The joy of raring children
Children are a gift from God. This is a profound statement taken for granted until children are desired. Deuteronomy 7:13; 28:4 speaks of God blessing the fruit of the womb. Hannah in her barrenness, in 1 Samuel Chapter 1, recognized the source of children and approached God for a child. Sarai too confessed God as the giver of children when she uttered these words “see now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children”, Genesis 16:2. “Give me children, or else I die” was a desperate cry of Rachael to Jacob. His response clearly points to God as the giver of children “AM I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” The Psalmist sums it up “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward” Psalms 127:3.
Genesis 1:27, 28 is a benediction for fertility and not a command. “Then God blessed them, and God said to them “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it”. It is a benediction and goodwill for couples to legitimately bring up children. However, not every couple will receive this blessing for reasons best known to the giver. After marriage, like most newly weeds, we employed means to delay their coming. However, experience teaches the preferred option of not delaying the process as conception is not instinctive.
If the Lord withholds them, he gives grace to the couple to manage the circumstance. In the case of the couples quoted above, God graciously opened up the wombs and gave them children. It may not be the case for some who may have to put up with the trials that surround this estate.
The Lord has been gracious to give us three sons and one daughter. This is one of the undeserved favours we have received from the hands of the Lord. It has been a joy to grow up with them and see them develop. Initially, due to delivery complications of the first two sons, it was decided to have the two sons only. God however, overrules all measures taken and we had our third and fourth children without delivery snags.
We understood that the proper environment in which children should be brought up is marriage. God in his wisdom instituted marriage among other major reasons, for procreation to perpetuate human kind. The manner of raising them up has, however, has been our concern as it is an issue with God. He has charged that they should not be brought up like bustards, but in the fear of the Lord.
Having children is a responsibility both husband and wife should squarely own as God holds them accountable for the task of raising up children. The couple should regulate how many children they can responsibly raise. It is irresponsible to fail to match the number of children and the ability to take care of them. There may be cases where this mismatch is brought by means beyond control, but this is an exception rather than the rule. It is also irresponsible to raise children with a view of getting someone to raise them on our behalf. Every couple should endeavor to work hard and provide for their children.
Raising children is a responsibility that begins with parents providing for the basic needs. Basic needs are essentials that children need for them to develop. Parents should toil and till the ground to provide the necessities for children. These will include food, shelter, and clothing. “Do you have a house” was a question Pastor Mbewe asked me when I announced my intentions to marry. I got the message clearly. I needed shelter of my own, whether rented or owned to start a family. The Lord has led us from one work environment to the other as we seek to provide these basic needs and he has proved to be faithful. Parents should be available for their children to provide for them all their basic needs whatever those needs may be. It is the responsibility of parents to prepare their children to be independent. One day, the children will need to move away from the parents hones and start their new lives. It is the responsibility of parents to prepare them for this life. There are several and combined efforts by parents to achieve this end.
Loving all children is another responsibility. This can prove to be daunting if not well handled. Jacob and his ten sons in Genesis 37 provide many lessons to glean from. The coat of many colours dedicated to Joseph was a trigger of many family hitches. Parents must be wise in their distribution of gifts and must avoid partiality. This calls for wisdom as equal distribution of love to children may not be in proportional measure to every child. This matter is further complicated when parents have adopted or are fostering other children besides their biological ones. Children, therefore, should be cherished and loved in honour of the giver. They should be loved also in honour of their lives and the assignments God has individually for every one of them. The manner of love should therefore be unselfish and sacrificial. It should also be aimed at perfecting them to be the best they can be. Parents should be available for their children to provide for them all their basic needs whatever those needs may be.
Parents are tasked to provide leadership to their children. This will evolve providing them with the necessary tools that will shape their future. Children should have a vision, a mission, sets of objectives and possible strategies they will employ as they grow. These may be vaguely imbedded in their minds, but are clearer as they grow. Parents should, therefore challenge their children to take up ownership of their lives.
Parents must teach obedience to their children as directed by the Lord “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” Ephesians 6:1. Teach them obedience and do not provoke them to wrath (Ephesians 6:4). They must be taught to submit to God’s commands foremost. They must be taught to submit to rules in the home, society, and church. Unruly children are a disgrace not only to their parents, but to God and society. The Lord Jesus Christ was subject to his parents’ leadership “Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them” Luke 2:51.
Parents must also teach children to be truthful. Lying is habitual in children and does not reflect the character of God. “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’, ‘No’” is the golden rule on truthfulness by our the Lord Jesus Christ and amplified by his brother James in James 5:12. All forms of lies and deception should be discouraged in the lives of our children and God’s character of truthfulness should be promoted in the lives of the children. The devil is the chief of liars and he deceives by deception and lies. Parents should teach truthfulness and never participate in the sin of lying.
