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Teach Your Children Well (Part 4 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
July 1, 2023 4:00 am

Teach Your Children Well (Part 4 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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July 1, 2023 4:00 am

How do we train our children in godliness without discouraging them? And what do we do if our best efforts just don’t seem to be sinking in? Join us on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg concludes a study on biblical wisdom from the book of Proverbs.



We are concluding our study in the book of Proverbs, titled Wise Words, on Truth for Life Weekend. Today we'll learn how to train our children in godliness without discouraging them, and what to do if our best efforts don't seem to be sinking in.

Alistair Begg is looking at Proverbs 22, also looking at Ephesians chapter 6 and verse 4. We could spend a whole morning delineating the way in which we can exasperate our children. I'm going to give you a number of them, both from personal experience, sadly, and from biblical principle.

I'm going to go through them very quickly, because this is not the crux of what I want to drive home this morning. We exasperate our children by failing to allow them to be what they are—namely, children. And we illustrate that when we make irritating or unreasonable demands upon them. Secondly, by treating them with harshness and cruelty. They have fragile lives.

We don't push our weight around. Thirdly, and obviously by ridiculing them in front of others, especially their peers. Fourthly, by portraying favoritism, displaying favoritism, entertaining unhelpful comparisons. Why can't you be like your brother? Why can't you be like your sister?

She's so sensible, you're so stupid. Fifthly, by our failure to express approval even at their apparently small accomplishments. And sometimes we're going to have to give them great approval for small accomplishments, because small accomplishments is all that they have. Not everybody's mother is driving around town with a minivan with fifteen stickers on the back about how brilliant her kid is. Let others praise you. Let others praise your kids.

Let it be said by someone else, you don't need to have it in neon lights on the back of a van. We exasperate our children by being arbitrary in the exercise of discipline, so that they never know where they stand. They don't know whether they're going to get it or they're not going to get it.

They don't know if this is the day when they get it or they don't get it. And often that emerges from the fact that we ourselves are arbitrary in our own self-discipline. So you will never learn—I will never learn to discipline my children properly unless I have learned to discipline myself. And if I am arbitrary in the way I deal with sin in my own life, then it will be inevitable that I'm arbitrary in the way I deal with it in my children's lives. When my children hear godliness from my mouth and they see wickedness in my life, then I point them to heaven, but I lead them to hell. In this respect, neglect is far better than inconsistency. Far better to do nothing than to make this hodgepodge of it.

For at least the children will know I'm dealing now with absolutely nothing. But when they're dealing with a parent who is one day here and the next day there, whose words and his life are parted by a great and significant divide, the children are completely bamboozled. And imitation is a far more powerful principle than memory. Imitation is a far more powerful principle than memory.

Now, some of us learn better by memory, others of us learn better by imitation. I can sit and look at a thing that describes how to put the luggage tag on the bag. I can look at that thing till my eyes burn through it like a laser, and still I can't understand where the jolly thing goes, you know. Does it go around the back, or is that the front? Do I hold it upside down? I give it to Sue.

She looks at it. Boom! It's done. What's the problem? Well, I'm dumb.

That's the problem. I can't do this. I don't learn so well in this way. But the fact of the matter is, I learned to hit a golf ball by imitation, not by a book. I learned to walk by imitation. I learned to cross my legs in a seat, the same way my father does, by imitation. And for those of you who've been apprenticed in any trade, most of what you learned, you learned by imitation. Then you backed it up with books, didn't you? You backed it up with books, but you learned it by imitation. How do I give this injection? Take the thing, says, Take the thing, put the thing, … Forget that.

Show me how to do it. Our lives speak so loudly that we'll never be able to counteract it by instruction that we expect our children to memorize. We also exasperate them when we neglect them and we make them feel like an intrusion.

By seeking to make them achieve our goals rather than their own goals, we exasperate them. Let me tell you what you're going to be, son. Let me tell you how you're going to get there. Let me tell you where you're going to study. Let me tell you why this is best for you.

