“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
This verse does not represent a guarantee or a promise, as it has often been used to portray. If it were that simple, then it would over rule your child’s (and yours from once being a child) free will. Instead of considering it a promise, let’s consider the implications from a different arena: sports.
An athlete preparing for competition does not just one day pick up a sport, and walk onto the field to compete in the Olympics. While there are natural talents that propel a aspiring athlete into more serious training, even the greatest athletes were and still are trained. In and of itself, training is physically and mentally demanding on the trainee. It requires new levels of discipline as he or she must harness the body to physically surpass limitations, and mentally to overcome barriers of doubt. Additionally, it takes a large investment of time and must become the focal point around which his life rotates. For an aspiring athlete to truly succeed and enter the arena of greatness, he or she must come to the place of being consumed by the sport and possess a coach that both loves the sport and encourages the athlete.
Training our children is in many respects like being the coach for an aspiring athlete. In order to succeed, we must possess a more in depth understanding of the ‘sport’ than our child, but train them in such a way as to instill values and the drive to propel them to master the ‘sport’ more than we have. Additionally, We must be willing to immerse ourselves in further study in an effort to improve our understanding and application of every attribute of the ‘sport.’ In the same way that a sports coach can only teach his athletes what he knows and has applied himself, so a man can only teach and truly convey to his children what he knows and has applied.
Of course that does not mean a man who is a new Christian cannot impart spiritual truth and train his children, in the same way that there is no guarantee that a man who has been a Christian forever will automatically succeed in this endeavor either. One of the fundamental keys which is often neglected, is the aspect of going beyond verbal instruction. If you are striving to instill and train a belief structure and value system in your children’s lives that you do not apply to your own and model for them, then you are a hypocrite in their eyes and they will ultimately rebel against the training. We are called to be salt and light in Matthew 5:13-16. Explaining the salt or light to your children is not enough. Light must be seen to be appreciated and salt must be tasted to be of any use.
One last thought to ponder: King Rehoboam (found in 1 Kings 12) was King Solomon’s son. Solomon was given incredible wisdom, but Rehoboam seemed foolish in the outset of his reign. While the conclusion of all of King Solomon’s searchings in Ecclesiastes is: to fear God and keep His commandments, and that everything else is chasing after the wind (Eccl. 12:13), that wisdom and lesson was not engrained or trained into his son. What his son saw from his father’s life out weighed what he might have been told – he saw his father happily acquiring gold, women, parks, and everything his heart desired, and this training is what began to guide Rehoboam when he became king, ultimately costing him the kingdom.
What role do you take in the training up your children in both a physical and spiritual sense? (if you don’t have children how are you preparing to train them?)
What can we, as Christian men and father’s learn from the relationship (or lack thereof) between King Solomon and his son King Rehoboam?
Is there anything you need to do to become a better equipped coach and trainer?
Challenge: work to immerse yourself in the knowledge and understanding you need to be the coach and trainer of your kids