Leading by example is the best strategy to employ. Let children learn godliness from observations on their parents. As parents apply what they teach and live out the Christian doctrines, children learn how it works in practice; grasping various lessons in a Christian life when parents practice patience, and godliness as they face all forms of woes, and all events that befall a family. Parents must lead by example in devotions and love for God, hospitality, hard work, being focused in life, investing in the kingdom of God, being a faithful witness, working for their living and hating sin. Instead of having decadent celebrities as their row models, parents must be the best role models of their children. Passing on negative traits to our generations is a sin parents must pray against and avoid. Sadly, the scriptures have record of godly men who passed on their bosom sins to their children and their children passed them to theirs.
Providing leadership to children, however, will come with its own challenges. Parents may have the best desires to bring up their children in the admonition and fear of the Lord” 2 Timothy 3:15, deviations to the standard is inevitable. Deviations in by children should be corrected immediately and in appropriate manners. Matching Chastisement to the deviation (anticipated or actual), both corrective and punitive, is a task parents should ask wisdom from the Lord. Chastening is a sign of love (Hebrews 12:7-11).
There will be instances that the output of parents’ leadership is inverse correlative. Eli’s children had the best model in life. They outwardly performed religious duties to please humans and self, but were not inwardly transformed thereby exhibiting the debauched fruit of their hearts. However, Eli was charged by God for not taking additional stapes to restrain the madness of his two children (1 Samuel 3:13). Having done all that is humanly speaking feasible, should parents watch hopelessly at the madness and vileness of their children? If not, the question is “What can parents reasonably do”. Eli could have removed the priesthood office from their children as a sign of God’s displeasure.
Parents are charged with the responsibility to impart biblical training and guidance to their children as the basic cornerstone of a child’s upbringing. The body of divine truths as well as all necessary knowledge downloaded on their minds is a critical factor in their character formation and maturity. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” Proverbs 22:6. Parents have an abiding duty to train and guide their children. This duty must be performed with tenderness, affection and patience. Parents must have a gracious persistence in this duty with the soul being targeted as first priority. The reverse of this duty is provoking children to wrath and parents have earned bad reactions for exasperating their children (Colossians 3:21). The bible provides guidance on how the child should be brought up: “but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” Ephesians 6:3.
The whole of scripture should be taught to the children even when they are very young. They should understand the bible and the reformed Christian faith early in their Christian life. The whole body of the Christian faith must be taught comprehensively. Parents should endeavor to ensure that activities that lead to achieving this goal are regularly and consistently performed. A kind of monitoring tool or structural support must exist in a home. These may include one to one personalized meetings with children to monitor their progress and peculiar encounters. Let their minds be filled with scripture so that they may not sin against God (Psalm 119:9, 11) so that they are guided on their life’s journey (Psalm 119:105) and so that they may be pure from contaminations common to man (119:133). It should, therefor be the parents’ duty to ensure that their children attend to means of grace available to them for their continuous spiritual development.
Our Lord Jesus Christ taught his disciples how to pray. In the same manner parents should teach children how to pray. “In this manner, therefore, pray” Matthew 6; 8 Acts 9:11. Parents must teach their children all facets of prayer. Children must learn by observation and by practice in their parents that prayer is life and communion with God. It must be very clear that a Christian will always pray at all time without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and will derive the benefits of prayer (Philippians 4:6). Practical aspects of training children to pray will include encouraging participation by all in all family prayer meetings, private devotions and corporate prayer times at church meetings. They should learn the importance of prayer, forms of prayers (Adoration, Confession, Thanks giving, and Supplication) and learn to apply them in their individual lives. They should also learn the dynamics of prayer such as patience, persistence, and fervency and learn to apply them individually. They should learn that there is a very big positive correlation between prayer life and godliness.
Parents must teach their children the importance of public means of grace and ensure that children make themselves available. Their diligence, pattern of attendance and enthusiasm is an indication, of whether or not they are finding fulfillment in these means of grace. It is the parents’ duty to explain the duty of going into the house of the Lord and the warning not to neglect this duty (Hebrews 10:25). It is also the parents’ duty to explain to their children the many benefits that accrue to God’s people who go into the house of the Lord (Exodus 10:9; Joshua 8:35.
The life of a Christian is a life of faith for without faith, it is impossible to please God. This lesson must be taught to children who should in turn apply the scriptures in their lives. The lessons about faith in the book of Hebrews 11 should be communicated clearly using the vast array of the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. Abraham gave a lead in demonstrating a life of faith (Genesis 22).
Parents may be guilty of lavishly providing for the needs of their children. The sad effect of this has been overindulgence on the part of the children. The children have all that they need and see no need to work for their living. They are dependent on the toil of their parents. The effects of over indulgence may not be seen in the immediate future, but will surely affect our children’s children when those resources left by their forefathers are depleted.
The other form of lavish living is total freedom given to children to do as they pleased. King David let his children overindulge and the consequences were that some of his children sought his throne, his wives and his power. Others murdered, while others committed the sin of bestiary.
Neglecting discipline and overlooking fault is another form of lavish treatment to children. By overlooking fault and discipline, children are spoilt and may become misfits in society. How can parents avoid spoiling their own children so that they do not fail to live productive lives in their adulthood? This is a question parents should earnestly answer as they perform their God given mandate to raise up children in the fear of the Lord.
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