When I was a young father, like most parents, I read a lot of books about how to be a good parent. I remember reading a book by Christian author John Whitein which he interviews an engineering student who turned out to be a godly, sharp, and compassionate young man.
When White asked him what he wanted to do when he got beyond college, the student said something unexpected. He replied, “I want to be like my dad.”
White assumed the student meant that he wanted to become an engineer. But the young man clarified, “I want to be a Christian like my dad. He’s thegreatest Christian I know.”
This was shocking to White — and to me. After I read that story, I thought to myself:
What would it be like if the goal of every parent was to raise a child that loves God with all their heart, soul, and strength and loves theirmom and dad?
The second thing I wondered was:
How does a parent raise godly children like this?
Today, there are so many voices screaming about what it means to be a great parent and how to do it. Thankfully, God has provided some very clear answersin His Word.
Ephesians 6 is the most straightforward passage in the New Testament that speaks to parents about how to raise their kids.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4)
The Apostle Paul instructs dads not to exasperate their kids by overcorrecting, being overly harsh, and even overprotective. This word “ exasperate” evokes a sense of frustration, hopelessness and anger. Instead, fathers are to “bring up”their kids — which means to nurtureand tenderly develop. And they’re to do this by administering discipline.
In our American culture, discipline conjures up images of parents angrily punishing their kids. But in the Bible, discipline is meant to be somethingpositive. It’s really about providing “training and instruction” out of love.
Similarly, God disciplines us as His children for our good because He loves us and wants us to share in His holiness.
Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it… They disciplined us for a little while as they thoughtbest; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, butpainful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Heb. 12:9-11)
Just as God disciplines us as His children, we’re to discipline our children by teaching them to obey God and His word. We’re to do this through consistentconsequences and clear instructions in an atmosphere of love.
We need to parent with love and with limits.
In seminary, I wrote a thesis on parenting and in one of my case studies of juvenile delinquents, the teens overwhelming said: “I knew my parents loved mewhen they disciplined me. When they set boundaries and enforced them, something deep in my psyche knew that they cared for me.”
But perhaps the toughest part about being godly parents is when we keep planting the seeds of what is right, and it seems like nothing is happening.
Sound familiar? We need to remember that farmers rarely reap a harvest in the same season that they sow. Similarly, it’s not until much later that we asparents reap a “harvest of righteousness and peace” with our kids.
This “training” takes a lot of time and is hard work! But we can be encouraged that if we endure, we will reap a harvest – notnecessarily kids who are successful, have upward mobility, or high SAT scores (although those are blessings!) – but something even better: a son ordaughter with godly character who loves God and loves us!
For more practical advice and timeless truths for parents, browse our Group Studies and Weekday Radio Archive.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip