Homes that Fail - Part 1

Christians need to know how to raise their children in the nurture of the Lord. There are predictable patterns in homes when certain circumstances exist. Helpful knowledge will guide parents in teaching their children in the right way. It ought to be parents first obligation.
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I believe that every pastor spends the great majority of his time dealing with domestic difficulties and problems more than all the other problems of the church combined. I don't believe this statement could be refuted or contradicted. Now it would shock us, I'm sure to know just how many homes even in the church are divided and alienated. And it would surprise us even more to go a bit further and to know how many of those which are not divided and separated are, still, unhappy and miserable. I suppose only a pastor would be able to know to what degree this exists in his congregation, among his people. But friends, it is much too prevalent, much more so than we would like to believe. We don't even like to think about it.

Now, I hope that I might say something here today that will shock you and that will awaken you. We need to be stirred up, we need to be awakened on this great matter. The children are the innocent sufferers in this case. They are the victims, many times, of the unhappy problems which come in to divide husbands and wives, and to bring separation to a family. So I'm going to speak very plainly, dear friends, and if it shocks you and shakes you up a little bit, that is fine. I think once in awhile we need to be shaken and shocked. We need to understand how to deal with children and young people. We ought to know how to bring those children up in the nurture of God and how to keep them and hold them in the church. Now, I'm not saying, friends, that I have all the answers, by any means. I don't believe anybody has all the answers, but we can learn together, at least some of the basic principles of how to deal with young people, with teenagers, and with even the little infants who are still in their cradles.

Almost all home problems are predictable. By that I mean there are laws of human relationships which are exact and certain. We can almost predict what is going to happen in a home among the young people if we can discern certain conditions prevailing there. If we see certain things happen in a family, certain circumstances, and the conditions developing along a certain line, it is almost definite that certain problems are also going to arise in that family. There have been many times in my ministry when I have sat down with husbands and wives, to talk to them about problems which were just beginning to appear in the lives of their young people. And before very long, dear friends, those problems have broken out into an open rebellion that required a great deal of attention. Now, it is heartbreaking principally because the boys and girls at this tender, impressionable age of their lives are damaged by these problems, and sometimes they are damaged almost beyond repair and recovery. There is no question in my thinking but that many of these problems could be prevented if only we had the wisdom to take the great counsel of God and apply it to our families and to our children. The Bible says in the book of Hosea: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." Knowledge! That is what we need. Now you have seen it as well as I. You have seen families adopting a course with their own children that will lead them to definite destruction. I have seen it and stood back amazed to see it. Now, those parents didn't think they were doing anything to harm their children. They were not intending to lead their children away from them, or to destroy their children, and yet the result of their course was just as certain as though they had planned it deliberately to hurt their children. Now if the results are the same, whether we are doing it in ignorance or whether we are doing it deliberately, then dear friends, we ought to study to gain the knowledge that might safeguard those children and prevent these alienations from developing in the family. The first duty of every parent is to learn how to take care of and rightly direct his children.

I don't care what your occupation might be, or how much time you feel that you must spend in the office or the field or wherever your livelihood is made, there is no greater responsibility laid upon you than to be careful in training and preparing your children for the Kingdom of God. Now, you may feel that your job is important, that your position is vital; you may feel that money is needed, and success is important, but if you gain all those things and lose your own children, my friends, it will be less than nothing; you will have gained nothing in the end. How important it is that we, as Christian parents, understand our duties and our responsibilities. God has placed these young lives in our hands to not only provide for in the physical things of this world, but to prepare for entrance into the Kingdom of God. We have been given these children as a divine stewardship by God, to mold, fashion, and fit them for the association of angels in heaven. Now, if we fail to do this, dear friends, we have failed in our duty as parents and in the most solemn responsibility that we have.

Now, the question is: When should we begin with the work of training and preparation? When should we start out with these little ones, in the work of molding, training, and guiding them toward the Kingdom of God? Here is where the greatest mistakes of all have been committed. We should not wait until those children come to the age of reason before we start preparing them. While they are still little infants in the crib they are just bundles of emotion, and those emotions are subject to being influenced. We need to understand this, dear friends, and never underestimate the importance of those first days, weeks and years of the child's life.

