THE STRATEGY FOR RAISING FLOURISHING CHILDREN
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: Psalm 128; 78:1-8; Genesis 18: 18-19
Sunday 18th May 2014
Last week, from the message titled 'The Code for a Flourishing Marriage', we learnt that the code to having a successful marriage lies in following God's principles. Contrary to popular notion, we agreed that just as success in life is predictable, so it is with marriage. A flourishing marriage is not a mystery; it is simply the application of the truth known that guarantees a predictable and successful outcome.
Today, I want to focus on parenting. Firstly, it must be stated that our children are important to and held in esteem before God. They occupy a very significant position in the agenda of God; they are a prophetic expression of the future and God's messengers to their generation. The truth that we can deduce from our foundation scripture in Psalm 78, is that God has placed a huge responsibility on each generation to empower and enrich the next one, hence as parents we have a mandate from God to raise our children to become spiritual champions. As befitting as it is to leave wealth for our children, it's not as comparable to leaving them with a faith legacy. God forbid that we leave a huge financial estate to our children and deprive them of a spiritual legacy.
Our lives these days are so fast paced, that families are no longer spending time with one another anymore. Our homes have become segregated, with children and parents living apart under the same roof, and the space and time required to cultivate and practice Christian virtues and values are gradually being eroded in our homes. It is a far cry from the time when our generation was growing up in which it was mandatory for each member of the family to dine at the dining table, and observe a time of family devotion. Some of these values infused into our subconscious minds are now being gradually eradicated because of our busy lives. If indeed our children are God's messengers to their generation, then we need to empower them with the right message to deliver.
It must be stated that a child that is not influenced from the home, will eventually be influenced by something or someone else outside the home, as it is impossible to raise a child in a vacuum, because each child has been encoded to be influenced positively or negatively. There is a clock ticking, a countdown to preparing our children for their future which God is interested in. He is eager that we shape these young ones adequately for the task ahead of them; however, the devil is also interested in having a stake, and so we need to wake up and do our due diligence with this great responsibility. The blessing of raising our children positively for God as stated in Psalm 128 is that they will be strong and vigorous like young olive trees, flourishing and prospering for His glory.
In Genesis 1:27-28, we read God's dominion mandate given to man: "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." From this scripture, we can deduce that God commanded man (Adam and Eve) to fill the earth with His image, reproducing the values and virtues that He encoded within. Conversely, our role as parents is to continue fulfilling this mandate. The battle raging in our world today is as a result of what our world is being filled with. This battle begins with the indoctrination of the children, simply because whoever controls the children ultimately controls the future. This has been the case right from the beginning of time. Some examples that we can refer to from scriptures includes the decision of the Egyptian monarch, who decreed that all male children born to Hebrew women be killed in Exodus 1, so that the Egyptian army of the future could have an upper hand against the growing Israelite population. Also, Daniel and the three Hebrew boys had to stay strong against Babylonian influence, when King Nebuchadnezzar introduced his brainwashing agenda by changing their names and diet, as recorded in Daniel 1.
In our world today, there is a battle going on: here are some statistics to bring this truth home: In 2011, 26% of 13-15 year old males and 21% of females reported experimenting with illegal drugs. The National Treatment Agency data show that in 2011-12, 20,688 children and young people under 18 received treatment for alcohol and drugs combined. In 2012/13 there were 43,601 young people sentenced in England and Wales. But not only is substance abuse on the rise, so also is the proliferation of the Islamic religion in Britain to name a few. The Muslim population has increased by over 80% in the last 10 years, 1.5 million in 2001 to 2.7 million in 2011. The number of British converts to Islam recently passed the 100,000 mark, and there are as many as 5,000 new conversions each year. What is our agenda as the church in this nation? How do we program our children to flourish in the midst of the challenges surrounding them?
In order to fully prepare our children for the future ahead, we must go back right to the beginning. As recorded in Genesis, man was created by God in His image and after his likeness. Image refers to character. Hence God's character needs to be transferred to our children. These values are already within each of us, but we must discover, develop and deploy these values within us and our children. Every value we need has already been given to us (2 Peter 1:3). On the other hand, likeness refers to thinking and behaving like God, and being able to differentiate between godly and ungodly things. However in order to raise your children in God's image and likeness, we as parents must develop and deploy the character and likeness within us, before we can cultivate them in our children. This is how Jesus puts it in Luke 6:40; A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. As children are naturally inclined to imitate their parents, they are watching and observing how their parents relate to each other within the confines of the home. We must be deliberate in leading and living the way we intend our children to live.
Effective parenting must be intentional, without which nothing significant will happen. Nobody parents effectively by accident. There must be a focus and an expected end must be borne in mind. Down the ages, the raising of great men and women in history did not occur by accident. It has always been as a result of a deliberate training by a parent or grandparent. Evangelist Billy Graham often fondly refers to his mother's prayers and training as a catalyst in raising him to become the world's foremost preacher.
Parenting is a powerful and unavoidable influence. Everybody is parented by someone. We all reflect in our lives and attitudes, the nature, character and the behavior of those who have influenced us the most – whether a biological parent or someone else. And as such, we must recognize the influence that we carry as parents. So it is imperative that this question is asked. Who has the daily and on-going influence over the growth and development of my child? Is it television, games, friends, Social Media, a school teacher, daycare tutor or baby sitter? If we are not intentional about influencing our children positively, we stand the danger of exposing our children to an identity crisis in a competitive world. It is to our advantage that we channel our efforts in adequately preparing our children for the future. In thoroughly raising them, your influence on your children will continue to bear fruit long after they've left home and moved away from your presence. So, you must be involved in training your children, because the life and welfare of the future generations depends on how effective we are today in raising our children.
To train your child, you must be connected to that child. Without this, you can have very little or virtually no influence on him or her. This begins by establishing a relationship with the child, by creating quality time to get to know him or her.
Here are five ways to connect with your child:
• Love your child unconditionally: From the book titled 'The Five Love Languages of Children', there are five love languages that your children need to receive from you; the physical touch, the word of affirmation, quality time, gifts and acts of service. These are ways to get your child to open up emotionally to you.
• Speak the same language: This refers to understanding and get involved in your child's interest. Move into their space and play with them. Play with their games, watch their programs and help with their school assignments.
• Use your words to affirm them: This refers to using your words to admonish, celebrate and encourage them. Remember that there is power in your words. We often gravitate towards those who affirm us with words and pull away from those who don't. Children also behave likewise.
• Discipline your children in love: When you discipline your child, explain to him or her, the reason why very clearly. Discipline must be done in love in order to set the boundaries they should not cross. However, ensure that you do not shut down communication lines in the process.
• Teach your children: Teach your children the word of God and Christian values, such as integrity, honesty, purity, patience, love, joy, commitment, dedication and holiness. Give them an opportunity to lead the prayer time at home – reading and sharing the word of God, as well as leading prayers and worship.
In 2 Timothy 3:10, 14-15, Apostle Paul admonishes Timothy to continue steadfastly in what he had been taught.
"But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance. But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus" (NLT).
As godly parents, we have been called to train the next generation; a righteous and bold bunch, ready to affect their world positively for God. We've been called to raise a generation that will live as the salt and light in their world, a city set on the hill that cannot be hidden. We've been called to fill the world with His glory, and this starts by raising our children for Him.
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