One of my biggest fears in life is the thought of having my four children grow up in a home where Jesus is taught, yet they do not come to faith in Christ. It haunts me at times. I believe in a sovereign God who calls and even woos his children to himself to be part of his bride. I also believe that man has a responsibility to place their faith (albeit a faith that is a complete gift from God by grace) in the Lord. I am a young father who loves God’s word, His bride (The Church), and my family. I have had the wonderful opportunity to observe other godly fathers as well as search the scriptures to try to figure out how to honor God in training up my children to fear and love Him. While we cannot make our children trust in the Lord, we can certainly train them up in a way that is biblical and practical at the same time. I have observed (both from other Godly fathers and from scripture) a variety of ways that I believe can do just that. I will list 5 practical ways in this blog, and I encourage you to take them and add to them as you find the opportunity through your own reading and observation. I have implemented these things into my own children (particularly my sons) in training them up in godliness, and I am praying that I remain faithful and “never grow weary in well doing.” This is my prayer for you as well.
1. Teach them the value of hard honest work.
II Thessalonians 3:10b says, “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” In the very beginning of time God placed Adam in the middle of the garden and told him to go to work (to name the animals and tend the garden). It was not a hardship for him (before the fall), it was a joy. God has created men to be providers. To do this, a man must be willing to work. A good work ethic is something that we need to instill in our children. It is a characteristic of God. If we want our sons to grow up to be godly men then we need to teach them the value of hard work. Solomon (the wisest man to ever live) found it profitable to write about this in Proverbs on several occasions (Proverbs 12:24, Proverbs 13:4, Proverbs 14:23). Just as Solomon taught these truths to his sons, so we too should be diligent to do the same. You may ask, “How do you do this when you have young boys of 2, 3, and 4 years?” If you are doing something that you can have them help you with . . . have them help you. Let them see you working. Talk about work to them. While letting them help you may take the job longer to be accomplished, it is an investment worth making.
2. Spend one-on-one time with them.
One of the highlights for my children each week is getting to Friday morning when one of them gets to take the trash to the dump with their daddy. We make a “date” out of it. We make it special by stopping at the store before we leave so that we can get a treat. We usually turn the radio off so that we can just talk while we drive. We talk about everything their young minds can think about. The average father in America today spends less than 3 minutes a day (one-on-one) with his children. There is no way to invest in the lives of your children by spending this amount of time with them only. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go . . .” To do this will mean spending quality time with your sons. Do not be on par with the average statistic. If you are going somewhere and you can bring them with you, then use it as an opportunity to spend time with them. Spend time with your sons. It is not your time to spend after all if you are a Christian, it is God’s.
3.Teach them how to pray.
4-5 times a week my family gathers around our dinner table to have some type of informal family worship (prayer, Bible reading, and singing). God has given me the privilege and responsibility to do this (Genesis 18:19, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Eph. 6:4, Proverbs 22:6). I always open with a prayer, and my wife or I close with praying through the scripture verses we just read. Often we allow our children to pray and repeat the words after us. We purposefully do not dumb down our prayers when we do this. We want them to learn how to pray. When we pray with them before bed, we pray fervent prayers that they can hear so that they can see and hear what a prayer sounds like. When something particularly concerning is going on in our family, we pray. If you want your children to grow in godliness, you need to teach them to pray. James writes, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” If you want your sons to be spiritual warriors when they are grown . . . teach them how to pray. After all, this is what the disciples asked of our Lord . . . “teach us how to pray.”
4.Show them how to love, by loving their mother.
I often learn better by seeing and trying to replicate than by reading and trying to apply. One thing that is true of almost every godly man I know is that he loves his wife well. If we are going to show our sons how Christ loved the church, we must show them how to love their mom. Ephesians 5:21-33 explains to us what this picture looks like in the lives of the family. Christ loved the church so much that he died for her. Let your sons see you hug, kiss, and even show other types of affections to your wife (although do not go overboard with it, some things are just meant for you and her). They may find it gross or silly, but when they grow older, they will be thankful for it. Take her on dates, romance her, respect her . . . and let your sons see it. If they are to love their bride as Christ loved the church, they need a good example of what that looks like. Praise her for the things that she does well, and never tear her down. She is your bride, and is a gift from God. Make sure your sons realize that she is a special gift.
5.Pour the gospel into them every chance you get.
This is one of the harder ones. This is something that I still have to learn to do a better job of. However, the one thing that every godly man has in common that I have observed (and obviously scripture teaches) is taking every opportunity to pour the gospel into their children both formally and informally. The best place in scripture to see this command is found in Deuteronomy 6:5-9. Formally, you need to be reading, praying, and singing together as a family in your home regularly. This is good, and it is needed. However, you also have the opportunity to do this informally. I will tell you this: most of what I have learned has been caught, and not taught. This is where the informal pouring out of the gospel happens. Let me give you an example. When your son has a bad night playing baseball and you can share the gospel with him, take that opportunity. Tell him, “You know son, striking out at the end of the game is hard. It does not feel good. I am sorry and wish I could change it for you; but I am proud of how you handled it. Remember that Proverbs say, ‘whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty’ . . . Although it was not what you wanted to happen, it was honoring to God how you handled it.” Take every opportunity to feed your sons a steady diet of the Lord’s word. This also means, however, that you need to be living it yourself; otherwise you have the whole “log-in-eye meet spec-in-eye” thing going on. Of the five that I have listed, this is the one that is most important and sets you apart from just the average “good” dad that is not a Christian. Good dads (that are not Christians) love their wives, spend time with their sons, and teach them the value of hard work. However, they never say a word to them about the Lord . . . and their sons may very well die and go to hell without Christ. The gospel is what matters most. Be sure that you are pouring it into them, and living it out in front of them.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell