Taking Family Instruction Seriously
“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king” –1 Samuel 12:23-25
The people of Israel had rejected God’s appointed judge Samuel in favor of a sovereign King; Saul the Benjaminite. Samuel could have felt slighted for what they were requesting and allow them to flounder in the path they had chosen. However he was compelled to pray for them and continue to offer godly instruction. His teaching was to continue to fear the Lord, serve Him faithfully, and consider all the good things that God had provided. But this lesson also came with a warning; failure by the King and his subjects to follow this pattern would bring an end to them. A warning that was brutally fulfilled in Saul’s demise. (1 Samuel 31:2–13)
As I was reflecting on this passage a picture of my responsibility as a father and husband was formed. Samuel was diligent in praying and instructing his flock just as a father would his family. This love and devotion is at the heart of a godly father’s responsibility. Scripture has much to say in this area. Just look at these verses and what they speak to this commitment.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”-Deuteronomy 6:6-9
Before godly instruction can be impressed on a child’s heart it must first be on yours. We must be dedicated followers of Christ. 1 Timothy 4:7 says to “train yourself for godliness.” Before you can train others you must first train yourself. This is an ongoing process but a process nonetheless. If you are not reading your Bible, praying, evangelizing, fasting, serving at church, and exhibiting a godly character how can you expect your children will? Words without deeds are meaningless. Be the man first by following Christ with all your heart and then impress Christ on your children through continual, incremental and purposeful instruction of the things of God.
“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.” –Proverbs 4:1
A father instructs his family in an effort to instill understanding. This implies patience and persistence. A continual focus toward godly training must be in place. Offering instruction when something major happens in not faithfulness, rather it is reactionary. If you are not diligent in providing loving instruction now, later your words will be disregarded.
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
Did you come from a family where instruction was given through yelling? Or maybe every little thing you did wrong was treated as a major mistake? You may be following the same format with your own children. Scripture warns against this. Our duty is not to create perfectly obedient children so we can enjoy our own pursuits without the distraction of bad kids. Rather we are to bring them up to honor and obey the Lord through love. It is Christ that we are to point to…not a list of do’s and don’t.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” Ephesians 5:25
The comparison between our sacrificial response to loving and instructing our families is no better emphasized than in this passage from Ephesians. “just as” has to be the hardest two words for any man to come to terms with as used here. Have you given any thought to what this means? Christ gave Himself for the church. He was not harsh with her. He was not cold and callous. He did not ignore her for His own recreations. He offered himself up for her, to cleanse her, to sanctify her, in love towards her; even when she did not love Him. You are not called to love your wife when she returns the feelings. Your love is instruction in Christ’s love towards us. By demonstrating grace you may bring an unbelieving wife to faith.
As a father I have been placed over my family to provide instruction and to reflect Christ. So often I fail at this obligation and service to my Lord. Many times I find myself praying for others more than my own girls and wife. Other times I am tired and take short cuts rather than give instruction that point to Christ. Many of us have shipwrecked our life by failing to take seriously this charge. If we are not careful God may sweep us and our families away due to our wickedness. Maybe through divorce or rebellion against God: our lack of attention to our family’s spiritual needs can be a cancer which may become terminal if not treated aggressively through godly training and prayer. If you have not been taking instructing your family seriously then today begin by praying for your family and reading the Bible together. Training is hard but the stakes are too high to neglect.