Training Spiritual Champions (Proverbs 22:6)

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There is a saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” The first printed mention of this saying can be found in the February 1866 issue of the publication “Notes and Queries.” The publication printed the proverb like this: “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” The phrase slowly morphed into “an apple a day, no doctor to pay”. And now has become known by the popular phrasing of today.

In all, apples are known to be healthy to eat. In 2011, a Dutch study found that that eating apples and pears might help prevent strokes. In 2012, an Ohio State University study found that eating an apple a day helped significantly lower levels of bad cholesterol in middle-aged adults. The fruit is low in calories & sodium and high in fiber & Vitamin C. Apples also act as a toothbrush, cleaning teeth and killing bacteria in the mouth, which may reduce the risk of tooth decay. So, the saying is true – an apple a day can keep the doctor away.

But what if you ate 7 apples all in one day; would you be good for the rest of the week? I am afraid that many of us use this approach when it comes to Christianity and our parenting. The idea is that if we attend church, or take our children to church, once a week then we will keep evil away.

 

168 hours in 1 week

– Parents have approximately 40+ hours (beyond school and your work schedule) to impact children.

– Church ministry leaders have approximately 3-4 hours.

 

The Christian faith is more than a once a week medicine pill. And for parents, we must have greater goals for our kids than temporary trivialities. Too often we cater and contribute to our kids entertainment and education but not so much in their eternity. Today’s message is about raising spiritual champions and leaving a greater legacy for future generations.

 

JC Ryle in The Duties of Parents, p.8 “Precious no doubt are these little ones in your eyes; but if you love them, think often of their souls. No interest should weigh with you so much as their eternal interests. No part of them should be so dear to you as that part which will never die. The world, with all its glory, shall pass away; the hills shall melt; the heavens shall be wrapped together as a scroll; and the sun shall cease to shine; but the spirit which dwells in those little creatures, whom you love so well, shall outlive them all, and whether in happiness or misery will depend on you. This is the thought that should be uppermost in your mind, in all you do for your children. In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement, that concerns them, do not leave that mighty question, ‘How will this affect their souls?’”

 

EXAMINE   Proverbs 22:6                       Title: Ordinary Spiritual Champions

Solomon was one of the wisest men in all of human history. God offered to bless Solomon with whatever he desired and Solomon asked for wisdom (1Kings 3:9). God granted this request and the book of Proverbs is one of the products of this blessing. Solomon wrote over 3000 proverbs and the book is known for its concise and clever statements about human nature and living life. family 4

As a former YP there would be numerous times I would discuss with parents about raising children. Most of my YP days were “BC” – before children. Then I would say that I had at least 3-4 wise theories on parenting. As a YP, I considered myself an expert on children & teens. Now I have 4 children and no expert theories on parenting. In serious, when parents ask for advice or me to recommend a book on parenting – one of the first ones to recommend is the book of Proverbs.

One feature to understand about Proverbs is that they are general truths for generations of life. It is implied that these truths are brief and broad generalizations and not always specific to individual circumstances. Life is too complex to be summed up in a single phrase. Yet, the proverbs help us on the path towards help and hope in God for all of life’s challenges.

 

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

This proverb provides a principle and a promise.

– Principle: Training children is necessary.

– Promise: Training children is never ending.

 

Principle: Training children is necessary.

The word “train” (ḥānak) means to dedicate and was used in reference to offering something in worship to God (Deut 20:5; 1Kings 8:63; 2Chron 7:5). Solomon, the king who offered countless sacrifices in constructing and celebrating the Temple, most certainly had a similar idea in mind with this proverb.

Children are a gift to parents from God; they are on loan to be stewards of God’s creation. Therefore, parents have the God-given mandate to train them for God’s purposes.

The phrase, “in the way he should go” implies understanding the nature of children in general.[1] In other words, to train children we must understand their need for instruction and correction. Children are sinners in need of a Savior. Further, children are like wet cement with whatever falling on them making a lasting impression. Training is necessary and needing a target.

Training children should have at least 3 targets:

  1. Convictions: These are core concepts of belief, worldview, for existence and purpose. #knowyourwhy
  2. Character: These are values with life applications, forming a child’s identity.
  3. Competencies: These are behaviors, skills, and habits that one may perform for life success.

 

God has instituted two training environments: the home and the church.

In the home, parents are called to be present, persistent and prayerful.

Be Present: Many of us are activity focused and experience driven. We are “crazy busy” and on the go. At the same time we are relationally poor. We must reverse this – becoming relationship focused & driven. Our families need each other – husbands need their wives physically and emotionally available; wives need their husbands physically and emotionally engaged; children need their parents attention, affection and love; they need time, they need you!
Deuteronomy 6:7-9 you shall teach [God’s commands] diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
– Family Dinners

As you go… watching tv, performing chores, along car rides, participating in activities…

– Date your kids

– Note: Parenting/teaching often does not happen on schedule. So, be prepared; the only way to be prepared is to be present.
Be persistent: We love quick fixes and fast answers. However, when it comes to parenting there are seldom easy formulas or solutions. Parenting is a process that requires persistence. Parenting is hard work because it is heart work. And changing the heart takes persistence and prayer.

  • Lead by example. Children will learn more with their eyes than their ears.
    Proverbs 20:7 “The righteous who walks in integrity – blessed are his children after him.”

 people

Be prayerful: The reality is that, because we are human, our parenting will fail. Therefore, though we cannot be a perfect parent we can be a praying parent (Mark Batterson).

 In Praying Circles Around Your Children, Mark Batterson says “You don’t have to do everything right as a parent, but there is one thing you cannot afford to get wrong. That one thing is prayer. You’ll never be a perfect parent, but you can be a praying parent. Prayer is your highest privilege as a parent. There is nothing you can do that will have higher return on investment. In fact, the dividends are eternal” (p.11).

In the church, parents have partners with other believers for ministry and models.

à Ministry: The church can serve alongside you to care, encourage, support, and strengthen your family.

– Formal Ministry (like air war vs ground war)

We have opportunities to create programs and targeted ministries for various life stages and circumstances of the family.

  • WEE PreSchool
  • TeamKID
  • Men/Women’s ministry events (mens bfast / secret sister)
  • Marriage (promo “I Still Do” simulcast on Oct 4)

– Informal Ministry (ground war… is personal relationships and the home!)

We are brothers & sisters & adopted children of God, belonging to each other in love, honor, and service.

   Romans 12:10-13 “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do    

   not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be

   constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

Note: The primary way this happens at SPBC is our Bible Groups. Cannot emphasize enough!
à Models: The church – individuals, couples, families – can become as examples and role models to you and your family. We learn from both positive and negative character qualities, but it is the life on life connection that happens. The church is never meant to supplant the home but can be a wonderful support and complement.

  • Friends can form your future
    Proverbs 13:20 “whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but companion of fools will suffer harm.” 1Corinthians 15:33 “bad company corrupts good character”
  • You will have a 2nd family somewhere…
  • Most organizations (sport leagues, club memberships, and even jobs) require strong commitments.
    • Some jobs require non-stop work travel leaving little time at home with spouse/children
    • Some organizations require coaches and children to be at multiple weekday practice times and weekend games & tournaments. This leaves little time for the family in their own home or for their own value-driven activities (school work, family field trips, religious activities, etc.). The organization/team becomes the family.

You will have to determine if these organizations are providing the proper training for your family based upon the stewardship that God has given to you.

 

Promise: Training children is never ending.

Solomon says that if you train children according to their way, that even when they are old, they will not depart from it. Some have mistakenly taken this as an all-encompassing guarantee that if a child is taught the truths of God when they are young, that regardless if they stray they will return back to God.

As much as I would like that to be true… and as much as I have seen it to be true on occasion, it is sadly not always true. Sometimes children and people drift away so far that they have lost the desire to return. It happens with parents and their children… with other family members… and even with spouses.

There must be quantitative and qualitative attention given to every relationship.

Parents, your role is never ending. Sure there are seasons of parenting but you always have a role.

  • 0-3   Foundations: provision, care and nurture
  • 1-3; 4-5; 6-13; 13-18                 Formations: instruction, guidance, correction
  • 18+                 Freedom: release; allow success & failure (avoid boomerang, adultolescence)
  • 20’s+ Followup: advise, counsel, friend (parenting never ends!)

Church, our role is never ending. Too often we move children through our ministry programs not only to see them graduate school but unfortunately graduate faith.

movement

Further, a look across the church landscape shows that generational replacement is lacking. The passing of faith from one generation to another is being neglected.

The Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) performed a College Transition Project with over five hundred youth over a six year time span. The closest “definitive silver bullet” to finding lasting faith among this young age generation was that “High school and college students who experience more intergenerational worship tend to have higher faith maturity.”[2]

In fact, this group of surveyed college students looking back at their youth ministry experienced wanted more “1. Time for deep conversation, 2. Mission trips, 3. Service projects, 4. Accountability, 5. One-on-one time with leaders.”[3]

Notice that at least three of the five desires directly involved relationships with the implied element of intergenerational connection. Likewise, the spiritually mature teens do not just want to receive from an older generation but they want to give to the next younger generation, with those students who “participated in leadership with middle school or elementary kids showed stronger faith three years later than those who didn’t.”[4]

The FYI’s survey showed that by far the number one way churches made teens feel welcome and valued was when adults in the congregation showed a genuine interest in them.[5]

A genuine interest goes beyond the typical Children & Youth Ministry experiences to adults asking questions, developing relationships, cultivating trust and rubbing shoulders together through ministry service together. When such relationship occurs there is a statistical difference in “sticky faith”.[6] According to a Lifeway study, teens who had five or more adults from the church invested in them during the ages of fifteen to eighteen were less likely to leave the church after high school.[7] Therefore, we should be reversing the stereotypical student ministry ratio of one adult for five kids so that the intergenerational role models are multiplied in the life of a young person.

 

APPLY/THINK

  • Our greatest resource is not in our budget, buildings, or #butts in the seats. Our greatest resource is the gospel.

 

  • Only the gospel can train hearts, change our hurts, and give us all hope.

 

  • Beyond prayer, what is one way you can make serious commitment to invest in your/a child’s eternity?
  • Will you commit to praying for your children and at least 1x week for our church’s CM/YM, and WEE?

 

  • Training & Parenting is never ending. That may be discouraging but it can also be motivating.
    • God has work for you. Your life has purpose!
    • What insights can you share with your adult children? or other younger parents?
    • What long-term goals for 5, 10, 20, and 50 years do you have for growing godly generations?
  • Ultimately, the most perfect parent is the Heavenly Father. He loves you and calls you to his home. Are you drifting… are you in discipline… are you discouraged…. come to Him.

————————————–

[1] Garrett, D. A. (2001, c1993). Vol. 14: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of songs (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (188). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers. The phrase דַרְכּוֹ עַל־פִּיis literally “in accordance with his way”, the way as not the child’s individual nature but the way of children as such.

[2] Kara E. Powell, Brad M. Griffin, Cheryl A. Crawford, Sticky Faith: Practical Ideas to Nurture Long-Term Faith in Teenagers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011): 75.

[3] Ibid, 141.

[4] Ibid, 142.

[5] Ibid, 77.

[6] Ibid, 78.

[7] “Lifeway Research Uncovers Reasons 18 to 22 Year Olds Drop Out of Church” <http://www.lifeway.com/article/165949&gt;

 

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