Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Go That Way First
Leadership is knowing how to blaze a trail through the uncertainty of tomorrow so that others can follow in your steps today. It takes courage to step out in front. Taking on the responsibility of guiding the hearts of someone else places a huge weight of accountability on the shoulders of those who dare take up the mantle. The first principles of leadership are born in the home. Parenting is the ultimate experience in the realm of influencing another life for eternity. Children do not choose to be born and yet upon that act of creation man begins a river of life that will never cease to exist. The only instruction manual that comes with a newborn child is the word of God. He created man and knows what will bring happiness to what is created for the glory of the Lord God. In the days of Adam, men began to call upon the name of the Lord establishing the course of the history of the world whether men followed God’s word or rejected it. Generations removed from the first families of earth, we have the complete mind of God revealed to man on how to train our children in the path of righteousness and truth. But there is a catch: children will be less likely to find God if we do not know Him first.
Faith in God is not something you catch like a cold or inherit from your parents. Trust and belief in the Lord will only come through the knowledge of His will in the heart of one who is open and honestly searching for truth. Children are like soft clay. In the early days, we can mold and bend their wills to form whatever ideals we feel important. As Harry Chapin wrote in his song, “Cats in the cradle,” children will grow up to be like just like us. What we imbed in their hearts at a young age and influence in their life as they grow older will largely determine the kind of man and woman are children will become. This is why training children is vital to not only the life that is here but more importantly, the life that is to come. Parents must realize the grave responsibility of training up their children in the way they should go so that when they grow older they will not depart from it.
The power of leadership is where parents find the courage to guide their children in the paths of righteousness. Training the child in the way he should go will come first from the path the parents are walking. Someone said, “Train up a child in the way he should go and go that way yourself.” The principle is sound. We cannot teach our children what we do not know. Our examples will often have greater influence on their lives than our teaching. Children are smart enough to know what it means when we tell them to do as we say and not as we do. They are more prone to do what we do than listen to what we say. Parents must harmonize their teaching with their actions. Training a child in the way of God can only be done when we are walking in the path of the Lord ourselves. A child that is taught to have faith in God may not keep that faith in life because they saw in the example of their parents a lack of trust in the Lord. That little fellow that follows me will be like me one day. Some things in life may not matter if he follows my example. The character of righteousness will make an eternal difference if my life is not characterized by a deep devotion to the Lord. Children need to see God in my life so they can find God in their life.
Training a child requires knowledge. This does not suggest taking children to church alone. While that is essential and vital to the spiritual growth of the family, it is the daily walk that will influence the heart of the child. Every day should be a training ground to show our children the word of God in our hearts. If parents have little or no concern for reading the scriptures, it is not likely the children will. When parents never pray they should not expect their children to pray. Children need bridges to cross and the dilapidated, broken down spiritual bridges we leave our children to walk on will not get them to where they need to be. Every generation leaves paths and bridges for others to walk. Jesus said the house built upon the sand will fall but the house on the rock will withstand anything. Training the child in the way he should go must be built upon the rock of the only truth, the only way and the only life. That bridge will not fall.
Parents spend a lifetime giving their children everything they need to succeed in life and so often fail to give them the only thing that will matter in death. The best way to train your children is to train yourself to walk in the paths of God and His word and His will and His trust. Children will find greater peace and happiness in life when they see the example of their parents who have given their life to the Lord. Parents who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and body will influence their children to have that same passion. The greatest joy a parent can experience is knowing their children walk in the faith. It is hard work. Diligence is the motto of the day. Persistence demands a continual vigil of faithful determination to train our children to walk in the way of God. It must begin with me.
My father could talk it, and, by the grace of God, he lived it. He had not only a talking but a “walking” knowledge of the scriptures. (Vance Havner; 1901-1986)