Greg Laurie — God's Plan for the Family
Here in Ephesians 6:1 we read, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise: 'That it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.'" Honor your father and your mother. I know moms and dads are not always honorable people. I know they fall short. I know that mother's day is a hard day for some people. Maybe your mother has died and you miss her so it is sad. Maybe your mom wasn't a very good mom so it is kind of strained. Or maybe there are other issues. Maybe you are a mom and you had a child die. So it is painful because you miss hearing from them. There are all kinds of things connected to days like mother's day and father's day. Right.
Here is what I am saying to you. We should honor our moms if they deserve the honor or not. Most of them do but not all of them do. We should honor them and offer respect to them. If you have a mother call her today if she is not here with you in church or in town. Make sure you call her. Tell her you love her and honor her on this day. We are commanded in scripture to honor fathers and mothers.
I will tell you something. Kids need their parents. They need mom and dad. Here is a thought. Kids don't need mom and dad to be their best friend. They need their mom and dad to be their parents. It is true. Sort of a popular trend today is moms want to be best friends with their daughters. Sometimes you read about these young celebrity girls. Mom goes out and parties with the daughter. That is so absurd. Be a parent. Be an example. Friends come and go. Parents are there for life. You as a parent have a very important purpose in the life of your child. You are there to teach them right from wrong. You are there to provide for them. You are there to protect them. You are there to lay a foundation in their life. Most importantly your job as a mother, and I would add fathers to this is to lead your child to Jesus Christ.
What a gift children are. Psalm 127:3 says, "Children are a heritage from the Lord. Children are a reward from him like an arrow in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them". The word heritage could be translated gift. Another way to say it is children are a gift from heaven. They are a gift to us from God. They are not ours to possess. They are not ours to mold. They are ours to unfold and to nurture and point to Christ. What a great privilege it is to have children. We need God's help to be moms. To be dads.
Just as we need help with our marriages, we need God's help as parents. We live in a culture that is largely hostile to the family. It certainly does not support the role of mother and father. In fact in many ways culture, and by that I mean music, movies, television and other things tend to undermine the role of the parent. First of all Paul directs his remarks to children. He says, "Obey your parents in the Lord". Verse 1. "Honor your father and mother. That is the first command with promise". It means to give weight to your parents. It is hard to be a parent today. This is why we read in the Gospels that the mothers brought their children to Jesus. If you are a smart mom, you will keep bringing your child to Jesus.
I love that story because the moms see Jesus. They bring their kids to him the disciples push them back. They are like doing security all of a sudden. Don't bother the master right now. He is busy. He is tired. Jesus said hold on now. Let those little children come unto me and don't forbid them for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Let them come. The kids came to Christ and loved him and he loved them and the mothers. In the original language it could be translated, "The mothers kept bringing their children to Jesus". I like the fact that even though they were rebutted by the disciples the moms were persistent. We are bringing our kids to Christ. You keep doing the same with your children as well.
I will say a few words about having a prodigal child toward the end of the message if that is what you are dealing with right now. Remember during one of these riots awhile back the story of this mother that came and drug her boy home. This mom turns on the TV. She sees her boy out in some riot in the streets. She runs in. They are filming this. This woman's name is Toya Graham. She grabs her son and drags him home. She used some vulgarity. Some profanity that we do not endorse. But you have got to love what she did. She drug that boy home. What are you doing? That is not the way I raised you. Her only concern was what her pastor was going to do when he found out what words she used.
So we want to be careful there. At the same time we expect mothers to do that. We expect moms to step up to the plate. We depend upon moms to do that. Oh my goodness if moms just took a day off collectively from the responsibilities it seems like our culture would collapse overnight. Unfortunately men are not stepping up to the plate like mothers usually do. There are exceptions. There are wayward moms that are horribly neglectful. But by and large mothers are there for the children. We expect them to be there. A lot of dads are missing in action. As we read these scriptures here today they are not just directed to women. They are directed to men. Right now in our culture we are losing fathers at an unprecedented rate. One expert said we are in danger of becoming a fatherless society.
Your part is important so be faithful in it. Here is what we are to do and not to do as parents. Verse 4. "Do not provoke your children to wrath". The word provoke means to anger them. In fact the word provoke means a repeated pattern of treatment that causes the child to have anger and resentment that boils over to outright hostility. Again the word provoke means a repeated pattern of treatment that causes the child to have anger and resentment that boils over to outright hostility.
