As I said in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I believe all children come into this world with one primary job description: “To figure out how God designed life to work.” And He puts them into the arms of parents to help them fulfill that job description.
Consider this passage:
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
There are two imperatives in this single verse. The first is “do not provoke.” The second is “bring them up.” There are three key words and phrases in this command statement. The first is the imperative, or command, to “bring them up.” The second is “the discipline…of the Lord.”
The Greek words used here for discipline and instruction both speak of education and teaching, but by different means.
The Discipline…of the Lord
The Greek word for discipline that Paul uses is the idea of educating, teaching or instructing – with actions. We might call this modeling or training in a skill today. We are being told that one of the means of bringing up a child is to show them and get them involved in living life by God’s design.
Our actions and words need to be consistent or it will confuse children. Old joking statements by parents such as, “Do what I say and not what I do” are not part of God’s design. In Philippians 3:7-11, Paul talks about how he has given up everything to follow Christ. Then in verse 17 he says, “join in following my example….” He is essentially saying, “follow me as I follow Christ.”
That is a great admonition for parents. We should desire and grow as disciples of Jesus so that we can say to our children, “Follow my example of following Christ.”
So what does the “discipline…of the Lord” look like in practical terms?
Nothing more than being a model, an example of how God intended life to be lived. That’s all.
But whoa. That’s pretty overwhelming.
And the more we understand our role as parents the more it ought to humble the knees of our heart before God until we say, “God we can’t do this on our own. We need your help!”
This whole set of instructions speaks more to parents than it ever does to our children. We so often focus on the kids and wonder how they are going to turn out, but here God is saying to us, “Look at your own life.”
Are you living and growing as a disciple of Jesus? Are you continuing to follow Jesus with the goal and desire to become like Him? God put us in our children’s lives to “show them” (the word for discipline here) who God is and what He is like, as they observe our lives.
You have to ask yourself:
- “Is your heart increasingly Humbly Submitted to Jesus as the Lord of your life?”
- “Is your mind being increasingly Biblically Formed by His Scriptures?”
- “Are you becoming increasingly Sacrificially Generous in your choices?”
- “Are you becoming increasingly Morally Discerning in your choices?”
- “Are you becoming increasingly Relationally Healthy in your choices?”
- “Are you increasingly being an Intentional Blessing in your compassions?”
- “Are you increasingly being Culturally Engaged in your compassions?”
- “Are you increasingly practicing Inclusive Community in your compassions?”
A number of years ago a famous basketball star, Charles Barkley, made a short black and white Nike commercial. He bounces the ball a couple of times, looks into the camera and states, “I am not a role model.”
There was such an outrage by the public that Nike pulled the commercial in just a couple of weeks. The next month Sports Illustrated had an editorial response to the commercial by another famous player, Karl Malone, a friend of Barkley. In his comments to Barkley, he said, “Charles, you can deny being a role model all you want, but I don’t think it’s your decision to make. We don’t choose to be role models, we are chosen. Our only choice is whether to be a good role model or a bad one.”
So it is with us. And it never stops.
When my son Eric was 28, living away from home and pursuing his new career, he called me. He kept asking a lot of questions about me, how I was feeling, how I was handling certain things. Finally, I had to ask him, “Eric, what are you doing? Why the 64 questions about me?” Eric simply said, “Dad, you’re my dad. I just want to learn how to live life when I’m your age. I’m watching you.”
Now he’s 37, and just the other day he texted me and talked about looking forward to being a granddad. Then he asked, “Got any tips?”
To be continued…
 Philippians 3:17