Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go :: by Ron and Nathele Graham

Ron Graham was called home on March 14, 2013. He began writing this commentary before his death and had asked me, Nathele Graham, to continue his service to our Lord by finishing what he began.

Training a child to be an adult takes love and patience. If you want that child to grow to love the Lord then you need to lead by example.

“And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

There is no doubt that King David loved the Lord. Like all humans David made mistakes, but he knew where his strength came from and where to turn for forgiveness. When you read the Psalms you can feel David’s love for God. Even when things weren’t going his way, he took his anger and sorrow to God and always ended in praise. When David was near death he spoke the above words to Solomon who would become king over Israel.

David didn’t tell his son to serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but to serve “the God of thy father.” David knew God, served God, and loved God. He could tell Solomon to “serve the God I serve” because Solomon saw his father serving the LORD. Solomon had the example of a godly father who made mistakes but turned God for forgiveness. David was a man after God’s own heart and wanted that for Solomon.

David’s desire was that his son would know and love God as he did. This should be the desire of every father for his children. Christian fathers need to lead by example and serve God so that their children can learn by watching. The children of a Christian father should be able to look at him and see how a man of God conducts his life. Brother, do you love your wife?

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).

This verse doesn’t say to love her as long as she pleases you. No, you are to love her unconditionally, even in the bad times.

“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself” (Ephesians 5:28).

If you love your wife following God’s Word then you are setting an example for your son to follow. Show him how he should love his wife, and then pray he follows your example. Your daughters will also see how you treat your wife and when they choose a husband they will use you as the standard. Be sure that Christ is first in your life. Let your children see you studying God’s Word and pray with them and for them. Show them how to “serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind” as David advised his son.

“Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Colossians 3:21).

Children can be very aggravating. They seem to know how to push the right buttons to cause trouble, but they are just children and need to be led. Do you push their buttons? Do your words encourage them or do they provoke them? In the above verse the words “to anger” were added in the translation; the verse simply says not to provoke your children. The Greek word athymeō is translated “discouraged” and means to be disheartened, dispirited, broken in spirit. Fathers, be the godly example of a loving father and don’t discourage your children. A discouraged child will grow into a discouraged adult, and a cycle of discouragement will result.

Another strong leader was Joshua. He served as a military leader under Moses and he looked to God for guidance; Joshua’s confidence was in the Lord. It was Joshua and Caleb who were not afraid of the Nephilim they saw in the Promised Land. Yes, the Nephilim were truly giant in stature, but Joshua knew that God would lead in the battle and those giants didn’t have a chance. Moses made the mistake of listening to the 10 spies who were fearful, so the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness.

Had Moses listened to Joshua the nation of Israel would have entered the land promised to them by God without suffering the troubles they faced in their wanderings. When Moses died the leadership fell to Joshua who led the Israelites to victory in the land promised to them by God. Joshua was a God-fearing and God-honoring example to his family and his household. He was a man who relied upon the one true God and refused to worship idols. When he came to the end of his life he called the leaders of the tribes of Israel together for a meeting. He reminded them of what God had done for them and earnestly told them to not worship pagan idols but worship only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Fathers, do you worship idols? We mostly think of idols as the statues and such that pagan cultures worship. In fact, an idol is anything that you place ahead God. It can be a television program that mocks Christian values or it can be a friendship that you hold onto but it is pulling you away from serving Christ. How can you be an example to your children of a godly man if you tell them their music is ungodly yet you listen to hard rock or rap with words that are right from Satan? Joshua was able to say with full confidence that his household would serve the Lord because he had set the example.

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

Brothers, do you have that confidence? Can you say without a shadow of doubt that your family will serve the Lord? Joshua was a godly leader, not a follower of Satan. Christian men of today need to be the strong godly leaders of their family and eschew all idols.

The best fatherly advice comes directly from God. Jesus had taken Peter, John, and James with Him to a high mountain top where He met with Elias and Moses. The disciples were amazed at what they saw and heard. They saw the Transfiguration. Of course Peter spoke without thinking. He wanted to build three tabernacles, but God spoke the words we all should heed.

“And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him” (Mark 9:7).

The Greek word nephelē which is translated “cloud” doesn’t refer to just any cloud. This reference is to the cloud which led the Israelites in the wilderness. There is no doubt that the voice was from God the Father. We would all do well to heed God’s words “This is my beloved Son: hear him.” These words spoken by God the Father are a command, not a suggestion. To be a Godly leader, brothers, follow this admonition. Hear Jesus and serve Him.

There are many children who do not have a godly father living in their homes. Whether their father has died or there is some other reason that he is absent makes no difference, he is still absent. Perhaps the father is living in the home but not a Christian. The absence of a strong, loving Christian father in the home is sad, but God the Father is there for all who are willing to seek Him.

As a Christian man, if you know a child who does not have the influence of a godly father who loves and serves the Lord, you need to step in and be the example they need. Help to train up that child in the way he or she should go; you may be the person who makes a difference in the life of a discouraged and angry child. Show them Jesus’ love through caring about them.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

You may be the only one who can show a child how to receive eternal life.

Fathers, when you look back on your life can you, like David, tell your children to “…know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind…” Will they recognize that you are talking about the one true God because He has been real in your life? Like Joshua can you say with confidence “…but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD”?

If you do not earnestly serve the Lord then you cannot have any real hope that your children will serve Him. Be the example your children can look to as the way in which they should serve the Lord. Don’t provoke them to anger. Don’t discourage them. Be sure that they know who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for them.

[Jesus said,] “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and with all they mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30).

Live these words and be the example.

In spite of Joshua’s words and confidence that his house would serve the Lord, the nation of Israel has been guilty of idol worship many times and ultimately rejected their Messiah. Solomon failed miserably even though he was admonished to serve the true God who his father David served. He eventually seems to have come to understand his father’s words because he wrote:

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

A father cannot control the person a child will grow into. He can only be an example to his children of how a man of God is to act. Start today to be the man of God you were meant to be and start training up your children in God’s ways.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham