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By Rev Charles Seet
(Preached at Life BPC, 8am service, 8 June 2003)

Text: Proverbs 13:24; 23:13,14

Those who are parents will realize that no two children are exactly alike (even identical twins). They may come from the same parents, bear the same surname, and may grow up together in the same home, and may bear some resemblance to each other. But they have different personalities, different strengths and different weaknesses. One child is very fussy while the other is very accommodating. One child is very messy while the other is very meticulous. Our objective as parents is to know each child’s temperaments well enough to help each of them to grow up successfully. This is not easy, and we need to seek wisdom from God to do it.

 

I. The Sinful Nature Is Found In Every Child

One area that we really need wisdom to help each child in, is to deal with the sinful nature that he is born with. That sinful nature is there from birth, and even earlier than that – from the time of conception, as the godly king David, said in Psalm 51 – “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceiveme.” This sinful nature is part of the fallen image that the child inherits from us, and that we in turn inherited from our own parents. This fallen image goes all the way back to our first parents, Adam and Eve who disobeyed God. This means that every child has inherited a natural tendency to sin. This has become a permanent trait passed from generation to generation, like a permanent stain that cannot be removed from the human race.

And this helps us to understand what causes the common experience that all parents have with babies. At first when the baby is born, we are filled with pride and praise for our little angelic bundle of joy – howsweet and innocent it looks when he opens his eyes, smiles with a toothless grin and utters his first baby sounds.

But not long after that, we discover to our horror that our cute little newborn is not so angelic after all. The sinful nature in him unravels itself as he grows up. He begins to be quite demanding and unreasonable, at times fussy and moody, trying the parents’ patience to the limit. He manifests a will of his own, and works out interesting ways to get what he wants. He puts on an act, or plays hard to get. He refuses to eat or sleep when he is supposed to do so, and sets conditions that must be met. If those conditions are not met, he vents his displeasure and throws a tantrum, crying until he is all red in the face. And the baffled parents are left wondering, where did he learn all these things from? We never taught him to do them!

He does not have to learn to do these things. They come quite naturally, because of the sinful nature that he already has. And where did that sinful nature come from?  It came from us, his parents! Not all parents however, are willing to admit that. You will always find some mothers complaining to their husbands who come home from work, “Do you know what your son did today?” And you also will find some fathers saying to a child when they are upset with him, “Go to your mother!” But the interesting thing is when the child isgood and has done well both of them will gladly say, “He’s my son” without the slightest hesitation!

The truth of the matter is that the sinful nature we see in him comes actually from both father and mother. We must be willing to admit that we are partly responsible for it, since his sinful nature is a replicaof our own. And our willingness to admit this then gives us a sense of responsibility to help the child to deal with this sinful nature that we have passed on to him. It makes us seek earnestly for a remedy for the child’s problem of sin. Now, what kind of remedy can best help the child to deal with the sinfulness or foolishness that is in his heart?

II. The Rod of Correction is the Remedy

The answer is found in Proverbs 22:15 – “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” The rod of correction here refers to parental acts of disciplining the child when his sinful nature rears its ugly head. Although the word ‘rod’ here suggests the use of a stick or cane, it should be understood as a metaphor for all the various ways of applying discipline besides the cane, including the use of words of rebuke, removal of privileges, and doing unpleasant tasks. The purpose is to make the child realize that sin always brings about unpleasant consequences. And as such disciplinary measures are applied, the child develops a healthy aversion not for the disciplines itself, but for sin.

In the Bible we can find a good example of the rod of correction being used in God’s disciplining of Israel. At the time when the nation of Israel went astray from God and disobeyed Him, God disciplined them (Deuteronomy 8:5 – “…as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.”). As a result of God’s discipline the nation was brought many times to repentance and to a renewed walk with Him.

The Bible also provides us with a negative example of father who did not discipline his sons at all. This is found in the account of Eli the high priest. Eli had two sons, Hophni and Phineas, who followed their father’s footsteps in serving as priests at the Tabernable in Shiloh. But both of them were evidently not disciplined when young and they grew up to be wicked priests, who abused their privileges and took advantage of worshippers who came to the Tabernacle to worship the Lord. The sad thing is that their father, Eli did not have the heart to stop his sons and discipline them, although he was grieved by their sins. The awful result is that God judged the house of Eli: 1 Samuel 3:13 – “For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.”