I read something very interesting some time ago, written by Dr. E. T. Sullivan, in Boston, Massachusetts. I'm just going to read the little statement I lifted out of his book. "When God wants a great work done, He doesn't stir up His earthquakes or send forth His thunderbolts. Instead, He has a helpless baby born. Perhaps in a simple home and of some obscure mother. And then God puts the idea into the Mother's heart and she puts it into the baby's mind, and then God waits. The greatest forces in the world are not the earthquakes and the thunderbolts. The greatest forces in the world are babies." And how true that is. The mother receives from God the principles of true education, the principles of true character building, and then she plants those tiny seeds in the mind of that little baby. Then God just waits, because the natural course of growth and development will produce from those tiny seeds a full-grown character that God might use to shake the world. And every time God wanted to do something really tremendous in the world, He took a little baby and He saw that the child was prepared and conditioned for some mighty influence in the world. Sometimes God would even speak to the mother before the baby was born. The other day we talked about Samson and how God spoke to his mother. He said, "Now you live my way, and you follow these habits, and you eat and drink like this, because this child is going to be a special child, who will be dedicated to My service. He will be called a Nazarite." Now listen, this means that the work of a parent begins before the baby is even born. Long before that little baby is born, the education, the training, the molding, and the inclining of that little character is dependent upon the mother and the father. This is more true than we even realize, I'm sure.

So, then, the child becomes, to a very large degree, what the parents make him. In fact, I would even say this: the disposition of that little baby has been settled, probably, before it even leaves the cradle. The influences that transpire around the crib will have much more to do with the forming of its disposition than you or I realize. When emotions boil up around the baby, when words are spoken which are hard and unkind, the influence of it will be transmitted and the impression will be made. That child should grow in a peaceful environment and atmosphere, where kindness is manifested. Now, I can't say too much about this. Sometimes parents will stand and argue over a tiny little baby, and they think; "Well it doesn't matter now. When it gets older we will have to be careful." But, my friends, even before that child can reason or think for itself, it can be influenced by tensions that are around it. There will never be a developing period of that child's life when he will not absorb the anxieties around him, as well as the love that is bestowed upon him. In fact, I think that they are deciding more and more among the experts that these early emotions to which the child is exposed actually have the most to do with the kind of disposition the child develops as he grows older. Habits are formed in those early years which shape the character throughout life.

Happy are those parents who have laid a strong Christian foundation in the lives of their children and their young people. They will never forget those things. Habits of obedience that are learned before they are even able to think for themselves, will continue on with them into the years of the future and adulthood. They will not forget how to obey. No wonder the Bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." The habits will be set; their life, their character will be fixed in such a way that they will have difficulty in turning away from the path of truth.

All right, let's move up now to the teenage period of life. Here, perhaps more than all the other ages, special help and attention is needed, special companionship, special friendship. The parents are needed here more than any other age. You see, in teenagers there is a deep anxiety growing and developing. After all, now they are ready to step out and find a place for themselves under the sun. There is a struggle going on in their very nature; they are trying to find themselves. There are emotions and feelings stirred up within them that they do not understand themselves, much less the parents who have to deal with them. And so it is a very uncertain period of time in which choices are being made between conflicting standards. Young people are trying to find a course of life for themselves, something they can follow for all future time. At this particular period there may be a struggle for independence going on, and a bit of flaunting, even, of adult rules, because they do want to find a place for themselves. If they can get by with flaunting a few of the rules, they will do it. But, dear friends, at the same time these teenagers want the approval of their parents and of the adults. They also are looking for affection at the same time.

Now, don't be fooled, parents, by this particular age group. They may seem to be independent and have their independent ways, and there may be a seeming indifference, but at the same time that young person needs you and wants you very, very much. It is a dangerous age, and the pattern that was formed in the babyhood will be demonstrated, manifested and tested. If the strong foundation has been laid, these young people will be held firmly, even though there is a pulling and a drawing of these inward emotions. They will end up by making the right choice. But dear friends, the home life, has it been full of love, has there been kindness, has there been confidence? The things which were drilled into their lives, very, very early, now they are going to come out. If there has been a lot of love and unselfishness manifested, that teenager will come through: he will stand firm. The home ties will hold him fast, if the foundation was laid right.

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