Dr. T. D. Worthington
“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life; but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.”
It’s a jungle out there. . . surely you have noticed. So, if we can agree about the savage world we are living in, then hopefully you can see how your children will have to be “young lions” in order to survive with their testimonies intact. Jesus Christ is called a lion; of course, so is the devil. . .so, either way it must denote a lot of power and influence. Our children will be under a tremendous amount of pressure, so we must equip them.
Consider Daniel: He was a teenager held captive in a wicked environment, separated from Godly influences, renamed after a heathen god, and enrolled in a pagan educational system, yet when most of his peers apparently yielded and conformed, he refused. Daniel was a young lion.
Lions are known for their great abilities. They can clear a fence 12’ high, they can leap 20’ in one jump, they can drag twice their own weight, they can charge at 50 mph, and they can crush bones with their teeth. Actually, we can learn quite a bit when we consider four Biblical aspects of the lion by doing a simple study of words.
II Samuel 17:10, the first
word is “ar-ee”.
The word notes bravery, fierceness, confidence, and heroism. We might summarize the word as “courage”. Now, courage is not the absence of fear, it is the ability to deal with fear. Courage is being afraid, but no one knows it but you!
All children will have fears. I did when I was a child. However, we must teach our children to deal with their unhealthy fears while acknowledging that certain healthy fears must be maintained. Kids will often need help to summon up the courage to get on a horse or to go into a dark room, but you can patiently deal with these things one-by-one.
Will your child have the courage to stand up to a bully who may be picking on another kid? Will he have the courage to listen to Christian music when everyone else likes rap?
Apart from a child’s usual manifestations of fear, one sign of inward fear is lying. Telling the truth, especially when it is initially painful, requires courage. Everyone has lied, and most have ended up regretting it. Of course the devil will temp kids to lie, but they often develop their skills by watching their parents. You teach truthfulness by sticking to your word. Kids will remember if you don’t do what you promised and will begin to view deception as proper in certain situations. Children need to be disciplined when they lie, but they also need to be praised when they tell the truth. Covering up a mistake or bad behavior is a natural tendency, so be sure to let your child know how proud you are when they tell the truth.
What are some of your children’s unhealthy fears? Can you think of ways to address them one-by-one.
Proverbs 28:1, the next
word is “kef-eer”.
The word notes maturity. It refers to a lion as his mane begins to grow. This maturity will help protect the lion’s neck in battle, but its majestic appearance is also a sign to other lions of his maturity. For the child it means he is to look, dress, and act mature. Often, his character and outward appearance is the first sign of his inward maturity. Paul told Timothy not to give an occasion for anyone to despise his youth. In other words, he was instructed not to act like a dumb kid. Even children can develop a certain “look of confidence”. Apparently, Christ displayed this when He was 12 years old and went into the temple. The way He looked, acted, and spoke commanded the respect of the elders. What are some ways we might promote maturity in our children?
Teach them Empathy. Do we have empathy today? Are we as parents able to put ourselves in other people’s shoes? Do we have an active compassion for the elderly, the poor, or the person at work having a hard time? If we could teach our children empathy, it would put a huge dent in the bullying problem we have today. Kids who like to bully have trouble with empathy—that is, viewing life from another person’s perspective. Children are naturally selfish, but parents can help by teaching them to be helpful to others and to have compassion on those who are weaker. Help them learn about people in need and to see that even a child has the ability to change someone’s life for the better. Your child can help minister to the elderly, cut someone’s grass, or rake a neighbor’s leaves. As you work with them, perhaps you can share a time when you needed help from someone, and you can remind them that one day they may need such help. Your lessons about being on the receiving end of empathy can make a lasting impression on a child.
Teach them to be Grateful. Are we grateful today, or are we dissatisfied with our lot in life? How can we teach gratefulness if we are ungrateful? We must teach our children that gratefulness is more than just saying “thanks” when someone hands you something. Strive to teach kids to appreciate all they have. You could also make a point of expressing gratitude when you’re together, even for the smallest pleasures (a beautiful sunrise, a kind word from someone, etc.) Are we teaching our children to be grateful?
