Training can be hard, long, monotonous and tiring work.
I recently met a kid at a summer camp from another church named Landon. He is a runner on the track team at his school. Landon made the junior Olympics because he runs a 5k in just over fifteen minutes. WOW!! One day at camp, some of the other leaders and myself bought our huddle group slushies from Sonic. Dylan was also in our huddle group. It was an incredibly hot, humid day and the teenagers had just finished a pretty competitive relay with all the other groups. When we began to pass out the slushies to the students, they were so excited and thirsty that they were crawling all over each other to claim theirs.
When we handed a slushy to Landon, he respectfully declined and informed us that, because of his training, he had not had a sugary drink like that or any type soda in five years. That means that he had been training, at the very least, since he was nine years old. That is dedication and hard work.
I have recently been thinking about a verse in Proverbs that speaks about training. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
The book of Proverbs is a book of common sense! It is a book that every believer can read and gain Godly, practical insights from regarding just about every life situation that one could possibly encounter. It speaks of wisdom, money, love, relationships, anger, forgiveness, working, saving, helping, parents, children, and the list goes on and on. The book of Proverbs, if read and properly applied, will help us to make wise decisions and avoid foolish ones… or more bluntly, to live wisely and not foolishly.
Look at the beginning of Proverbs (Proverbs 1:1-6):
1The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
2 To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
3 To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity;
4 To give prudence to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion—
5 A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
6 To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
Proverbs aids its readers in developing the skill of moral, Biblical, ethical discernment in everyday living. The book of Proverbs helps to recognize wisdom and to gain understanding… and the value of seeking out and listening to wise, Biblical counsel.
So then, Proverbs 22:6 is just that. It is a verse that is written to parents about the importance of raising their children ‘in the way he should go.’ It is a wise thing for parents to raise their children in the right way. This verse is not a promise! Rather, it is a wise saying and a general rule. It should provide hope and encouragement to parents in the midst of a dysfunctional and perverse world. I would say that the antithesis of this verse would also be a general rule.
There is hope in found in scripture, because there is hope found in God. I know, as a parent, that I desire for my children to grow in the grace and knowledge of our great God (2 Peter 3:18). I desire for them to love Him and to walk with Him throughout their lives. So let’s look briefly, then, at this verse and what it means for the parent and the child.
1. Train Up A Child
The word train (chânak – Hb) means to narrow, discipline, dedicate. When I think about the word train, I think of consistent, ongoing, hard work. Sometimes it is enjoyable and sometimes it is not, for one or both parties.
This verse is telling us to train our children. Train them! Discipline them! Teach them to be disciplined in the things of God! Dedicate them to and teach them to be dedicated to the things of God.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 gives us a good idea of the commitment that is required in order to train up our children. Moses says that we should teach them diligently, speaking to them constantly of the things of God… when we are sitting at home, traveling, going to bed, waking up… taking/making every opportunity to keep God and His word in front of our children.
We should show them that the Lord is to be our first and greatest priority (Matthew 22:37-38). We are to esteem Him and adore Him more than any other person or thing. More than hobbies, school, work, sports, band, friends, etc… We must speak of God often and with sincerity. We must show our children what faith in the goodness of God looks like in our own lives. We must use times of brokenness, sorrow, failure, disappointment, joy, victory and blessing in our own lives and in theirs to point to the person of Jesus Christ and His great Gospel.
A serious athlete would not show up to the golf course, baseball/football field, basketball court, or soccer field only once a week, or twice a week, or three times a week. NOPE! The serious athlete will practice lots. When they are tired. When they don’t want to be there. When it is raining. When their muscles are sore. When no one else is there. When it ceases to be fun for a while. When they are in a rut. All the time!
In the same way, so would a scientist, journalist, doctor, lawyer, or musician.
Likewise, if we are serious about our children growing in their faith and in their love for the Lord, which is of much greater importance than any of the above, then we should do the same, and more. Bringing our children to church a few times a week is not sufficient training! Parents we are still the No.1 influencers in the lives of our children… and we must diligently train our own children in the Lord. We should not and must not leave that task up to another. We can have help… and should have help, but we must be the ones to ensure that our children have adequate training in the things of God. The sooner we begin, the better. Henry Ward Beecher says,
“It is not hard to make a child or a tree grow right if you train them when they’re young, but to make them straighten out after you’ve allowed things to go wrong is not an easy matter.”
How well are you training your children in the things of God? What type of Biblical, Godly training are you providing for your children?
2. In The Way He Should Go
In the book of Proverbs, there are really only two options as to which way a person can go. We can go the way of the righteous and wise. Or we can go the way of the wicked and foolish.
Proverbs 4:18, 19 – “But the path of the just [righteous] is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.”
As Christian parents, it is our responsibility to diligently train up our children in the way they should go! Not the way they want to go.
Proverbs 21:2 tells us that “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.” And again in Proverbs 28:26 says, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.”
We are to point our children towards Christ… at all times in every circumstance and in every situation. We are to train our children, not only to trust in God, but also, that God can be trusted. Even though our ways may seem right, God knows what are hearts are made of and that they cannot be trusted. He knows our selfish desires and motives. We must train our children to choose wisely… and choosing wisely begins by knowing and loving God. We must train our children to walk with the Lord and to know Him and His Word.
Walking with Jesus is the way of the righteous and wise. Anything else is the way of the wicked and foolish.
Are you pointing your children to Jesus… the way of the wise? Which ‘way’ is your life pointing them to? Your priorities?
3. He Will Not Depart From It
Early, consistent training will help to secure lifelong habits in our children. Early, faithful training will also provide for many opportunities for our children to see and experience the work of God in our lives and in their own. Our children will learn how to pray expectantly. Our children will learn how to see God in life… all of life… not just church life. Our children will learn that God is faithful and can be trusted.
It will be harder for our children to walk away from God when they have seen His work and faithfulness firsthand and often throughout their childhood and in the lives of their parents (2 Timothy 1:3-5). After all, training our children is more about God than it is about us. Faithfully and consistently training our children in the things of God is really just taking/making every opportunity to show our children the goodness and faithfulness of God (Psalm 63:3)!
As a parent, know that hope is only ever found in the Lord (Psalm 62:5-7). This truth is especially important here for a couple of reasons.
- If there is breath in our lungs, it is never too late. Parent, if you are struggling with pointing your child to Jesus and training them in righteousness, find your hope in Jesus today. He will do through you what you cannot do on your own. The desire, creativity, passion to train our children in the way of the Lord… all of that comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in the heart of every believer.
- If you have failed in the past and your child (however old) is far from God, all is not lost. Ask God to forgive you and to correct your heart. Begin to fervently pray for your child(ren). It is God who saves… it always has been (Romans 1:16). It is God who restores. It has never been up to us!