Let me do it all for you. And along with that, we exasperate our children by our overprotection of them, or by withdrawing love from them. And when these things and other things like them fall into place, the result, says Paul—not only here but in Colossians 3, you can find it in verse 21—the result is that our children become discouraged.

They become discouraged. So says Paul, I want you to make sure that you do not do this, but let me tell you what you need to do. And then he gives a word of positive exhortation, and this concurs with Proverbs 22.6, and we spend the remaining the balance of our time right there. What are we supposed to do?

Well, we're supposed to bring them up. The Greek verb is ektrefo. It means to nourish or to feed them. It means to cherish them fondly. It means to rear them tenderly. It means to sustain them spiritually. These are the things that we are to enforce for our children, the things that the Bible deems important. They're fragile little creatures.

Their need for tenderness and security is manifest everywhere. They are like wet cement, and there's only a brief opportunity for you to put your hands in the cement. You go away and have a coffee and come back, and it's too late. And that, of course, is one of the great challenges for us in the pain that some of us feel—that we didn't have our hands in it enough when the cement was wet.

And things have become frozen over, and now we can't go back without drills and mechanisms to chip into it all. Not only, he says, are we to bring them up, but we are also to bring them up in the training. Paideia, from which we get pedagogue. The pedagogery of parenting.

The same word you'll find in Hebrews 12-11. This refers to the training which takes place by means of rules, regulations, rewards, and the necessary punishments. Punishments.

Proverbs 13 24, Proverbs 22 15. Spare the rod, spoil the child. The issue of whether you can spank your child. The Bible is really clear.

Yes, you can. And yes, you should. It's also really clear that when the rod is exercised in tyranny, it's really wrong. That when spanking would take place out of envy, jealousy, malice, pride, anger, scorn, it's really wrong. And the danger is that we neglect one or the other, that we become extremists, either in relationship to the doing of it or to the neglecting of it—the excessive use of discipline or the exercise of no discipline at all. Therefore, we have to make sure that in the exercise of discipline, we're careful that we don't do it in a moment of temper, that we're annoyed, that our pride has been injured. We need, especially with our children, to discriminate between childish irresponsibility and willful disobedience. And we don't discipline them for irresponsibility.

We discipline them for willful disobedience, and we discipline them to subject their will to the right way and to seek to enable their hearts to be purified. Now, as I thought about it in preparation for this morning, I was thinking about, How many spankings did I get as a boy? Now, you look at me now, and you say, Probably a great deal.

Now, I got more hidings in school than I got at home. But I didn't get a lot at home. I think I got enough.

You can judge that, or I don't care if you judge it or not, actually. But the memorable ones are only—I don't think I can get beyond three spankings. Oh, I'm sure there were more.

But the very fact that I can only remember one in particular where I had to bend over the bathtub, which was like a momentous event. Now, the reason for that was because my sister—blame it on your sister. I mean, it was her fault. She was annoying me. She had a pain in the neck, and I had to deal with her. And in dealing with her, I had to catch her, but I couldn't catch her.

And in endeavoring to inflict punishment upon her, I kicked her as she ran away from me in her posterior and knocked her head into a corner table that explains a great deal about that one sister ever since. But she had a gigantic egg which wouldn't go down. I'm praying, Go down, egg! Go down, egg!

Because my father's coming home. The egg must go down before he walks in. But of course, the egg did not go down.

But the pants came down, and I got a hiding. Now, the reason was that he saw in his son something that a little conversation was not about to deal with. Because this had become a pattern of the flaring temper of the resentful heart of the jealous spirit. And folly is bound up in the heart of that kind of kid. And conversations will not drive it far from, no matter what the European court says. Isn't it a staggering thought that some of us may go to jail in America, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, for disciplining our children?

That we may go to jail in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, for exercising the prerogatives that are so clearly ours within the framework of the home? What a world! What a place! What a challenge! What an importance to do it God's way, the Bible way!

Any dead fish can go with the stream. Now, you'll notice as well that this training is also in the instruction of the Lord. Nathasia, from which we get our word Mathetic, refers to what we do with the child. And what we say to the child, beware of being non-directive. The silly stuff about just letting them choose for themselves.

