy.
One of their primary goals should be to rear joyful, courageous children.
Paul writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Lest means, “God doesn’t want this.” Really, this verse is a warning. Paul is saying, you have to watch out. You need to call your children to be obedient, sure, but listen when you do that, remember God doesn’t want your children to become discouraged.
When a person is discouraged he has lost heart, he lacks joy, he isn’t courageous and strong. And to be very blunt with you, I’ve met a lot of Christian children like that. If I look to the world I see many children who are out of control. When I look to the church I see many children who are broken. Sure they obey their parents, but there is no life in them. I can picture them in my minds eye, their hair is combed just so, they walk with their heads hanging low, they are kind of like robots. You know their dad crosses his legs and the whole family crosses their legs the same way at the same time. These children are kind of like walking zombies. They remind a little of a pet that’s been beaten. If you’ve ever gone to pet a dog that has been beaten, what does it do? It winces. These children live their lives with a permanent wince. Nervous. Afraid. They lack courage. They have no heart.
God doesn’t want that for your children.
And if God doesn’t want that for your children, we could say positively, He wants the opposite. He does want your children to have heart, to be courageous and strong and to experience joy. And what Paul wants you to understand here is that you have a responsibility in that. It’s possible for you to parent in a way that creates an environment in which it is easy for your children to be discouraged, and it’s possible for you to parent in such a way that creates an environment in which it is easier for your children to experience joy and develop courage.
Now if there are many in the world who would disagree with what we said about obedience, there are many who would agree with what we just said about courage and joy. I’m sure those qualities would be high on almost any unbelieving parents list. We even hear a lot of talk about the importance of self-confidence. But obviously, that’s not exactly what Paul is talking about. This is not self-confidence. It’s better than that. God doesn’t want your children to be courageous and strong in and of themselves. This is not having Johnny sit in a corner and say he loves himself thirty times a day. Instead this is about constantly pointing your children to Christ. This is about children who are courageous and joyful because they are looking to Him for their strength and happiness.
As Christian parents, it is vital what is most important to God is most important to us. If our objectives aren’t biblical, it doesn’t matter how many parenting tips we hear or how many parenting books we read, our parenting is going to fall short of truly Christian parenting.
When it comes to what God wants for our children, there’s a beautiful balance that we as parents must always keep in the forefront of our minds. Obedience, yes. Discouragement, no. Courage and joy, yes. Disobedience, no. So many parents emphasize one quality to the detriment of the other. As Christian parents, we must strive to be balanced. The key to keeping that balance is putting Christ first. Obedience for the sake of obedience is nothing all that great. And confidence for the sake of confidence is nothing all that special.
What we’re shooting for is, as John Piper once said:
* “Children who are consistently obedient because they love the Lord.”
* “Children who are joyfully courageous because they hope in the Lord.”