Thesis: Children become fools unless there is a change of course.
1. Today is Father's Day! In recognition of that fact I'd like to read a piece from one of the most revered philosophers of our time, Bill Cosby. It is from his book entitled, Fatherhood.
2. Illust. It is no profound revelation to say that fathering has changed greatly from the days my own father used me for batting practice. However, the baffling behavior of children is exactly the same today as it was when Joseph's brothers peddled him to the Egyptians. And in the face of such constant baffling behavior, many men have wondered: Just what is a father's role today? As a taskmaster, he's inept. As a referee, he's hopeless. And as a short-order cook, he may have the wrong menu.
The answer, of course, is that no matter how hopeless or copeless a father may be, his role is simply to be there, sharing all the chores with his wife. Let her have the babies; but after that, try to share every job around. Any man today who returns from work, sinks into a chair, and calls for his pipe is a man with an appetite for danger. Actually, changing a diaper takes much less time than waxing a car. A card doesn't spit up on your pants, of course, but a baby's book value is considerably higher.
If the new American father feels bewildered and even defeated, let him take comfort from the fact that whatever he does in any fathering situation has a fifty percent chance of being right. Having five children has taught me a truth as cosmic as any that you can find on a mountain in Tibet: There are no absolutes in raising children. In any stressful situation, fathering is always a roll of the dice. The game may be messy, but I have never found one with more rewards and joys. You know the only people who are always sure about the proper way to raise children? Those who've never had any. --Bill Cosby (from Fatherhood) via Silver Springs, MD
3. What is the role of a father today? It is the same today as it ever was.
a. It is simply to "be there." To refuse to opt out when it comes to raising children.
b. It takes two people--a man and a woman--to conceive a child; it takes two to raise them too!
c. To fully understand why fathers are so important, we want to look at another book on fatherhood--the book of Proverbs.
I. THE STARTING POINT.
A. Proverbs 30:11-14.
1. Better translated: "There is a generation ..."
2. The writer of Proverbs knows that this describes any generation that is untaught and undisciplined--any generation left to itself.
3. Illust. In the early 1980s there was a popular rock group that called itself "Devo." "Devo" was not short for "devotional," but for de-evolution. Their thesis was that things are not evolving into something better, but devolving into something worse. Things are getting worse, not better; things are coming apart, not together. Their music reflected that perspective!
B. Proverbs: children are on a downward trajectory towards becoming a fool, unless their course is corrected.
1. Illust. What is a "fool?" Has nothing to do with one's IQ or sense of humor. A "fool," Biblically speaking, is a person who lives as if God does not matter.
2. Proverbs begins with the assumption that children need lots of guidance in order to become a successful person--does not happen on its own! (That's where fathers come in!)
3. Rearing children was serious business in ancient Israel--Deut. 21:18-19, 21; Prov. 19:18.
a. 17:21--"To have a fool for a son brings grief; there is no joy for the father of a fool."
b. 17:25--"A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him."
c. 19:13--"A foolish son is his father's ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping."
II. ALTERING TRAJECTORIES. < 3 ways >
A. Instruct Children (Dt. 6:4-9).
1. Foundation is pro-active instruction.
2. Happens on a daily basis.
3. Illust. Good news is that this instruction can take place anywhere. At home, in church, a supermarket; even a baseball game where an irate fan's undeleted expletives shock everyone's senses! Becomes an opportunity for instruction. Children don't need to be shielded from the ugly things in life as much as they need to be instructed!
B. Correct Children.
1. World would be a nice place if all we had to do for our children was instruct them ... sometimes we must step in and correct them.
2. Illust. A few years ago a highly-paid baseball superstar went into a batting slump. Coach's first attempt was instruction--batting cage practice, slowmotion videos. Came to realize it was an attitude problem. Benched the player. That worked! Difference between instruction and correction.
C. Discipline Children (13:24; 3:11-12).
1. Illust. Tony Campolo once repeated a little poem that illustrates how difficult this task can be: "Never strike a child in anger; never touch him when irate; save it for some happy time, when both are feeling great!"
2. Illust. A story is told about a college professor who had no children, but plenty of advice for people who did. Whenever he saw a neighbor scolding a child for some wrongdoing, he would say, "You should love your boy, not punish him." One hot summer afternoon the professor was doing some repair work on a concrete driveway. As he finished and was heading back inside, he saw a neighbor boy putting his foot into the fresh cement. He rushed over, grabbed him, and was about to yell at him when a neighbor said, "Now, now, Professor! Don't you remember? You must `love' the child!" At this, the Professor yelled back, "I do love him ..... in the abstract but not in the concrete!"
III. A CLOSING, PRACTICAL THOUGHT.
A. There's a lot of movements in the conservative, evangelical, Christian world today:
1. Socio-political efforts to change way things are.
2. Don't want to detract--I personally don't get too excited about such efforts. Here's why: < according to experts >
a. 7% of influence on a child's life comes from classroom.
b. 1% of influence comes from Church and Sunday School.
c. Want to guess where the remaining 92% comes from?
B. What may be even more important than conducting campaigns FOR the family is conducting campaigns IN the family.
1. As Chuck Swindoll says: "Home is where life makes up its mind."
2. Our prayer this AM is that our children will make up their minds in our homes and that our fathers will help them do it!