How would we provoke our children? One way we anger our children or provoke them is by showing favoritism to one child over another. Experts say the effects of parental favoritism left unchecked can be long lasting. A study was done that found siblings who sensed that their moms consistently favored or rejected one child over another were far more likely to exhibit depression in middle age. The less favored kids also had ill will toward their parent or favored sibling. You see this matters. Don't favor one child over another child. And by the way kids know it when you have a favorite. You are not as clever as you think you are. When I want to buy a gift for one of my granddaughters, I will say I am going to get this for this granddaughter. My wife will say everything you buy, you have to buy five of them. You have five grandchildren. I do the math and I say she doesn't need it that much.
Another way you provoke your children is by never complimenting them or affirming them. I grew up in a home where there were no compliments. There was no affirmation. There was no atta boys. It just wasn't done. No hugs. No kisses. No "I love you" said by anyone to anyone. When I became a dad I think I over compensated. I agree with the statement of Dr. Dobson when he said every parent owes their first child an apology. That is probably true. We all made mistakes with our first kids. Am I right? I did. I think I over-disciplined. I was overly generous. I did not understand those were not good things.
Another problem is over affirming our child. This maybe a problem more in culture today in the way a lot of younger parents are raising their children. They actually have come up with a term for it. It is called helicopter parenting. An article said, "When praising children goes too far". Parents used to worry about spoiling their kids and so they criticized lavishly and withheld praise. Now they worry about self-esteem and withhold discipline and praise lavishly. The problem with this is it has produced a lot of narcissist self-centered kids. I see it all of the time. Kids who have no respect. I always taught my boys respect. When an adult walks in the room you stand up. You shake their hand. You look them in the eye. You are respectful to people. You have to teach these things to kids. They don't do it naturally.
When I look at disrespectful kids that is the fault of the parents because the parents haven't done their job of parenting and helping the children. What are we to do? We are to bring them up it says in the training and admonition of the Lord bring them up. This could also be translated nourish and feed. Another translation says let them be kindly cherished. It says bring them up. It does not say knock them down. Nor does it say leave them to themselves. Proverbs 29:15 says, "A child left to himself brings shame to his mother". That is a problem in many homes in America today.
I read an article with the headline, "A new generation of latch key kids has emerged". A latch key kid is a kid who goes to school and they come home and they are alone for hours until mom or dad get home. This article said it has jumped to 15 million every day. A 6% increase since 2004. Who is influencing these kids? In many cases their peers are training them. Or the public school system. God help us with that. Or media. Listen. It is your job mom and dad to train your children. To bring them up in the way of the Lord. I will tell you why to bring them up. Because their sinful nature brings them down. I don't think I need to tell you that your child is a sinner. Just like you are a sinner. David said, "In sin did my mother conceive me".
I never had to teach my boys how to sin. I never had to sit them down and say boys I am going to teach you how to sin. Let's just start with this word. Mine. I didn't have to teach them. It came naturally to them just like it came naturally to me. Like it will come naturally to every person. What we need to do is help our children come to Jesus and develop their own relationship with God listen to this. Nothing can really happen through us until it has first happened to us. Paul writes in Philippians 4:9, "The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things". Some things are caught and some things are taught. What your children need to see is your faith in action.
Even when raised in godly homes sometimes kids rebel. Even when raised in godly homes. This doesn't mean you have failed as a parent. Here is a perfect example. Jesus told a story we call the parable of the prodigal son. The Bible doesn't call it that but we call it that. You know the story. Jesus said there was a dad who had two sons. The youngest son came to his father, and I will loosely paraphrase, now if you don't mind. And said dad I am sick of living in this house with you. I am sick of your rules. I am sick of your regulations. I want to go out and live my own life. I want my inheritance. I don't want to wait until you die. You are living too long. So just give me my inheritance now so I can have some fun.
