There is no greater assignment in life than the joy and privilege of serving as a parent. The opportunity to mold and mentor a young life is a unique gift that is to be treasured by those whose ears respond to the call “Mom” or “Dad.” As a father and leader in the home, men must view parenting not as a necessary chore, but as a privilege to be enjoyed. Far too many parents—even Christian parents—are enduring what they ought to be enjoying! But do not take my word for it—listen to God’s perspective: “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psalm 127:3).
From my vantage point as a father, grandfather, pastor, and educator, it appears as if far too many parents have lost sight of the power they possess. So many are magnifying the difficulty of the task instead of utilizing God-given resources they have been provided. In his book, What Mary and Joseph Knew about Parenting, Rick Osborne writes, “Not only do we have the active blessing of God on our children as they grow up in His presence, but we also have God as our parenting partner. He’s always right there with us, ready to guide us and teach us how to parent. The more we rely on Him, the more success we will enjoy.”1
That is not to suggest the task of parenting is easy – far from it! But like any and every endeavor, if we place our utmost dependence in Him, we are blessed to receive wisdom to guide them and strength for the journey.
My wife, Sharon, and I are proud of our children, and while they are not perfect (however, our six grandchildren are – well, almost!), they constantly bring joy and delight to our lives. I am so grateful God helped us understand the potential we were given as parents to influence their lives.
The Power of Prayer
It is said of Christianity, nothing is talked about more and practiced less than prayer. The consequences of living life apart from God’s presence are visible in society, in our churches, and in our homes. I often ponder the truth that our Lord’s disciples did not ask of Him, “Lord, teach us to preach . . . or teach . . . or evangelize . . . or serve!” Their earnest request was, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). They understood what many parents do not—that there is incredible power in prayer! As parents, we may be limited in what we can purchase for our children, or even in the time we can spend with our children, but we are not limited in our ability to pray for our children. James reminds us, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
When our oldest daughter was not yet in kindergarten, I overheard my wife praying for her husband. Admittedly, I thought she was somewhat premature—that is, until she remarked, “Someone is rearing our son-in-law right now.” Rather than belittle her prayer efforts, I joined her! Now married 21 years to a fine Christian man—a pastor no less—I rejoice that we employed the power of prayer on her behalf.
And remember this word of encouragement from an anonymous writer, “And Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.”
The Power of Unconditional Love
Christian parents are without excuse. That is, we are without excuse when speaking about the need for, and power of, unconditional love. As believers we are the recipients of God’s gracious and unconditional love (Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 13; Ephesians 5:25-33). As God loves us, as parents we are to love our children. Pastor and author David Sorenson writes, “A home that is all authoritarian and rules likely will produce children who eventually rebel. The mitigating factor is love.”2 As I write these words, I recall the many occasions when my wife, Sharon, and I endeavored to teach or demonstrate unconditional love to our children—and now to our grandchildren. As they matured, I shared with them that there may be occasions when they disappoint us, or hurt us, or even anger us; but with reassuring words I explained, they could never do anything that would cause us to stop loving them. When all else fails, try love. Alexander MacLaren said, “Love is the only fire that is hot enough to melt the iron obstinacy of a creature’s will.”3
Dr. James Kesler has given his life to young people. For years he served as the host of a radio broadcast, “Family Forum,” and his books are fundamental works for parents and counselors. Consider carefully Kesler’s powerful words regarding love. “Teenagers particularly must continually be assured that we love them and are trying to protect them. Even though we may sometimes be unable to communicate it, our motive must always be love. When young people have this assurance, they are more likely to give us the benefit of the doubt—even when they don’t totally understand our reasons for certain restrictions.”4 A love that is effectively communicated and consistently demonstrated is a power too great to ignore. My challenge is that every father will seize this enormous power and refuse to relegate this responsibility to others!
The Power of Discipline
In today’s challenging world, many parents struggle with discipline. Even Christian parents have adopted the mindset, “I love them too much to discipline them!” Once again, our loving Heavenly Father must be our guide and role model (Hebrews 12:5-11). Just as God disciplines His children, dads too must assume this responsibility.
A wise parent will consider the individuality of each child when administering appropriate discipline
You will develop a new and more accurate perspective of discipline when you view it as a form of discipleship. The goal of discipline is not harsh punishment aimed at injuring or abusing a child; but rather, it is correction aimed at conforming a child or teen to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). A wise parent will consider the individuality of each child when administering appropriate discipline. Our youngest daughter responded more quickly to the threat of losing a privilege, or, as it is called today, “time out,” rather than the promise of corporal punishment.
Children learn and are motivated differently and, as such, must be “discipled” according to their singular personalities. While standards of obedience should be consistent among all the children in the home, a discerning parent will, “Train up a child in the way he should go . . .” (Proverbs 22:6).
Dr. Adrian Rogers states it simply, “God has constantly corrected His children. The victorious life is not a life of no mistakes. Rather, it is a life of fresh starts.”5 When a parent disciplines a child, he or she is guiding the child to a new beginning of obedience—a fresh start. The ultimate power of discipline is not physical, but spiritual. Parents, being spiritually mature, must utilize God’s Word in developing their children to live a life of godliness and purpose.
As difficult as it may be, parents must get engaged in the lives and the daily routine of their children. Learn to say, “No,” begin to ask questions, start today by utilizing the power of parenting afforded to you by God. As you contemplate your responsibility as a parent, meditate on these words by Dr. James Dobson, “Children are not casual guests in our home. They have been loaned to us temporarily for the purpose of loving them and instilling a foundation of values on which their future lives will be built.”6
- Rick Osborne, What Mary & Joseph Knew About Parenting, (Integrity Publishers), p. 17.
- David Sorenson, Training Your Children To Turn Out Right, (Independence: American Association of Christian Schools), p. 73.
- George Sweeting, Who Said That?, (Chicago: Moody Press), p.13.
- Jay Kesler, Emotionally Healthy Teenagers, (Nashville: Word Publishing), p.114.
- Adrian Rogers and Steve Rogers, Family Survival In An X-Rated World, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers), p. 154.
- Sweeting, Who Said That?, p. 86.