Teach them Obedience. How do we teach obedience? First, we must be obedient to our own authorities. Do we knowingly disobey traffic laws? Do we follow the rules and procedures at work? Second, we must be consistent. Be sure children know what is expected and then hold them accountable every time.
Teach them Manners. Parents are usually the first ones to teach children manners. Are we good examples? Do we have manners with our spouses or our children? How many friends would we have if we treated them the same way we do our own family? How many customers, students, patients, or friends would we have if we treated them as we do our spouses or children? Remember what children see they will copy. How do we expect the children to know something is not appropriate if we are always doing it?
Teach them Respect. As parents, do we criticize others, especially those in leadership, in front of our children? Do we complain about our neighbors, our church or our school? Do we criticize the other parent? How will they be respectful if we do not teach them by example?
Teach them Values and Absolutes. Are there things that we stand on and do not bend? For example, do we vote for someone even if we know they are for abortion? Do our children know there are places we will not go, things we will not watch, things we will not listen to, and things we will not do? How can we expect them to stand when they are tempted with sin when we don’t stand?
Teach them Against Laziness. We want our children to be responsible. We want them to do their chores, do well in school, study their Bible, do their assignments on time, and many more things. Yet, we are not fulfilling our own responsibilities at work or at home. We don’t take our responsibilities seriously so how will they?
Teach them Life is not always Easy. How can we teach our children to roll with the punches when we are not able to? Life is not always easy and smooth. Modern children seem to have difficulty dealing with life when it doesn’t go their way. Honestly, many adults have the same problem. How can we teach them to be tough when we wear our feelings on our shoulders? How can we expect them not to be moody when we are moody? We must not allow our children to be rude or whiny because they don’t get their way. It starts with our example.
Isaiah 5:29, the third
word is “law-bee”.
This word describes the lion as a roarer. The lion communicates his authority by his roar. Children need to be taught to be resolute and determined in their words. Now, this does not mean they are always to be loud and aggressive in their speech, but it does mean to speak with an air of confidence—not arrogance—but confidence. God speaks with authority and confidence, yet He apparently often does so with a “still small voice.” As this world gets worse, our children will need to learn there are times to say “no” even if everyone else is saying “yes”. This lesson teaches them the positive attribute of standing alone. Of course, they will need the wisdom to know which side of an issue to take—but, once they do, they must have the courage to roar if necessary. Are we teaching our children to speak with confidence and determination?
Proverbs 30:30, the final
word is “lah-yish”.
This final word notes the lion as a crusher. Lions are very strong, but they don’t use this power unless it is needed. If the lion is not hungry, an easy prey can walk right by him and he will not attack. But, if he senses danger, or an encroachment on his territory, or if he is hungry there will be danger for any animal that might be in his sight. The same is true of our children. We teach them to turn the other cheek whenever possible and to speak with a quiet respectful voice. We teach them not to look for trouble and to avoid it whenever possible, but we must also teach them to fight when necessary; to be a reluctant, but powerful crusher when required. Can you think of ways you are helping to teach your children to crush that which is wrong?
Remember, Parents Must
Set the Example.
Years ago we seldom if ever heard a swear word on television. Today 87% of 12 year olds say they curse. The same group said they heard most of the words first at home. Mom and Dad, don’t fuss in front of the kids, don’t have bad manners in the home, don’t lie to your kids (although there may be times you have to withhold information) and don’t walk around in your underwear in front of your kids. After a child gets five years old or so, they are too old to bathe with you, and if they crawl in bed with you make sure you have on pajamas. There is a danger you are planting images and curiosities they are not equipped to handle. The average child today has sex at 12.7 years old, and the age is decreasing with each survey that is taken. Just think, if 12.7 is the average that means some are 10 or 11—or younger!
Talk about your faith. Don’t be shy about your Christian faith, but don’t be pushy about it either. Look for opportunities to draw conversations with your children back to God. For example, use the beauty of creation to direct their attention back to the One who made it all. Children are looking for this sort of spiritual guidance; so don’t be afraid to give it to them. The only way our children can be secure in the modern day jungle of this world is to be trained to be a young lion—and that is our responsibility.
Dr. Worthington has been in the ministry over forty years and serves as President of Pathway Ministries.