6 Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6 NASB
Proverbs 22:6 is a verse which we have all read and considered at some point. As a parent myself, I have often thought about how it is that I should raise my children. How many times have my wife and I asked ourselves, "are we doing the right thing?"; "are we being too strict, or not strict enough?"; "how should we keep them from evil, yet train them to engage the lost world?" The questions we ask ourselves as parents are many and it often seems that new questions arise with each new day.
The interesting thing about training up a child, is that parents are always training up their children, regardless of their faith or practice. The phrase "monkey see, monkey do" certainly applies to this situation and I believe that we sometimes forget that we are constantly teaching through our actions whether they be good or bad. This is something we should never forget or take lightly, although we are all bound to do so at some point; I know I have.
The key to this verse is "in the way he should go." Therein lies the challenge; as born-again believers, we are challenged to train up our children in a specific way, the right way. Our training should be intentional and focused on a path in which they should go, not necessarily the way want to go and definitely not the way that the world tries to lead them to go. This correct path requires prayer and a steadfastness to remain faithful to the way in which the Lord directs. Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); truly He is the way in which our children should go.
12 There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12 NASB
Countless are the ways that can lead a child astray and countless are those wolves who would desire to do them harm. Training up includes helping them to learn discernment and to identify the traps of the enemy (1 Peter 5:8). It means teaching them the ways of the One, True God (Deuteronomy 11:8-19 NASB). Quite often, it also means telling them "no" when everyone else seems to be saying "yes".
Proverbs 22:6 is a verse that is not without a promise, a reward. It is a promise which my wife and I have held to on many occasions when we didn't know what the next day may hold. It is a reward whose value cannot be determined in money or any other earthly possession. The reward for this lifelong work is the soul of the child.
I once heard someone say, "a person's children is the only earthly treasure they can take to heaven." How true and how sobering to realize the importance that we parents have on those whom God has entrusted to us. It is no wonder that parents worry about the choices that their children make and as born-again believers, it is no wonder that parents are concerned about their child's eternity. What greater burden could one bear than to take on the responsibility of guiding another soul in the right way?
And what a reward it is! A way of peace in this life, guided by the Holy Spirit with the promise of eternal life to come! This is a reward worth fighting for, it is a reward that is worthy of the training.
I am so thankful for the parents God gave to me. They are real people who have made real sacrifices and continue to provide a real Godly example. I have had such incredible role models for what it means to be a Godly parent whose primary desire is to train up their children in the way they should go. Countless times on my journey of maturation I have required their mercy and guidance and I could not, in good conscience, assume that I would be half the man I am without them.
My mother and father have been people who pursued God and His calling more than anything else in life. They have spent their lives sacrificing for others and for their family, always looking at the eternal reward instead of the earthly financial gain. I was trained up believing that the body of Christ, His Church, was our true family and that only in Him can we find any peace here on earth. The inheritance that I received from their eternal investment will provide priceless gains in this life and the one to come because it is not based on any earthly wisdom or manmade ideals.
Your parents may not have been as amazing as mine and you may be challenged in wondering how you could possibly lead your children. But our Heavenly Father is willing and able to help us in our weaknesses (I should know as I have many) and that includes in training up those under our care. The love and mercy of God abounds to all those who call on Him and He will help us through those difficult decisions we regularly face as parents.
It is my sincere hope that the training up that I provide to my children will lead with real sacrifice, it will guide with genuine love, and it will direct my greatest treasures in the only way that leads to eternal life.