Several years ago (1997), Reeve Lindbergh, daughter of aviator Charles Lindbergh, was invited to give the annual Lindbergh Address at the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum. They were commemorating the 70th anniversary of her father's historic solo flight across the Atlantic. On the day of the speech, museum officials invited her to come early, so she could have a close-up look at The Spirit of St. Louis, which was suspended from the museum. It was the little plane that her father had piloted from New York to Paris in 1927.
That morning in the museum, Reeve and her young son, Ben, eagerly climbed into the bucket of a cherry-picker, which carried them upward until the plane was at eye level and within their reach. Seeing the machine that her father had so bravely flown across the sea was an unforgettable experience for Reeve. She had never touched the plane before, and that morning, 20 feet above the floor of the museum, she tenderly reached out to run her fingers along the door handle, which she knew her father must have grasped many times with his own hand.
Tears welled up in her eyes at the thought of what she was doing. “Oh, Ben,” she whispered, her voice trembling, “isn't this amazing?”
“Yeaaaaaah,” Ben replied, equally impressed. “I've never been in a cherry-picker before!” (Barbara Johnson, He's Gonna Toot and I'm Gonna Scoot: Waiting for Gabriel's Horn, Word, 1999)
Somehow, he failed to grasp the significance of the situation. But that’s the way most children are. They miss what’s most important unless we, their parents and grandparents, teach them.
We’re talking about how to raise grand kids this morning, and if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Ephesians 6, Ephesians 6, where the Bible tells us what’s most important for a child to learn and how best to teach it to him or her.
Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (ESV)
TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO OBEY.
Instruct them to listen to you. Train them to do what you tell them to do. It’s the most important lesson they will ever learn in life, one which will serve them well all their lives.
We must teach our children to obey, because first of all it is right. Do you know that this is the only command in all of scripture addressed specifically to children? It’s the only thing they really need to learn as children, because if they do, then everything else will fall into place.
One day, a father of five came home with a toy, called his children to his side and asked which one of them should get the present. “Who is the most obedient,” he asked, “never talks back to mother and does everything he or she is told.”
There was silence and then a chorus of voices: “You play with it, Daddy!” (Helen Daley, Better Families, Vol.19:1, January 1995)
Daddy was the only one that listened to mother. Why not the children? We must teach our children to obey, because it is right.
More than that, we must teach our children to obey, because it is necessary for their survival and the survival of our society. Verse 3 says to children, “Obey…that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Our children’s physical and psychological well-being depends on their learning to obey their parents.
Some time ago, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse released an extensive study on teens and substance abuse. Their main finding was that “teens whose parents have established rules in the house have better relationships with their parents and a substantially lower risk of smoking, drinking, and using illegal drugs than the typical teen.”
Out of the 526 girls and 474 boys between ages 12 and 17 evaluated, the study found that only 25 percent live with parents who establish and enforce rules in the home. These 25 percent are at less risk for drug abuse than teens whose parents impose few or no rules.
The study discovered that the successful parents habitually did at least 10 of the following 12 actions: 1) Monitor what their teens watch on TV; 2) Monitor what their teens do on the Internet; 3) Put restrictions on the music they buy; 4) Know where their teens are after school and on weekends; 5) Are told the truth by their teens about where they really are going; 6) Are "very aware" of their teens academic performance; 7) Impose a curfew; 8) Make clear they would be "extremely upset" if their teen used pot; 9) Eat dinner with their teens six or seven nights a week; 10) Turn off the TV during dinner; 11) Assign their teen regular chores; 12) Have an adult present when the teens return home from school.
Of the teens living in lax homes, only 24 percent had an exceptionally good relationship with their mothers and 13 percent with their fathers. Of the teens living in relatively strict homes, 57 percent had an exceptionally good relationship with their mothers and 47 percent with their fathers.
The Center's president Joseph A. Califano Jr., made this comment in response to the study: He said, “Mothers and fathers who are parents rather than pals can greatly reduce the risk of their children smoking, drinking and using drugs.” (Pete Hartogs, "Study: Rules Improve Parent-Child Relationship," CNN Online, 02-21-01)
My friends, we need to be parents to our children, not pals. When they’re growing up, our children need us to establish and enforce reasonable rules in our homes. Otherwise, their lives will lack direction and purpose, and we will do them more harm than good.
It’s necessary for their survival, and it’s necessary for the survival of our nation. When the children of Israel were being established as a nation, God said to them, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). It was not primarily a promise to individuals, as much as it was a promise to the nation as a whole.
If they, as a nation, could learn to respect their parents, then they, as a nation, would survive a long time in the land God was giving them. You see, the survival of a nation depends on its children learning to respect authority, and that starts in the home where the children learn to respect their own parents.
It’s a very important lesson, because if they learn to respect their own parents, then they will learn to respect their bosses at work, and they will learn to respect the laws of the land. Without such respect, a society falls apart very quickly.
Several years ago, The New York Times reported that only 9 percent of adults were able to say the children they saw in public were respectful toward adults.
The Times also reported that more than one out of three teachers considered leaving their profession or were acquainted with another teacher who quit. The reason? Students' “intolerable behavior”.
In addition, 70 percent of those living in America declared, “people are ruder than they were 20 or 30 years ago.” Among the worst offenders: children.
Why? Experts say it's because of what parents expect from kids. “The pressure to do well is up. The demand to do good is down, way down…” (Judith Warner, “Kids Gone Wild,” The New York Times, 11-27-05)
Our whole society suffers when Children don’t learn to respect their parents. My friends, we should not be concerned so much that our children and grand children do well in life. We should be more concerned that they do good, for if they do good, then they will do well in life.
It’s absolutely necessary for their survival and for the survival of our nation. If we want to raise grand kids, then we must teach our children to obey. But at the same time…
WE MUST NOT ANGER THEM.
We must not be overbearing. We must not abuse our authority.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.
Literally, do not arouse them to wrath. Pastor Ray Stedman lists three things that fathers do, which provoke their children. Ignore them: A father who has no time for his children soon creates within them a deep-seated resentment. Children in these homes can grow up to feel unloved and unaccepted and may end up looking elsewhere to have their needs met.
Indulge them: These types of fathers give their children everything they want. This is not good because a child who is indulged all the time can become restless, dissatisfied, and spoiled.
Insult them: Some dads like to criticize their kids and even call them names, [but] sarcasm and ridicule can knock the stuffing out of a child faster than anything else. (Brian Bill, from his sermon Making Your Relationships Work, posted on www.SermonCentral.com)
Parents, please don’t do that to your children. Instead, compliment them as much as you can, discipline them, and spend time with them.
Do you realize, according to an extensive survey recently conducted by MTV and the Associated Press, that spending time with the family is what makes young people the happiest? MTV interviewed hundreds of young people between the ages of 13 and 24 and 73% of them listed “spending time with family” as the single greatest thing that made them happiest. Nearly half of the kids surveyed mentioned one of their parents as their hero. (“What Makes America's Youth Happy?” Knowledge Networks Inc., April 2007, www.christianpost.com; www.PreachingToday.com)
So spend time with your children and grandchildren. Have fun with them; eat with them; play with them. It’s what they enjoy the most, and it’s absolutely crucial to teaching them to respect authority without causing them to rebel.
Josh McDowell put it well when he said, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion”. It provokes our children to anger.
You see, even though it is very important to teach our children to obey, there is no cause to be overly harsh with them. There is no cause for us to abuse our authority. We teach children to obey, not for OUR benefit, but for THEIRS!
At 3:30 p.m. on June 6, 2007, Ben Carpenter, a 21-year-old man with muscular dystrophy, drove his electric-powered wheelchair down the sidewalk in Paw Paw, Michigan. As he approached the street crossing at the corner of Red Arrow Highway and Hazen Street, a semi truck came to a halt at the stoplight. Ben began to cross the street in his wheelchair just a few feet in front of the towering truck.
When the light turned green, the 52-year-old driver of the truck did not see Ben in his wheelchair. With Ben still in front of the truck, the engine roared to life, and the mammoth vehicle pulled forward. When the truck struck Ben's wheelchair, the wheelchair turned, now facing forward, and the handles in the back of the wheelchair became wedged in the truck's grille. The wheelchair kept rolling, though, and Ben, wearing a seatbelt, was held in his chair. The truck driver was still oblivious to the fact that he had hit the wheelchair. The truck picked up speed, soon reaching 50 mph. Still the wheelchair and Ben were pinned dangerously on the front.
While the driver continued along in his own little world of the truck cab, people along the road saw what was happening. Everyone seemed to see the drama unfolding but the driver. Frantic observers called 911. People waved their arms and tried to get the driver's attention. Two off-duty policemen saw what was happening and began to pursue the truck. On drove the trucker. On the road behind the truck were two new parallel lines that marked where the wheelchairs' rubber wheels were being worn off. Finally, after two terrifying miles, the driver pulled into a trucking company parking lot, still clueless to the presence of Ben Carpenter pinned to the front of his truck. Thankfully, Ben was unharmed. (James Prichard, Michigan man in wheelchair takes wild ride after getting lodged to truck's front grille, Associated Press, 6-8-07)
Often, that’s the way it is in life. Like the truck driver, there are people in powerful positions. And like the man in the wheelchair, there are people in vulnerable positions. The powerful people have control, and the vulnerable people are often controlled by others. Government officials have power. Leaders have power, and parents have power. Whereas, the poor, the uneducated, and the young are often very vulnerable.
