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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8 am & 1045am service, 2013-06-16

Text: Ephesians 6:1-4

It was a lot easier to build relationships when I was a child, because people always had time for each other. I used to play with all the kids in my neighbourhood. My dad and mum knew everyone who lived on the same street, and we would go around visiting our neighbours every night. We hardly watched TV then, as it was still black and white and the shows were rather boring and screened only a few hours a day. My mum was a fulltime housewife. My dad would leave for work at 8 in the morning and was back home by 5:30. It was rare for him to work overtime or to be away from home. Thus he was able to spend much time at home with the family and would take us out on weekends to church and for family outings or to visit a friend or relative.

But life has changed so much since then. There is much less time now for building relationships than before.  The demands of work and school have increased tremendously. We hardly have time to get to know our neighbours, and they are also too busy for us.  But what is worse is that many are too busy to spend time even with their own family members. As a result of this, family life is suffering a lot today.  Marriage rates and birth rates are going down while divorce rates are going up. In many homes, both parents have to go out to work in order to make ends meet. In some cases this results in neglecting the needs of their children, who in turn grow up to abandon their aged parents.

A family survey was done in Singapore two years ago. It revealed that the longer that couples are married, the less effort they put in to maintain a healthy relationship and manage their marital conflicts.  For example, 67% of respondents married for less than 5 years said they celebrate anniversaries with their spouse compared to 57% of those married for more than 20 years.  97% of respondents married for less than 5 years said they would indulge in nice gestures to make up with their spouses if they knew their spouse was unhappy with them, compared to 87% of respondents married for 20 years or more.  Fathers are spending significantly less time with their children (24 hours per week) than mothers do (34 hours per week). In many Singaporean homes, Dad leaves for work when Mum and the kids are still asleep.

Mum leaves for work shortly after that. The kids are left in the care of the maid or childcare centre. By the time Dad returns home late at night, everyone has gone to bed. They seldom have meals together because of conflicting schedules.  And even when they are all at home, each of them just sits in front of a screen. There is hardly any meaningful communication between them. Dearly beloved, if your family life is like this, then it is time to change. We cannot let this go on.

As today is Fathers Day, let all of us who are fathers commit ourselves to make family time a priority.  If we hardly spend time with our children, we will have to live with regret one day. Before we know it, they will have grown up and left the nest. So we must give more attention to them while we still can. We must build good relationships within our families. Doing this is not easy. It will require a lot of personal sacrifice, humble apology, forgiveness, willingness to love and make allowances for others, and rearranging our priorities. But this is very needful, because God requires it of us even as He has said in verse 4 of our text – “And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” How can we worship and serve the Lord in church, if we fail to do His will right in our own homes? Fathers, please make the effort to keep your home life in order, and if it is not in order, then by all means set it in order. God requires this of us!

This message is not only for fathers.  It is also for all adults who have parents as verse 2-3 of our text says, “Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)  That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” For those of us who have aged parents, doing this means that we should not neglect them. God requires us to care for them and repay them for all the love and care they had lavished on us as we were growing up. Sometimes it is only when they are gone forever that we begin to miss them, and we realise how much they mean to us. Then it would be too late to express how much we love them.

And this message is also meant for all our youthful members here who are still under the care of their parents.  The first verse of our text says: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.” Please learn to treasure the time you spend with your parents.

And please remember this: You may have many friends who are your peers and whom you prefer to hang out with, but in this life you will only have one father and one mother to call your own. So make good use of your opportunity you still have now to build a good relationship with them, for the day will come when you will have to leave home and go your own separate way. You may go overseas for study and settle down there, and you may not see them again.

But some of you may say, “Pastor, you don’t know the kind of parents I have. It is so difficult to relate to them. I’ve given up trying to talk with them.” Even though this will not be the easiest thing to do, you simply cannot afford to neglect your family relationships, because of the emphasis that God gives to family relationships in His Word.

I. The Biblical Emphasis on Family Relationships

There are several ways in which family relationships are emphasised in the Bible. The first is through

A. The Examples of Godly People

One example is King David. According to 1 Samuel 22:1-3, When David was fleeing as a fugitive from King Saul and he came to the cave of Adullam, his family came to stay with him. David’s concern for the welfare of his parents caused him to bring them to his friend, the King of Moab, to be taken care of. He said, “Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me.” There may have been two reasons why he did this: David was worried that King Saul may harm his parents while trying to kill him, and perhaps he wanted his parents to live in reasonable comfort and his hideout in the cave was not such a place for them.

In the New Testament, the best example is the obedience that our Lord Jesus gave to Mary and Joseph.  According to Luke 2:51, He was subject unto them. And even as He was dying on the cross, Jesus still cared enough for His mother’s welfare to ask John His disciple to care for her. (John 19:26,27). Another way in which family relationships are emphasized in the Word of God is in the

B. The Commandments about Family Life

There are many commandments in Scripture that promote harmony and godliness in family life.