The notion is so prevalent that to challenge it is to be regarded with caution, you know. But his foolishness was aptly commented on in an encounter between Thelwall and Coleridge. Thelwall the revolutionary.

Thelwall told Coleridge that he thought it very unfair to give a child's mind a certain bent before it could choose for itself. Says Coleridge, I showed him my garden. Covered with weeds. I said, look at that. It's a botanical garden. How so?

I replied that it had not yet come to years of discretion. True, the weeds had taken the mean advantage of growing everywhere. But I could not be so unfair as to prejudice the soil in favor of roses and strawberries.

Right? Perfectly understandable in the natural world. Now, transfer that into the world of rearing our children. It's absolute stupidity. You saw the statistics that came out this week on premarital sex.

Where does it happen? In our own houses! Those of us who think we're really in charge, that we really know what we're doing, we haven't got a clue. But we're not going to interfere in this, you know. We're just going to let them develop and explore and be themselves, you know. Now, we don't want them to come out with the rose of virginity, do we?

No, we would rather they come out with the weeds of infidelity. Absolute, total stupidity. The fool has said in his heart, there is no God. And from that flows every aberration from God's truth.

Let me say this to you as an older man now. This training of Proverbs 22 and Ephesians 6, this training is a work of watchful anxiety that never quits. It's a work of watchful anxiety that never quits. It is painful, it is protracted, and it demands everything of us as parents. While the emphasis here is on dad's parenting is clearly a shared responsibility, every dad knows that he couldn't do what he's supposed to do without the encouragement and the place of his wife.

In fact, it's absolutely crucial. But how do we hold on to this promise? This Proverbs 22, 6, train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it. How are we to hold on to this promise? Well, when you read Ecclesiastes, it says that our bread that is cast on the waters may not be found until after many days. In Ecclesiastes 3, it says that God makes everything beautiful in his time. In Habakkuk 2, it says that the revelation of God has attached to it an appointed time, and that God, who works everything out according to the conformity to his eternal counsel and will, promises to fulfill the promises of his Word.

Think about it. Why do you believe you're a Christian? Because you accepted his promise. He who comes to me ever will know why he's cast out. What are you basing your eternal destiny on? The promise of God's Word.

What is your hope that your children will end up in heaven with you? The promise of God's Word. And as you go down that road, sometimes you're going to have to tie yourself to the promise of God's Word. You're going to have to bind it around your head and write it on your heart. Oh God, fulfill the promise of your Word.

For here's my son, or here's my daughter. Apparently, they have departed. They're not on the road. I did what I was supposed to do, but they're not on the road.

They've departed. What is my assumption? What is my expectation?

My expectation is that God will fulfill his Word. When he's old, how old? I don't know how old. Seventy years old?

Will she be sixty years old and invited over to a neighbor's house? And suddenly at a neighbor's house, she listens as the music plays on the stereo, and the music on the stereo triggers something in her conscience, and her conscience is stirred, and it reminds her of an early impression, and the early impression takes over the smothering convictions which have squashed her journey all the way through the last sixty years. The son is out and gone, and we pray that his conscience will be disturbed, that his pleasures will be bitter, and as a result of the bitterness of some of the fancies that our child has found in their wanderings, that suddenly all of that which has been grounded into them in those early days will come to fruition and bring them to faith. That the reminder of the Father's house and the prospect of mercy will bring them back up the road, the way the boy comes back up the road. Why does he come back up the road? He comes back up the road because of the prospect of mercy, because he knows the forgiveness that is there in his father. And you're praying on for your children.

I hope you are. In this movie, the best part in it for me is when he says, after he's gone through ten years of Buddhism and through the whole trip with George Harrison, when he meets a girl in Nashville—I don't want to spoil it for you—but after he comes to the end of this long and winding road, there's a part in the movie—I think he says it off-camera—and he says, And so it was that I found myself drinking the sweet well water of my mother's prayers for my brother and myself. She never, ever stopped praying. How do you think she felt when he was in Hollywood? How do you think she felt when he embraced the whole Capitol record strip? How do you think she felt when he's smoking dope up in the Beverly Hills?

