Have you ever read, or pondered the closing words of the Old Testament? Malachi 4:6 states: “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” These are the last words contained in the Bible before a 400 year silence.
In the Gospel of Luke, the author lets it be known that this was not forgotten “… and he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
Fathers, as you look to our heavenly Father, may the preaching of the Gospel in the spirit of Elijah turn your hearts toward your children. Don’t let work, hobbies, disappointment, or your pride turn your heart away from or against your kids. Be kind, considerate, patient, and encouraging with your words. Don’t provoke them to anger, but nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Fathers and mothers, let us prepare the way of the Lord and anticipate His return by pointing our affections toward Christ, and reflect His love towards our children.
“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of His reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom He loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” – Proverbs 3:11-12
“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” – Proverbs 29:17
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4
The Scriptures tell us that God at times, nurtures us by speaking the truth in love, and sometimes that plays out in an aggressive way. There was an interesting study I read recently about behavioral analysis. It was a study on certain adolescents who came from really good homes, but their hearts were just filled with rage. And so, they would medicate them, talk with them, and try to figure out why. In an effort to better understand where this rage was coming from, they started this intensive study on why these kids were angry like this, and here’s basically what they found:
In almost every one of the cases, they found a mother who took nurturing to a sinful level. Let me try to explain what I mean by that. From their research and study, they found in one case in particular, that one of the kids would be painting and then as the kid walked away and left the paint and started playing with another toy, the mother would clean up all the paint and put it away. And then the kid would move over to this other toy for a little bit, but then he would come back and want to paint again. And so, the mother would pull out all the paints and then put back up the other things and the kid would start to paint again. And so while the kid was painting, the mother would go over and clean up the toys over here and clean up the toys over there. And then the kid would leave the paint, come over back to the toys that the mom just put up and pull them out and start playing with them again. So the mother would go back and clean up all the paint again, because you couldn’t leave the paint out or it would ruin. So she would screw on the top, she would take down the easel, she would put it all up and then the kid would come back over and want to paint again. And so the mother would get the easel back out… and I’m sure some of you are reading this, thinking about your mom, and are just like, “Who is this mother?!” It certainly was not my mother (for which I am grateful). But this mom would pull all the paint supplies back out and set it all back up again, over and over.
And what ended up happening was, as the kid grew and developed, they weren’t really ready for any of the disappointment that is life. Because that little scenario is the only bubble in which you’ll get your way all of the time. And so, the kid couldn’t deal with kindergarten. And so as they grew, they began to develop this anger and this rage towards everyone who didn’t give them what they wanted. Because if we would just give them what they want then everything would be great… and I don’t know if you’ve ever been with anyone like that, like they just have this pervasive problem and they can’t ever see that the common denominator is them. And what happened here in this case is that it was not biblical nurturing. Biblical nurturing would be more like, “Uh sweetie, mommy put those up. You can paint tomorrow. (kiss) Little artist, go on now. (hug) Go on, play with your other stuff. Mommy already put the paint up.” The Biblical idea of nurturing is more like that. And overall, women just naturally provide nurturing nourishment much better than men do, but that does not excuse fathers from raising their children in a nurturing manner.
We must always remember though, that as parents, we’re not going to be a good enough to pull off salvation in our children’s hearts. We’re just not. We’re not going to be able to model it well enough. All we can do is commend God’s works to them. He’s got to save them. So we are to plead with Him. Men and women who walk in pride, they don’t need to plead for the lives of their children. You know why? Because they’ve got it. Why would they need to plead? God forbid if their kid runs amok. You know what the issue was? The issue wasn’t them; the issue was all you other guys’ kid. Your kid(s) came into their life, influenced them into darkness and if you would have done a better job, if you would have watched what they watched, if you would have watched what they read, if you would not have allowed them to watch the “Smurfs, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, the Disney Channel” or whatever the Evangelical community is now saying is evil and wicked and after the souls of our children, if you would have done that, then in the end, “my kid would love the Lord, because I raised them to love the Lord. That’s not how I raised them. Your kid was the real issue.” I’ve been in that room before. I’ve actually heard parents declare that nonsense.
Or here’s one I think that most everyone has seen. There are men and women who cannot sustain relationships for any period of time. Like, they have a good friend for about six months and then they’ve got this whole other group of friends for about six months, and then they’ve got this whole other group they run with for about six months. Or they go from this relationship, to that relationship, to this relationship. And if you sit down over a drink with them, they could tell you all about all that was wrong with all of those people without ever being able to see that the common denominator is them. And that’s pride. “Let me tell you why everyone else has issues.”
People who walk in pride are just perpetually in crisis. There’s always a crisis, always. It’s never having to do with them though. It’s always someone else. It’s absolutely devastating to the pursuit of Jesus. Because in the end, you don’t believe you really need Him despite the fact that all objective evidence would say it’s the other way. But you can’t see objective evidence. It’s this insane belief in our own sufficiency that robs us of freedom and life… it’s pride (Luke 18). I mean, God has flat out said that proud He will know from afar and they will not be able to draw near to Him (Psalm 138:6). Think about what that means? God opposes the proud. (Ecclesiastes 7:8; Jeremiah 13:15; Luke 1:51; James 4:6; 1st Peter 5:5)
The proud also deny their need for dependence. The Bible is clear in its teaching that we are all beggars, in desperate need of grace. We are completely dependent on God for everything; we are to praise God, from whom all blessings flow. Job’s conversation with God near the end of the book of Job is a great display of how little and not-in-control of things we all really are.
There is this idea of sanctification in the Christian faith that is beautiful, but pretty painful at times; more specifically, it is the truth that God is working all things together for our good so that we might look more like Christ. This is easy to regurgitate but difficult to really believe and apply in our daily lives. I am bent toward a particular cynicism that doubts the goodness of God in my life and His unwavering commitment to finish the good work He began in me (Philippians 1:6). My natural inclination is not to see every situation as His grace toward me and care for me in leading me to depend less upon myself and my wisdom and more upon Him and His.
As parents, there are so many more ways to see this, and feel this, than those without children.
I am more confident in my ability to love and serve my wife when I am in prayer. As parents, we are called to be more confident in our ability train and discipline when we are in prayer. I’ll admit my first thought is not always to pray. My first thought is not always to ask the sovereign Ruler of the universe to watch over and protect my marriage. The reality that I have access to the Father, through Christ, does not always immediately enter my mind when I first begin to have difficulty or struggle.
But we are dependent on God. Even when we’re not fully aware of it, or living as if we don’t believe that. In subtle ways, as parents we are to continually train our children in dependence. It doesn’t matter the situation or circumstance – dependence upon God or dependence upon ourselves to grow in maturity should be taught. This road was never promised to be easy, or to be filled with happiness and void of pain. But in the end, we hope for something greater, we rest in the idea of this promise: “Some day, things that look like broken glass to us here will make sense… as small parts of a beautiful stained glass picture of God’s redemptive work throughout history.”