Husbands are commanded to love their wives, and wives are commanded to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22,25). They are both required to keep their marriage vows faithfully (Matthew 19:6). Parents are commanded to love, instruct, and discipline their children (Titus 2:4; Deuteronomy 6:7; Proverbs 13:24). And children are commanded to honour and obey their parents (Exodus 20:12).

All this should make us wonder, “Why did God bother to provide us with so many commands and such detailed instructions about family life?” Doesn’t this indicate how deeply interested God is in the way we conduct our family life? Besides this there is another way that God has shown His interest in the way that fathers conduct their family life. It is seen in the…

C. The Prerequisite for Spiritual Leadership

 When Paul wrote to Timothy about whom the Church should appoint to be elders, he specified that only those who govern their own families well should be considered. And the reason he gave is this: “If a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5) Fathers, you may be the head of a successful business corporation or organisation, but if you are not fulfilling your responsibilities as the head of your own family, God says that you are not qualified to lead His people. Your family life matters most to Him!

In line with this, it is interesting to note that one reason why of all people God chose Abraham to enter into a covenant with Him, was his diligence in leading his family to walk in obedience to God.  Genesis 18:19 tells us, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment….”

Besides the biblical examples and commandments concerning family relationships and the prerequisite for spiritual leadership, we can see a strong emphasis given to it in:

D. The Promises Relating to the Family

 Many of God’s promises deal not only with individuals, but with their families as well.

For instance, when Peter delivered his first gospel sermon at Pentecost, he proclaimed:“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”  (Acts 2:38,39)

Later on, when Paul and Silas brought the Gospel message to the Philippian jailer, they said to him,  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”(Acts 16:31) Earlier on in the same chapter (vv.14,15) another family was saved – that of Lydia. The Lord opened her heart when Paul preached the gospel, and then Lydia and all members of her family were baptized. Her home became the first meeting place of the church at Philippi.

This does not mean, however that all family members of a Christian are automatically saved. Salvation and faith are personal and cannot be obtained by proxy. Every individual family member has to receive the Lord for himself or for herself. But the promises of God to the family do have a basis.  They are based on the fact that the family that a person belongs to is an important influence in his life. A person’s family plays an important part in determining his values, his attitudes and his outlook on life.

As Proverbs 27:17 tells us “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” God uses your loved ones to shape and sharpen your character, your values, and your personality. Your family is the mould in which all these things are cast. Let me ask you: Where did you receive your very first knowledge and social skills? It is probably in the family you grew up in. Where did you develop your very first understanding of this world? In the family you grew up in. Whether you like it or not, much of what you are today has been shaped by God through the family you grew up in. This applies even to your physical appearance. You know the saying, “Like father, like son” or “Like mother, like daughter.” You cannot help but to bear some resemblance to your biological parents. And perhaps some of you came to know and love the Lord Jesus through a family member who introduced you to Christ, just like Andrew introduced his own brother Simon Peter, to the Lord.

Having seen what the Bible says about family relationships, I trust that we will all strive to devote more time and attention to build them. This brings us to the next part of our message, where we learn about:

III. The Way to Build Biblical Family Relationships

1. Cultivate a strong commitment to your family.  There are some who believe that what binds family members together is love. That is true, but only as long as our idea of love is not limited to the pleasant feelings or warm emotions that many people mistake for love. Real, biblical love is being firmly committed to one another, regardless of how one may feel for one another. Feelings change all the time. Parents will sometimes feel grieved by their child’s bad habits. Siblings often get upset with each other over room space and exhibit ‘sibling rivalry’. If family relationships depend only on feelings, the home will soon become a hostile war zone!

But when there is commitment to one another, family relationships will remain strong and stedfast, despite any change of feelings. Commitment keeps a son from betraying his father to the father’s enemies. It makes him seek instead to defend his father’s honour.  That is why Psalm 127:5, speaking on the blessings of having children tells us: “Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”

 Commitment keeps a mother from giving up on her child no matter how difficult he may be. As Isaiah 49:15 says, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?” Commitment keeps a father from disowning his son, even when that son has offended him deeply and become very rebellious.  We think of the father of the prodigal son, who kept looking out day after day for the son’s return until he finally saw him and ran to welcome him home (Luke 15:20)! What distinguishes a Christian family from all others is that its members are committed to deal with relationship issues and sin by forgiveness and reconciliation. This commitment to forgive and be reconciled to one another enables the family to overcome every relationship issue.

Commitment also makes a person willing to help his own brothers and sisters in the day of their adversity.  Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” The tie that binds family members firmly together is commitment. A strong commitment to your family will make you willing to make personal sacrifices for them.  Some years ago, a well-qualified church member resigned from his well-paid job in a multinational corporation for a job that pays him less but affords him more time to spend with his family. He has never regretted making this decision.

To our younger members, spending time with their family may not be as high on their priority as spending time with other young people. That is quite natural. But please set aside time for your family as well.  There are times when you have to say ‘No’ to your friends, and tell them that this time, your family must come first. This is especially so when your dad or mum has planned something for the whole family to do together, and you imagine that you are going to be very bored if you go with them, and that you can have more fun if you go with your friends, or stay home and play computer games.