Now, there is nothing wrong with power. God gives people power and authority to use for the good of others. But when they abuse that power, when they use that power to push their own agendas, oblivious to the vulnerable people around them, then they resemble a truck driver flying down the highway with a cripple pinned to the grille of their 18-wheeler. (Craig Brian Larson, editor of PreachingToday.com)
Gary Wills, in Leadership Journal, once said, “The parent who exerts his or her power most drastically over children loses all power over them, except the power to twist and hurt and destroy.” (Gary Wills, Leadership, Vol. 3, no. 3)
Our job as parents is not to push our children down. Our job as parents is to bring them up. We don’t teach our children to obey out of a selfish need to control and manipulate. We teach our children to obey so they can leave us someday and learn to follow Christ on their own. We must not anger our children. Instead, we must…
BRING THEM UP TO FOLLOW CHRIST.
We must raise them up to obey the Lord. We must grow them up in His instruction.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (ESV)
We want our children to follow Christ’s agenda for their lives, not our own. This certainly involves teaching them the Bible. This certainly involves praying with them. But most importantly, this certainly involves setting the example ourselves.
We teach best by example. Modeling is the most powerful tool we have as parents, because children don’t do what we say, they do what they see in us. We cannot expect our children to follow hard after Christ, if we don’t do it ourselves.
Christian Smith, Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame and Lisa Pearce, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have been conducting a major research project since August 2001, which is scheduled to conclude at the end of next year (December 2015). The project, called the National Study of Youth and Religion, looks at the religious lives of American youth from adolescence into young adulthood.
It’s a long-term, longitudinal study, and what the researchers are discovering is absolutely amazing. With so many of our young people leaving the faith after they graduate from High School (by some estimates up to 90%), they have discovered three factors that help youth maintain their faith into adulthood: 1) The young person's parents practiced the faith in the home and in daily life, not just in public-church settings; 2) The young person had at least one significant adult mentor or friend, other than parents, who practiced the faith seriously; 3) The young person had at least one significant spiritual experience before the age of 17.
In other words, teenagers are most likely to retain their Christian faith into adulthood if they have had a meaningful and healthy relationship with their parents, a faithful Christian mentor outside of the family, and with God himself.
Here’s the bottom line: unless there is a specific adult in a teenager's life who shows the teenager by example and in the context of a meaningful, long-term relationship how an adult incorporates Christian faith into daily life, no program, camp, mission trip, youth group, worship style, musical trend, Sunday school, church program or class will make a statistically significant difference. Further, to retain their faith into adulthood young people need to experience God's grace for themselves. (Seraphim Danckaert, “Losing our Religion,” Orthodox Heterodoxy, 4-8-14; www.PreachingToday.com)
If our children and grandchildren are going to learn to follow Jesus, then we must set the example in our own homes. Harold Korver, of Paramount, California, put it this way, “If you don't make a habit out of going to church each Sunday, you shoot yourself in the foot, your children in the leg, and your grandchildren in the heart.”
Dad’s, if you cannot attend church on a regular basis for yourself, then at least do it for your children and grandchildren, because THEIR commitment to Christ will reflect YOUR commitment to Christ.
If we want to raise grand kids, then we must teach them to obey without putting them down, but bringing them up to follow Christ.
John Ashcroft, former U.S. Attorney General, talks about his dad’s influence in his own life. In Lessons from a Father to His Son, he writes, “Many kids wake up to the smell of coffee brewing or the sound of a rooster crowing. My wake-up call was my father's passionate praying filtering through the house. Sometimes I'd ease downstairs and join him. One knee was usually raised, so I'd slip in underneath, shielded by his body as he pleaded for my soul.
“I never caught Dad praying for our happiness. He realized that the pursuit of happiness for its own sake is a frustrating, disillusioning, often futile effort. Happiness usually hides from those addicted to its sugar, while it chases after those caught up in something more lasting than momentary excitement.
“I never heard him pray for a bigger house, car, or bank account. Instead, he prayed that our hearts would be ignited and inspired to do things of eternal consequence. ‘Turn our eyes from the temporal, the physical, and the menial,’ he prayed, ‘and toward the eternal, the spiritual, and the noble.’
“My father never pressured us toward achievement. He knew that the push had to come from inner reserves, not outward designs. He simply dangled before us the possibilities. Thanks to his example, we sometimes took the bait. (John Ashcroft, “Lessons from a Father to His Son,” Men of Integrity, July/August 2001)
Moms, Dads, and Grandparents, by the example of our own lives, let’s dangle before our children the possibilities, and pray they take the bait.