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

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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.”

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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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