Parents & Kids of Faith

  • Friday, June 17, 2011

    Question: How is the Word made effective for salvation?
    Answer: The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners and of building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.
    Scripture: Ps 19:7; 119:11, 18; 1 Thess 1:6; 1 Pet 2:1, 2; Rom 1:16

    (Maybe This Really Happened)

    Here is a lesson I learned about trying to trick my son long ago. After tucking three-year-old Travis in for bed one night, I heard sobbing coming from his room. Rushing back in, I found him crying hysterically. He managed to tell me that he had swallowed a penny and he was sure he was going to die. No amount of talking was helping. In an attempt to calm him down, I palmed a penny from my pocket and pretended to pull it from Travis’ ear. Travis was delighted. In a flash, he snatched it from my hand, swallowed, and then cheerfully demanded, “Do it again, Dad!”

    By John Piper

    Colossians 3:21 "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged."

    Our text is straightforward and simple this morning: "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged." It divides naturally into three parts:

    1. First, there is the address, "Fathers."
    2. Second, there is the command, "Do not provoke your children."
    3. Third, there is the purpose of the command, "Lest they become discouraged."

    We will look at these three parts of the text one at a time in reverse order. First, we will direct our attention to the goal of Christian fathers, namely, rearing children who are not discouraged. Second, we will look at the duty of Christian fathers, namely, not to do those things that discourage children. And finally, we will focus on the leader in Christian parenthood, namely, fathers.

    But first a word about the fatherhood of God.

    The Fatherhood of God
    In the Lord's Prayer Jesus taught his disciples to call God Father: "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." He taught that God is not everyone's Father. In John 8:42, 44 he said to those who refused to follow him, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God . . . You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires."

    God is the Father only of those who are led by the Spirit of his Son. In Romans 8:9, 14-15 Paul says, "Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. . . All who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God."

    Not every one can lay claim to the privilege of knowing God as Father. Only those who are born of God (John 1:13), who receive Christ (John 1:12), and who are led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14) have the right to receive the inheritance of the children- promises like Matthew 7:11, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" The privilege of prayer and the promise that God will work all things together for your good is part of the inheritance of sonship. That is what it means to have God as your Father.

    There are two reasons I begin with this word about the fatherhood of God. One is that I believe all human fatherhood should be patterned on the divine fatherhood. The overarching guide for every father should be to live in such a way that his children can see what God the Father is like. They ought to see in their human father a reflection-albeit imperfect-of the heavenly Father in his strength and tenderness, in his wrath and mercy, in his exaltation and condescension, in his surpassing wisdom and patient guidance. The task of every human father is to be for his children an image the Father in heaven.

    The other reason I begin with the fatherhood of God is to give this message relevance for everyone in this room whether you are a father or not; and whether you had a Christian father or not. I want to make clear from the outset that the sadness many may feel at never having had a father like the father I will describe, and the sadness others may feel at never having been a father like the father I will describe- that sadness can be swallowed up and overcome with joy this morning because God offers his fatherhood to anyone who will accept the gift of adoption by trusting Christ and yielding to be led by the Holy Spirit.

    There are two ways to listen to this message this morning. One is to take it as a straightforward exhortation from the Word of God to fathers on how to rear their children. The other is to take it as a parable pointing to the way the Father in heaven loves those who believe and follow his Son. Frankly, I hope all of you hear it in both senses.

    1. "Lest They Become Discouraged"
    Let's go to the text and begin with the last phrase of Colossians 3:21, "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged."

    The goal of a good father is to rear children who are not discouraged. The word implies losing heart, being listless, spiritless, disinterested, moody, sullen, with a kind of blank resignation toward life. Don't be the kind of father who rears that kind of person. Instead develop a style of fatherhood that produces the opposite of discouragement.

    The Opposite of Discouragement
    Now what is that? I would sum it up in three characteristics.

    1. The opposite of being discouraged is being hopeful.
    2. The opposite of being discouraged is being happy.
    3. The opposite of being discouraged is being confident and courageous.