Eli did not restrain his sons at all, even though he knew about the evil things that they were doing. The question we ask is, Why did he not restrain them? Perhaps he may have thought that it would be a veryunloving thing for him to do as their father. To this day there are some parents who have the mistakenidea that if they love their child, they should not hurt him or discipline him at all. They don’t want their precious child to go through the least suffering at all, not even if that suffering is the necessary consequence he has to bear for his own wrongdoing.

Such parents must listen most carefully to the words of wisdom found in Proverbs 29:15 – “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” One mother I know has a child who was never disciplined because he was the youngest in the family, and his father too busy and had died when the child was barely 6 years old. He grew up to become wayward and got himself into serious trouble with the authorities. But rather than seeing him go to jail, the mother paid the huge fine for him. But he promptly got into trouble again, and she had to bail him out a second time. When he did it one more time, she decided to let him spend time in jail – because all her efforts to protect him from the penalty of the law was apparently not doing him any good. It had only made him bolder and bolder to think that he could always get away with breaking the law.

In the same way, withholding the rod of correction from a child who needs it will do him more harm than good. And Proverbs 23:13,14 therefore instructs us – “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”

All good parents know full well that it is sometimes necessary for a child to experience some pain for his own good. For example, in taking an injection to give him immunity against certain deadly diseases like Tuberculosis, Tetanus, Typhoid, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. Why do we make our children go through this regime of painful injections, despite their cries and protests? Isn’t it because we love them and we want the best for them?

III. The Rod Must Be Used With Love And Wisdom

The same thing holds true now for the rod of correction. It may be painful and unpleasant both to the child and to his parents, but it is definitely worth all the good results that it brings. If we truly love our children and want the best for them, we should not withhold the rod of correction from them. To withhold the rod from them is actually as good as hating them! As Proverbs 13:24 tells us – “He that spareth his rod hatethhis son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

This verse also gives us an important principle about the use of the rod of correction. Whatever discipline we give must always be done with love, and not with anger. It is a sad fact that some parents cross this line when disciplining their child, and in a fit of rage they inflict more physical and emotional pain than what is needful and helpful to the child. Some cases of child abuse have sadly resulted from parents who have not controlled themselves while disciplining their child. How do we exercise love in using the rod of correction? Here are some guidelines to help us.

A. Words of Instruction and Correction

First of all, children must be given words of instruction. They must be told where the boundary lines are. For example, they must be told that directly disobeying authority, or deliberately infringing upon the rights of others, or violating a known moral principle are things they should not do. These rules should always be kept simple, enforceable and be clearly explained to the child. And before any physical punishment is inflicted for breaking a rule, words of correction should first be given to him. If the child responds to those words of correction by an immediate withdrawal from his disobedience, there is no need to go further. But if the child does not respond to the words of correction, and persists in carrying on his disobedience, then that is the time when punishment becomes most necessary. For this, we go on now to the second guideline for exercising loving discipline which is about:

B. The Right Amount of Discipline

Discipline is just like medicine. It must always be given with the correct dosage. If one gives too little, it will not be effective at all. There must be some degree of firmness in discipline. But if one gives too much, then it may do more harm than good! There must be restraint and gentleness in discipline. The discipline given should also be fair, appropriate, and consistent. It must be fair so that no child would think that he is being unjustly given more discipline then the rest of his siblings. Discipline must be appropriate for the child’s age. As a general rule, the cane should be used only up to the age of 12. Those who are older would need different forms of discipline, e.g. loss of privileges or isolation. And discipline must be givenconsistently in order to be effective. It should not be sometimes given, and sometimes not given, depending on the disposition or mood of the parent.

There is a passage in God’s Word that warns us against the danger of overdoing discipline and of administering it unjustly, unfairly or inappropriately. It is Colossians 3:21 that says, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” You will notice that this instruction is specifically addressed to fathers, who because of their physical strength, might tend to be a little too severe in their exercise of discipline. This will only build up deep-seated anger or resentment in the hearts of their children.

There may be some occasions when some of us who are fathers may be caught in a wrong frame of mind and spirit at the time when we have to discipline a child, and we overdo it. When we realize that we have beentoo severe, what should we do? We should not be afraid to apologise to the child for the excessiveness of our discipline. Don’t try to justify it or say, “Why do you have to make me cane you when I am in a foul mood?” Making an sincere apology will keep the child from developing feelings of resentment. The point that must be emphasized here is that the feelings of the child must be taken into consideration in our exercise of discipline. And because of this we should also not be guilty of excessive faultfinding or ofnagging our children too much. If we do this, our children will become discouraged, that is, they will loose heart and become quite despondent.

