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By Rev Colin Wong
(Preached at Life BPC, 8am service, 27 July 2003)

Deuteronomy 6:4-9


We live in days when there is a mighty zeal for good education in every quarter.  We hear of schools innovating and trying out new systems and programs with the hope that its students would produce the best results in all levels of examination and bring glory to the school.  Indeed, our children are given the best education they could get in any educational system.  But it saddens our heart to see that despite all the education they received, the vast majority of children are manifestly not trained in the way they should go.  And this brings great disappointment to parents.  

In the course of my ministry, I discover there are many hurting, weeping, broken-hearted parents in the Church of Jesus Christ.  Many of them have worked very hard to provide for the physical needs of their children.  But to their disappointment, they still go astray.  They become rebellious and wayward in their way.  They have no respect for their parents.  They shout at them.  They ill-treat them.  They become unbecoming in their demeanor.  They are ungrateful and rude.  There is no appreciation shown for the sacrifices made for them by their parents. 

Many a time I wonder why.  Have they ever spared a thought for the pain they inflicted upon their parents? Do they bother to find out what their parents are going through in order to nurture them? How often do they make an effort to understand their parents’ predicament? Do they know it takes every ounce of their parents’ energy to bring them up in the society?  

Recently, a daunted father shared with me about his struggles in bringing up his children.  He feels really discouraged and distressed because he has lost his God-given authority over them.  He is unable to control them.  They would not listen to him.  Whenever he chides them, they would argue with him and challenge his authority.  They would go out and come home in the wee hours of the morning.  When the father asks them where have they gone to, they would become rude to him.  Out of frustration, the mother would slap them.  What has gone wrong with my teenage children? The downhearted father lamented. This is one of the many woes of parents. 

Yes, what has happened to these children? These parents are at a loss and do not know what to do with them.  Deep within them, they are crying for help.  

I ask myself these questions, Why should they be wounded and hurt? Why should they be distressed? Why should they be broken-hearted? Why should their lives be shortened because of their children’s rebelliousness? 

In the course of my counseling, I discover most of the time that the root of the problem is that the head of the family fails to exercise spiritual leadership.  He fails to encourage his children to pursue spirituality.  He leaves it to the church.  The common excuse is, I AM TOO BUSY.  I HAVE MY CAREER TO TAKE CARE OF.  As long as he provides them with a college education, he thinks he has done his part and fulfilled his God-given responsibility.  Unfortunately, he is ignorant of the ramifications of his actions. 

“A knowledge of the Bible without a college education is better than a college education without the Bible” (Dr William Lyon Phelps of Yale University).

Why Mothers Weep 

Now you know why mummies weep for their wayward children every night.  Wounded mothers are praying mothers.  One of the reasons Samuel was kept from the contamination of Eli’ sons was the influence and prayer of his godly mother (1 Sam 2:12-17, 22-25; 3:13).     

Here is a beautiful lesson for mothers or mothers to be.  Some of you who have wayward, rebellious children, children who have left home, or children who are still at home and breaking your hearts, let me encourage you that whatever tears you shed for them are not overlooked by God.  There is always hope in God.   

A good example is St Augustine.  He was a playboy.  He lived a very lustful life.  As a young man, he decided to go to Rome.  Rome was a place where his godly mother Monica felt sure that he would be totally destroyed.  So she besought God with tears not to allow him to go to Rome.  Like Job, who rose up early in the morning and offered burnt offerings on behalf of his children, for fear that they might have sinned against God or cursed or disowned God in their hearts (1:5), she prayed for him day and night.  But he went.  Everyday she prayed for him.  The Holy Spirit of God hounded him, followed him and drew him to himself.  

At 31 he was in a garden in Milan, weeping and calling to God for deliverance from sin.  Suddenly he heard the voice of a boy from a neighbouring house repeating in a kind of chant, “Take and read; take and read.”  He took the New Testament and read Romans 13:13, 14: “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.  But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”  There and then he passed from death to life (John 5:24). 

In his Confessions, he said, “And here I may put in a word.  I spoke several months ago on the subject of The Lord's Prayer.  And under the section of “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” I talked about how very often in order for God’s will to be done, He takes methods which seem to cut right across the purpose of our prayer.”  Monica besought God with tears not to allow her son to go to Rome.  Nonetheless, he went.  When Augustine got converted, he said that God allowed him to go so that he might ultimately fulfill his mother’s greatest desire. 

About 255 years ago there was an old godly woman who prayed for her son. The son’s name was John and he had run away from home in his teens to become a sailor. This godly mother had been disappointed to hear reports that John had become a very wicked man, indulging in the lusts of the flesh and involved in the notorious trade of slaves in Africa. But while she lived in poverty, and wept while working as a washerwoman, she believed in two things: the power of prayer and the reformation of her son. She continued to pray very hard for his salvation. God answered her prayer by working a miracle in the heart of John Newton. He was gloriously saved, became a preacher and brought thousands of men and women to Christ. And he became the author of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound.” 