Listen to this: Whatever time you spend with your family, in doing things together with them, going places together, or just being together, is not wasted. These moments help to build memories that will last for a lifetime.  These pleasant memories play an important part in strengthening family relationships, just as remembering God’s past work in our lives strengthens our relationship with Him (Psalm 77:11). What memories of your loved ones have you built thus far? Do you occasionally take a journey back into the past to reminisce all the warm and tender moments that you have shared with them?

If you ever find your family relationships beginning to grow stale, like the old saying,“familiarity breeds contempt” then one way to restore freshness into your relationship is to relive the good memories of your past experiences together. And then go on to build more good memories by spending meaningful time with them. And if you want to make your time with them meaningful, there must be meaningful communication with them. This brings us to the next point on how to build biblical family relationships:

2. Communicate meaningfully with them.  How do we communicate meaningfully? There are three levels of communication: The first level is the most superficial, as people only exchange usual clichés like, Good morning! How are you? Fine? Have you eaten yet? Have you done your homework? When the conversation progresses beyond this level, it develops into an exchange of facts. This is where people feel comfortable to share things they know without expressing their opinions of feelings yet (something like ‘coffee-shop talk’). They may talk about the weather, the news, and also about certain people they both know. But this is not the deepest level of communication yet.

The deepest level is where people begin to open up to share how they feel about the things discussed. They begin to express their opinions, preferences, things they are happy about or disappointed with.  This is what some would call – a “heart-to-heart talk.” It is this level of communication that builds up the relationship. This is where they are at ease with one another, and where those who communicate have become confident that they can trust one another without any fear of being judged or maligned.

Let us learn to communicate with our family members meaningfully, going past all the usual clichés and exchange of facts, and proceeding on to the level where real influence is imparted, and personal impact is made. Another thing you should include in your communication to your family members is to  express sincerely what you really appreciate in them and value about them (cf. Philippians 4:8). This is something we often forget to do because we tend to take our family members for granted.

We who are parents often forget that our children need to receive personal affirmation and appreciation from us regularly. In verse 4 of our text we are told:  “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath…” The same command is given in Colossians 3:21, but with the reason added to it:  “…lest they be discouraged.” Constructive criticism is necessary to help your child improve, but if all that he hears from you is constant nagging and criticism day in and day out, he will become discouraged and angry. He may even give up trying altogether, thinking that everything he does will never please you. You may tell him that you are doing this for his own good, and that you have his best interests at heart, but how will he believe you, if you take no notice of his efforts to improve, and you have no word of appreciation or encouragement for him?

And so, if you want to build a good relationship with your child, be sure to communicate with him meaningfully and in doing so express appreciation to him. One sincere word of appreciation from your heart can go a long way to build up your child and draw him closer to you. And if you want the best for your children, you should also…

3. Pray for them and with them.  This is the 3rd and last point in building biblical family relationships. All our desires for the well-being of our family should be turned into prayer. And when you pray, thank God for each of them, and ask Him to strengthen your relationship with them.

For those who are parents, please don’t pray only that your child will do well in his exams and be able to get into right school and college. The more important thing to pray for, is for your child’s salvation and his walk with God. And let that prayer for him be matched by your own efforts - Efforts to build him up spiritually to fear the Lord and to live for Him.

The strongest family relationships are those that involve God in them.  E.g. in Acts 21:9 we are told that Philip the evangelist,  had four daughters who prophesied, living together with him. They shared the same passion for God’s Word and service that their father had. And this family provided warm Christian hospitality to weary missionaries like Paul as he returned to Jerusalem. This shows us that the closer that family members draw to the Lord, the closer they will also be to one another.  When they love the Lord very deeply, they can share a deeper and more meaningful relationship with one another. There is a saying that ‘A family that prays together stays together.’

In some homes however, not all family members share the same commitment to Christ. Sometimes the children are deeply committed to Christ, but the parents are not. Sometimes it is the parents who are deeply committed to Christ, but the children are not. Some of us have loved ones who are not Christians, or who are nominal Christians. Our relationship with them is strained by disagreements that arise from this occasionally. Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 10:35-37  – “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.  And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.  He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”

As long as your loved ones are not as committed to Christ as you are, there are bound to be issues that come between you and them. But if you make earnest effort to bring them to have the same commitment to Christ, then you can look forward to the day when these differences will no longer strain your relationship. Instead you will be able to share freely with them about the common faith you share in the Lord Jesus. You will have a closer and more meaningful time with them.

For this reason, please make every effort to bring every member in your family to commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.  That means praying for them and reaching out to them with the Word of God. Invite them to the coming Gospel Sunday which is just two weeks away. Who knows that the Lord will use this to call them into His marvelous light?Let us make our homes as conducive as possible for Christ to exercise His Lordship fully. He who is the Head of the Church must also be the Head of our homes.  

We have seen how important the family is to Him and therefore how important our family should be to us. We have seen how we can build biblical family relationships with our family members by  Cultivating a strong commitment to them, Communicating meaningfully with them, and by Praying for them and with them. May the Lord help us now to apply these things well.

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

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11