This is already happening in some homes today. Some time ago there were reports in the papers about the increased number of psychiatric cases of primary and pre-primary children and also about a large number of children calling the SOS hotline for help. And the reason: The great pressure they face at school and at home. A child who faces constant negative criticism from teachers as well as from parents may soon be convinced that he cannot do anything good at all, and just give up. And some children who cannot take this kind pressure anymore may come to the point of taking their own lives.

Seeing that the wrong use of discipline whether it is verbal or physical, can be detrimental to a child, it is important for all parents to exercise discipline with both wisdom and love. A Dutch Reformed writer once said, “Chastisement is a bitter pill that must be coated with wisdom and dispensed with love, otherwise the pill will be spat out.” It is a good practise to reassure the child that you still love him, just after meting out the disciplinary action to him. It is also good to encourage him with words of praise when he begins to dowhat is right. Such words can go a long way to help the child, as given in Proverbs 25:11 – “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”

Now, earlier on we had seen that the aim of all discipline is to help the child deal with his sinful nature. This means that our disciplinary efforts are not complete until we have taken one more step, which is:

C. Turning the Child to God For Forgiveness and Help

We all know that when a child is corrected for having done wrong to someone, he should be required to make an apology to that person. It is only when he is able to say, “I’m sorry for what I have done to you”that we know that the correction has been successful. But we must also let him know that the One who has been offended the most by his sin, is God, and so above all else, he should make an apology to God.

This is where you can help your child by praying together with him, helping him to confess his sin to God and to ask for God’s forgiveness. When you keep on including this step in the process of correcting your child, he will soon realize how dependent he is on God’s grace to forgive him for his sins. And if the child is not saved yet, this realization can be used by God to lead him to trust in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross to wash all his sins away. And by directing your child to turn to God each time you discipline him, you are also helping him to seek God’s help to deal with his own sinful nature.

Soon it will become natural for him to ask God to help him overcome the urge to sin. Being saved from sin through trusting in Jesus, and seeking God’s help to overcome one’s sin are the ultimate solution to the sin problem that is found in every person, even to your child’s sin problem.

IV. The Rod Should Be Used With Prayer

When we who are parents come to realize that God is the only One who can deal effectively with that sin problem in our child’s life, we should also be praying for him. After all, even the disciplinary measures we implement to help the child are part of the tools that God uses to mould him and change him from within. Let us remember that God is not only our Heavenly Father, but the child’s heavenly Father as well. As a loving heavenly Father He is even more concerned for the child’s struggle with sin than we are. And as a loving heavenly Father, you can be sure that God will also use the rod of correction on him when necessary. Hebrews 12:6 tells us, “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” God may use trials, disappointments, and other circumstances as his rod of correction.

God’s disciplinary actions on him will always be the best for him. He knows exactly how much chastisement to give to your child – neither too much nor too little. What this means to those who are parents, is that while you ought to do your part in using your rod of correction wisely and lovingly, you should also bepraying that God will use His divine rod of correction on your child in the way that He knows best. If you find that your child is not responding well to your efforts to discipline him, pray for him, and make your prayer as fervent as you can.

About 250 years ago there was an old godly woman who prayed most fervently 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 so disappointed to hear reports that John had become a very wicked sailor, 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 for her son 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. Through the various trials that he went through as a sailor he was soundly disciplined by God, gloriously saved, became a preacher and brought thousands of men and women to Christ. And he became the author of that famous hymn, “Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound.”

So I speak to all Christian parents: If you love your children and want the very best for them, pray for them: that God would work in their hearts, guide them, protect them, and discipline them, so that they may become useful citizens of His kingdom. But pray also for wisdom and guidance from the Lord to teach you to discipline your children well with love and wisdom, so that they will become god-fearing, godly people who will love the Lord and do His will.

Sometimes we neglect to pray for our children because we are too busy with our work as parents making a living, making ends meet and taking care of the house. Let me tell you this: 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 each and every one of 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.

This morning we have seen why the rod of correction is righteous. It is because every child is born a sinner and needs correction to overcome sin in his life. We have seen that the rod must be used with love, wisdom and prayer, to accomplish its goal of correction. Let us be therefore be faithful to do our part, while we trust in the Lord to do His part in the lives of our children.

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

November 19 & 26 - The End of the World

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10