In 18th century England there was a woman named Susanna Wesley. She was a mother with 17 children. Though she was also a pastor’s wife and extremely busy, she made it a point to spend one hour each day shut up alone with God in her room, praying for them. Later on, two of her sons, John and Charles Wesley, gave their lives to the Lord as preachers, brought revival to England and became the famous founders of the Methodist movement. 

Mothers, God is not disregarding your prayers. The story of St Augustine demonstrates the power of one humble woman's tearful prayers.  So those of you who have wayward children, whose children perhaps have left home or perhaps are still at home and breaking your hearts, please do not imagine that the tears you shed for them are overlooked by God.  Let me comfort your heart with these words of promise from God’s Word.  Every single teardrop you shed for your wayward child is never overlooked by God.  The psalmist says, “He puts our tears in His bottle” (Ps. 56:8).  Therefore, be encouraged in the Lord! 

Why Family Worship is Necessary 

Why are there so many rebellious, wayward children in the Christian family? The answer is straightforward – lack of spiritual leadership that leads to lack of family devotion.  Let me say this.  Family worship is not for little children only.  Adults are included.  And so, if you have grown up children, they are not to be excluded from family worship. 

Why is family worship necessary? Family worship is a means of Christian development.  Family worship provides an open door for family sharing and prayer.  Let me cite a few examples from the Bible. 

Hannah and Samuel: Though the word “weaned” is mentioned 3 times (1 Sam 1:23, 24), there is no record how Hannah nurtured Samuel.  But being a godly woman, she knew what God expected of her.  She knew verses like Deuteronomy 6:6-9.  Therefore, despite the lack of information, we can safely conclude that his mother must have taught him the Holy Scripture.  Samuel’s spiritual sensitivity was tested when the Lord called on him (1 Sam 3:2-10).  On the contrary, Hebrews warns us against spiritual insensitivity (5:11).   

God’s Word says, “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is hisreward” (Psa 127:3).  Children are God’s gift to us parents.  We have a God-given responsibility to nurture them in the way they should go and not in the way that they would go so that when they are old, they will not depart from it (Prov 22:6; 2 Tim 1:5; 3:15).   

“Parents, are you doing your part in bringing your children up in the fear of the Lord? Are you influencing them by examples? Do you uphold them in prayer before the throne of grace?  

God’s Word warns us in Proverbs: “A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother” (10:1).  A foolish son is the grief of his mother. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (22:15).  A child needs constant guidance because of his foolishness.  “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himselfbringeth his mother to shame” (29:15).  The danger of leaving our children unattended for or looked after. 

How many foolish sons and daughters have we who have been causing great pains and distress to their mother?  

Lois and Eunice: Timothy 

How did young Timothy come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? Paul said that from childhood, young Timothy had come to know the holy scriptures which were able to make him wise to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Tim 3:15).  And where did he learn the Holy Scriptures? Paul, with fond memories, said that he learned them from his godly grandmother Lois and mother Eunice (2 Tim 1:5). 

Children are wonderful gifts from the LORD.  God designed them to be a blessing.  They are meant to be a joy to every parent.  They are given by God to grace our lives with fulfillment, meaning, happiness, and satisfaction.  Therefore, children should be seen as a blessing, not a burden (even if they are born with certain defects or disabilities).     

 If children are God’s best gift to us parents, then the task of bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is a grave responsibility upon us and it mustn’t be taken lightly.  Nowadays, many couples are able to hire maids to take care of their children (I do not mind hiring them to do house chores, but to look after my children, I have great reservation).  Many of them are young and inexperienced.  Most of them are non-Christians.  Every day they spend 8 to 10 hours with the children while the parents go to work.  And what values do they impart to them, there is no way of knowing.   Personally, I believe there is no better way than you yourselves spending quality time with your children, nurturing them in the fear of the Lord.  I greatly respect those mothers who give up their careers to spend time with their children.  I do not believe it is the parents’ prerogative to delegate this God-given responsibility to others.  I believe a child’s most important influences come from his parents, not his friends or nannies.  Parents must involve themselves in their children’s lives.  Parents who complain of their children’s improper behavior have themselves to blame because they have allowed others to have more influence than themselves.  They spend little time with them.  They leave the teaching, discipline, and caring to their nannies, school teachers, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and even pastors.  Some even leave them to learn morality and ethics from movies.  So if your children have become something other than what you hoped for, don’t blame others, blame yourselves. 

Parents, you need to exercise your God-given authority to get rid of any sinful influence on your children.  Once I visited a member’s home.  The son invited me to his study room.  To my horror, I saw a sizable poster of a seductive woman on the wall.  I asked myself, how could his parents allow him to hang it there?  Parents, you need to be vigilant.  Do you have control over what your children watch on TV? Do you monitor what Websites your children go to?   Do you know what kinds of magazines your children read?  