    So I would say that the negative form of verse 21 really implies a positive command as well. It says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged." But it means not only avoid one kind of fatherhood; it also means pursue another kind, namely, the kind of fatherhood which gives hope instead of discouragement; and gives happiness instead of discouragement; and gives confidence and courage.

    Distinctly Christian Teaching
    If we stopped right here, we would not have said anything distinctly Christian. There is not one parent in ten thousand who thinks that the aim of parenthood should be to discourage children. But the apostle Paul would be distressed if all I did were to use his words here simply to express some everyday common sense, or some natural wisdom. He was not inspired by the Holy Spirit to confirm the insights of Dr. Spock. He was inspired to teach parents things that no natural eye has seen and no natural ear has heard (1 Corinthians 2:9-13).

    Here is what I mean. Paul's teaching makes it clear that when he says we should be fathers who give hope instead of discouragement, he means hope in GOD, not hope in money or hope in popularity or hope in education or hope in a spouse or hope in professional success. If you had asked Paul, or Jesus, "What kind of freedom from discouragement do you want our children to have?" he would not have said, "I want your children to be freed from discouragement by being filled with hope that they will become wealthy . . . or well-known, or intellectual, or married, or successful." We know that is not what he means. He means, be the kind of fathers who do not discourage your children but rather fill them with hope in God.

    Happiness That Kills and Happiness in God
    And when we consider happiness as the opposite of discouragement, Paul would not be content if a father simply made his child feel good by giving him whatever he wanted. There is a happiness that kills. To some kinds of happiness the Scripture says, "Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection" (James 4:9). There is a happiness that has nothing to do with God, and therefore has no value in the sight of God. It comes from the creation alone and not from the Creator. That isn't what Paul wants fathers to put in the place of discouragement.

    But there is another joy that comes to expression, for example, in Psalm 4:7-8,
    Thou hast put more joy in my heart
    than they have when their grain and wine abound.
    In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
    for thou alone, O lord, makest me dwell in safety.

    Fathers, don't discourage your children, but fill them with joy in God! Teach them early on-and show them earlier yet-that through many sufferings they must enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22), but that they can rejoice in sufferings, knowing that "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope"-IN GOD (Romans 5:3-4). Don't discourage them. Make them happy in God by helping them to hope in God.

    Self-Confidence and God-Confidence
    And when we consider confidence as the opposite of discouragement, the message of Scripture takes a dramatic turn away from the common sense natural wisdom of the world.

    The world says: Don't discourage a child; build up his self-confidence. The Scripture says: Don't discourage a child; build up his God-confidence. In fact the Scripture is more precise than that; it teaches: Don't discourage a child, but do your best to root out his self-confidence and replace it with a confidence in God. And when it teaches us to root out self-confidence, it means root out the desire to be and to appear self-confident.

    The Scripture knows that most people don't succeed in being self-confident. Most people are quite unhappy about their inability to appear self-reliant and self-assured and cool and in control. So when the Scripture teaches us to root out self-confidence, it means go for the root, not the half-withered branches. Go for the DESIRE to be self-confident, not the meager manifestations of it that make their way into peoples' actions.

    Self-Confidence Being Rooted Out of Paul
    One vivid illustration of how Paul's heavenly Father was patiently working to root out Paul's self-confidence is given in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. Here is a description of how God the Father was working on Paul twenty years after his conversion, which means this is a very deeply rooted sin in all of us. He writes, "We do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely [or: be confident] not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead."

    In other words, the divine purpose of Paul's affliction was (as it is the purpose of all good fatherly discipline) to root out the remaining self-confidence of Paul's heart and to cast him on God alone. Why? Because God didn't want him to be confident? Because he wanted him to be listless, spiritless, moody, sullen, weak, fearful? No! It was God who came to Paul in Corinth and said, "Do NOT be afraid, but speak and do NOT be silent; for I am with you." So the confidence that we are to build into our children is not self-confidence, but confidence in the grace and power of God. "Do not be afraid . . . I AM WITH YOU."


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