Summary: Parenting is a calling that needs our commitment and requires compassion

There was a pastor who gave a talk about parenting even before he had a child. His title was, “How to Raise Your Children.” Then he had his first child. It took him some time before he gave that talk again. When he gave it, he changed the title into “Suggestions for Struggling Parents.” Then he had two more children. Again he changed it into “Hints for Hopeless Parents.” Finally, when they became teenagers, he ended up with this: “Anyone here got a few words of wisdom?” [1]

Parenting is really tough! It can bring out the best or the worst from us. But it is God’s will that we experience meaningful relationships. The book of Ephesians teaches us how to live a significant life, “a life that measures up to the standard God set when he called [us].” (Ephesians 4:1b, Good News Bible) A significant life leads to significant relationships. We talked about the responsibility of the children to obey their parents in Ephesians 6:1-3. Now, parents, it’s our turn. Let’s look at verse 4: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

Note that the apostle Paul focused on the fathers. We tend to think that because we are good providers we automatically become good fathers. We assume that because the mother stays at home she can take care of parenting our kids. Fathers, don’t think that we can raise our family by remote control. God holds us personally responsible. Of course, wives partners with their husbands in raising their children. But I believe that God directly commanded the fathers as the head of the family. Dr. James Dobson wrote, “A Christian man is obligated to lead his family to the best of his ability… If his family has purchased too many items on credit, then the financial crunch is ultimately his fault. If the family never reads the Bible or seldom goes to church on Sunday, God holds the man to blame. If the children are disrespectful and disobedient, the primary responsibility lies with the father… not his wife. [Our] greatest need is for husbands to begin guiding their families, rather than pouring every physical and emotional resource into the mere acquisition of money.” [2] Fathers, God wants us to be directly involved in the lives of our children. We cannot delegate it to our wives.

We have two commands in Ephesians 6:4, the first is negative, the second is positive. We need to obey both commands. We cannot obey one without the other.

Let’s look at the first command: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children...” In the New American Standard Bible, “do not provoke your children to anger.” When we exasperate them, we provoke them to anger. How?

I summarized it in the acronym P-R-O-V-O-K-E.

We come down hard on our children when we PRESSURE them to achieve. Of course, we are to challenge our kids to excel. But there are times we end up pushing them unreasonably. I read about a child who cried when she got 95 out of 100 in an exam. When the teacher asked why, she said, “Because my father will spank me for every point away from 100.” Why push our kids to be perfect when we ourselves are not perfect? The Message goes like this: “don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them.” There are times we come down hard on our kids because we want THEM to fulfill OUR dreams, the very goals we failed to achieve ourselves. Dr. John MacArthur in his The Fulfilled Family warns us, “You can push so much that the child will have absolutely no sense of fulfillment; nothing is ever enough. causes them to become bitter.”

One time my son asked my wife, “What if my exam is not perfect? What if I didn’t make it to the Directress’ List?” She answered, “I will still love you.” My son smiled and said, “Thanks, Mom. That feels good.” Well, he made it to the List anyway. God is good!

We exasperate our kids when we REJECT them or refuse to give them our approval. When we always point out what’s wrong, when we fail to highlight what’s right, we discourage them. Of course, we only credit them when it’s due them. It will not make an impact if we overdo it. But the problem is we are too quick to correct and too slow to compliment. Some of us think that if we praise them, they would become proud. Or, to sound spiritual, we say, “They might lose their reward in heaven.” But we parents will actually lose our rewards if we fail to give them our approval.

We provoke our children when we are OVERPROTECTIVE. We control them obsessively. We decide every aspect of their lives. We should teach our kids to stand on their own feet. Teach your kids to take risks because they will face a world full of risks. Allow them to make mistakes. Now I am not talking about sin. I’m talking about teaching them to decide on things that matters, like the college course to take or the choice of friends. Yes, they are accountable for their decisions. Of course, they will have to face the consequences of their actions. Yet, we teach them to make their own decisions because we will not always be there to decide for them. We just have to provide the guidelines or the boundaries and then coach them.

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Daniel Devilder

commented on Dec 27, 2006

Eyerich, a nice little concise sermon. Some good quips and ideas. thank you. I might use a couple quotes from your work. (the opening Swindoll reference is ME, baby!!). I still am struggling a bit on balancing the Father with the parent idea in this text. I am conservative (I think) but I struggle with saying Father's HAVE to (as some say "women can't do this well" . . .). But I also don't think one can say "Fathers can take or leave the responsibility to raise their kids or rely on others . . ." Still thinking.

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