What did she say to her husband? This thing doesn't work. This Proverbs 22 stuff, it's no good.

No, it's good. All the promises of God find their yes and their amen in the Lord Jesus. Hold on. Hold on. Keep trusting. Keep expecting. Christian diligence.

Leave God to order all your ways and trust in him, whate'er besides. Because, I'll tell you this, it's all grace. It's all grace. From start to finish, it's all grace. Why are you a Christian today? Grace. Did you earn it?

Did you sign up for it? You can't explain it. It's amazing grace.

How sweet the sound. And as a father pities his children, so the Lord pity them that fear him. And as you think about this, fathers, rest in God's grace. Discover God's grace, first in your own heavenly Father. Then go out and be gentle and tender with your children, wise.

Who knows but a little word from you may make all the difference in the rest of their lives. With this I close. Benjamin West, who's a painter, tells of how he became a painter. His mother left him at home to look after his sister, Sally. She was his wee sister, and she said, Don't mess around while I'm gone.

Look after Sally, and I'll be back. Soon as his mother left the house, he found coloring inks. And he got these coloring inks out, and he got brushes, and he got paper, and he got the paper out, and he started to paint a portrait of Sally, in the course of which he got colored ink every place, all over everything, not just the paper. And of course, his mother came back, and when she walked in the room and saw the incredible mess, she also looked forward and she picked up the paper. And she said, It's Sally! And she bent down and kissed her son. And West said, My mother's kiss made me a painter.

Well, I'm so ready to walk in and say, You've got ink everywhere. You've got the whole thing messed up. I mean, can't you do one decent, righteous thing for once in your life? And then I realize how God treats me. It's his kindness that leads me to repentance. Kindness. You're a kind dad. You're a forgiving dad.

It's all grace. You're listening to Truth for Life weekend. That is Bible teacher Alistair Begg with the message he's titled, Teach Your Children Well.

Alistair returns shortly to close today's program. Well, today's the last day of our series titled, Wise Words from the Book of Proverbs. If you missed any of these messages or would like to re-listen or share a message with a friend, you can stream or download a single sermon or the entire series all for free at We make it our practice at Truth for Life to offer as many free or low-cost resources as we can. We want to provide clear Bible teaching for anyone who wants to learn more or anyone who's trying to teach others, including those trying to teach children.

Our prayer is that God's Spirit will work through his word so that unbelievers will become committed followers of Jesus, believers will grow in their faith, and local churches will be built up. Along with Alistair's messages, we choose books that we can recommend with great care. And I'm excited about the book we're featuring today because it turns our measurement of success on its head. The book is called, Dream Small, The Secret Power of the Ordinary Christian Life. We live in a world where we're told it's not good to be ordinary. We're supposed to be extraordinary. We're supposed to achieve big things. But when you read dream small, you'll learn that God's system for measuring success is not like ours. As we reorient our definition of success and align it with God's definition, we'll find greater fulfillment. So what does God value?

Well, the answer to that question and more is found in the book, Dream Small. You can find out more about the book when you go to our website,, or check it out on our mobile app. Now here's Alistair with a closing prayer. Father God, we bless you this morning that the Bible speaks to the issues of our lives.

It's like taking an MRI. It searches right in, it makes us feel uncomfortable, it makes us smile, it's squirm, it's tough. And were it not for the promises of your Word that you, like an earthly father, discipline us for our good so that the experience of discipline, though painful for a little time, will later produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness. Produce that in our lives, God, we pray, and enable us in our stumblings and our bumblings to do a better job than we've done in raising these fragile, tender children who are given to us for such a short time. Thank you for the reminder that it's all grace. Stir our hearts with the wonder of grace. Help us to take our stand there for Jesus' sake. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for including us as part of your weekend. How many times have you thought you had a plan that was better than God's plan? What happens when you try to outmaneuver Him? Find out next weekend as you join us for the beginning of a study in the book of Jonah. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-01 04:11:39 / 2023-07-01 04:20:45 / 9

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