Amazingly the father acquiesces. He gives his son his portion of the inheritance. It is not long until that boy has blown the family fortune on prostitutes, drunkenness, and all kinds of stupid things. He came to nothing. You know that father loved that son and never forgot about that son and prayed about that son as shown by his reaction when his son came home. One day the son came to his senses and said the guys who work for my dad have it better than me. I am going to go home and say father I know I have blown it as your son. I would never expect you to see me that way anymore. Can you just give me a job so I can have food in my stomach? While the boy was yet a great way off the father saw him. Sort of like the camera switches. In one scene we are looking at the prodigal. Living with pigs literally. Starving to death. Miserable. Broke. He makes his way home.
Now the camera shifts and it is another scene. We are back home with dad at the estate. Dad is there on the porch maybe in his rocker looking down that long road the boy walked away on some years ago. The father sees the son. Jesus says the father saw the son and began to run toward him and threw his arms around his son. The son starts his speech. Dad I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Just make me a hired servant. Yeah. Whatever. Get out the fatted calf. Let's have a barbecue. Put a ring on his finger. This my son who was dead is alive again. He was lost and is found.
Here is the point I want to bring up. This boy was raised in a loving home but he still rebelled. This can happen. Don't feel that you are a failure as a parent if your children rebel. Let me take it a step further. If you are a failure as a parent because your children have gone prodigal, then God the Father is a failure as a Heavenly Father. Because does not God have a lot of prodigals? Yes he does. He is not a failure by the way. It is just that we have a free will and God lets us utilize it. What did the father do? He welcomed his son. If you have a child that goes prodigal stay true to your beliefs. The father never compromised. The father stood his ground. You need to do the same. Hold your course. Lovingly teach the word and continue on doing it.
Listen. Both of my boys knew that when they lived under my roof they lived by my rules. These are the rules and you live by my rules. You always show respect to your mom and me. If you have a disagreement that is fine. We want to hear your disagreement. But don't disrespect us. Here is what we believe. This is what we do. Yes we go to church on Sunday. That means you come to church with us on Sunday too. These are the standards we hold. By the way I reserve the right to go anywhere in my house I wanted to go including my kids' rooms.
Sometimes people say that is their private space. Don't invade their space. I am invading any stinking space I want. Are you snooping? You better believe I am snooping. If I find something that is destructive to the child I am going to bring it to their attention so they don't go the wrong way. That is part of my job as a parent. Like I said earlier they don't need me to be their best friend. They need me to be their dad. They need you to be their mom. Always keep the door open.
When my son Christopher was in his little prodigal phase which went on quite a few years he always knew I loved him. He always knew I cared. I kept communication open even if he didn't communicate with me, I communicated with him. I would say let's get together for lunch. Let's do this. Let's do that. My son Christopher told Levi Lusko I can kind of measure my relationship with God based on my relationship with my father speaking of me. He said when I am right with God I am right with my dad. When I am not right with God there is tension between my dad and myself. Then he also told Levi the thing that brought me back to Christ was knowing that my father loved me unconditionally and I could always go home. And he did.
Now he is home in heaven. How was I to know that one day would be his last day? I am so thankful that he was right with God and walking with God. As David said, he cannot come to me but I will go to him. Some of you moms and dads have a child that has gone on to be with the Lord. This is a hard day for you. Just remember. You left that legacy with them. If they have trusted in Christ you will see them again. I had a prodigal son. You want to know another crazy thing in closing. I had a prodigal mother too.
My mom was raised in the church. She went to a little baptist church with her family the McDaniel clan in friendship, Arkansas. Every Sunday morning. Every Sunday night. Every Wednesday night. My mom had a serious drug problem. They drug her to church in the morning, drug her to church at night, and they drug her to church midweek. She rebelled. She ran away from her faith and lived her crazy life. I went along for Charlene's wild ride. That was her name. Then of course the last thing she ever thought would happen. Her own son became a Christian. And worse yet. A preacher. It was always hard to have that conversation with my mom about spiritual things. Whenever I would raise the issue she would say, "I don't want to talk about that".
One day I was on my way to church. I felt really led by the Lord to go talk with my mother about her soul. She is 70 now. She honestly looks like she is 90. The effects of her lifestyle choices had caught up with her. All of the drinking and smoking had ravaged her body. She was on dialysis three times a week. I felt very strongly I should talk to her. I drove over to her house. She was alone. I sat down. I said, "Mom I want to talk to you about your soul". She said, "I don't want to talk about it". I said, "Today we are going to talk about it". That conversation resulted in her recommitting her life to the Lord. Now she is in heaven. I know I will see her again.