Parenting is a God-given responsibility.  To nurture a child is a grave responsibility.  It is never an easy job.  It takes time and effort and much prayer.  Therefore, parenting mustn’t be taken lightly. 

Further, parenting is challenging.  Giving the right training to a child is important.  Proverbs reminds us, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”(22:6).  Paul says in Ephesians, “… but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (6:4).  

The word “bring up” (paideia|) comes from the Greek word for “child” (paiv).  Paideia means“education, tutorage, instruction, child training, discipline, and nurture.”  The same word is used once in 2 Timothy 3:16, where it is translated “instruction,” and four times in Hebrews 12:5-11, where it is translated “chastening.”  So the notions of chastening and discipline, as well as positive instruction, are inherent in the word paideia.[1]   

Now at what age should I begin to teach my child the Word of God? According to 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul says, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”  Paul said, “from a child” Timothy had come to know the Holy Scriptures.  The Greek word for “child” here is “infant” (breyov).   Indoctrination starts early (Prov 31:1).  At the age of 3, Jewish infants could repeat portions of scripture and also certain prayers.  At the age of 5, they began to read the Hebrew Bible.  And at 6 their formal religious education began. 

Children are immature in every aspect of life.  Paul says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor 13:11).  No wonder Paul’s advice to parents is, “bring them up.”  Children will not get there themselves.  We parents must play an active role in shaping them.  Proverbs rightly says, “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Prov 29:15).   

Parents, are you playing an active role in your children’s lives? Here is a suggestion.  You could read Bible stories to them or sing choruses to put them to sleep.  Or are you leaving them to your maids?  

Now what if your husband is not a Christian, should you conduct family worship with your children? If there is no objection from him, you should do it (1 Cor 7:14).  Now what if your husband is not around, should you conduct family worship with your children? The answer is YES.   

There is a verse in Proverbs parents must take note of.  Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”  What is the challenge of bringing up our children?The challenge is not a change in behavior; it is a change in heart.  When our children misbehave themselves in public, refuse to call uncles and aunties, speak vulgarities, we try to change their behavior.  But we fail to see the root of the problem.  Ted Tripp says, “A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in the heart is not commendable; it is condemnable.[2]  Misconduct reflects the depravity of a child’s heart.  Genesis reminds us, “…for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth”(8:21).  In other words, it is the heart problem.  Jesus says, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luk 6:45).  Therefore, a change in behavior will not solve the child’s problem.  Again Ted Tripp, in his book “Shepherding a Child’s Heart,” suggests that “the child’s heart is the world’s smallest battlefield, and the conquering of it calls for all-out, hand-to-hand combat.”[3]  I agree with him.  Our children’s problem is not a lack of maturity, experience, or understanding.  Their problem is sin in the heart.  They must change in their hearts.  No one can do it except God.  They must call upon the Name of Jesus to save them from sin and misery.  They must be born again (2 Cor 5:17).  Parents, make sure your children are born again (John 1:13). 

            The command is first given to parents to have God’s Word hidden in their hearts (Deut 6:6; Psa 119:11).  Parents who fail to read and obey God’s Word in their hearts are unable to shepherd their own children.  They do not know their God.  They may know about their God, but they do not know him as God.  Knowing a person and knowing about a person are two different things.  I may know about you – your name, the place you live and work or your hobbies, but I do not know you as a person.   

Therefore, parents who do not spend time reading their Bible are not qualified 1) to teach their children about God (4), 2) to teach their children to love God (5), 3) to teach their children to obey God (6, 7), 4) to teach their children to follow their example (7-9), and 5) to teach their children to be wary of the world around them (10-12).   

Strickland Gillilan said, “You may have tangible wealth untold; Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.  Richer than I you can never be – I had a mother who read to me.” George Washington said, “My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.” Henry Ward Beecher said, “The mother's heart is the child's schoolroom.” Abraham Lincoln said, “All I am or can be I owe to my angel Mother.” 

 Mothers, are you lovers of God’s Word? Do you read the Bible to your children? But first you need to equip yourselves with the Word before you can nurture your children in the way of righteousness.   


 Mothers, God promises you a happy home if only you do what he says (Psa 128).  What does God require of you? There are five requirements taken from Deuteronomy: To fear God, walk in all his ways, love him, serve him and keep his commandments which he has commanded you this day for your good (Deut 10:12, 13). 

May God give us homes with godly parents where the Bible is read, where precious hymns are sung and where prayer comes first in peace or in disaster.  If you have not begun having family worship, it’s never too late to start one.   

May God help us.  Amen.

[1] John F. MacArthur.  Successful Christian Parenting.  Nashville: Word Publishing, 1998, p 146.

[2] Ted Tripp.  Shepherding a Child’s Heart.  Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd, 1995, p 20.

[3] Ibid, p 39.

Vision & Mission


To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

February 18 & 25 - Fruit of Obedience

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. John 15:10