DANGER: TEACHING CONSEQUENCES AND REWARDS
Parenting is hard. It is difficult. Trying to wrestle with the challenge of balancing grace and truth with your individual children’s personalities and temperaments is a real challenge. All the while, children are brilliant at turning everything around and blaming, shaming, and criticizing their parents no matter what they do.
I had a close friend who’s daughter went through a horribly rebellious period when she was 17. The way she spoke to her mom was so hurtful and disrespectful. She was modeling a terrible lifestyle with rebellion, insubordination, and got into drug use. This father told me of a day he followed her to a parking lot and saw her getting into a car to get drugs from this boy. He was so torn as both a follower of Christ and a father of his daughter… He told me that he has never wanted to grab a baseball bat and beat up a kid who was destroying his daughter’s life. He did get out of the car -without the bat- and called her on what she was doing. She yelled at him for spying on her, accused him of anything and everything. And over the next year, this broken hearted father had to continually remove benefits of living under his roof, increased punishment and consequences, and yet, she didn’t change. Sadly, he had to kick her out of the house -knowing that she would turn to more of the same… Knowing that his heart was broken… He second guessed himself 100 times, but knew that she needed to face more and more the natural consequences of her decisions… He loved her enough to let her feel the pain… He loved his wife and other children enough to protect them from her destructive patterns… But his heart was broken.
“I reared a Criminal” was the title of an article that appeared in The Ladies’ Home Journal. It was the true story of a heart-broken mother who said: “We loved him, but:
“His father was too busy to be with him when he was young.”
“I couldn’t bring myself to punish him for misbehavior.”
“We sided against teachers when they complained about his work and conduct in school.”
“As he grew up, he would hardly discuss the time of day with us.”
“He was expelled from school.”
“We gave him money so he wouldn’t steal again.”
“I wept when the police called and I had to turn my boy over to them. As I watched them search him, my life seemed to end.”
This mother is heartsick because she gave her son everything: Opportunity. Love. Optimism. Material stuff. Money. But she realized in this moment that she had “reared a criminal.” Why? She never taught her kids the most important lesson in life.
REBELLION SHOULD CAUSE PAIN, RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL CAUSE GAIN
God parents us with warnings, consequences, and rewards as well. God’s heart has also been broken. God also -both wants us to experience abundant life- but is willing to let us “face the music” of not trusting Him or his way. God teaches us that rebellion will cause pain in our lives. And righteousness, will (eventually, but not always in the moment) cause gain. So God’s parenting with us is to “connect the dots” between our decisions and its consequences. To show us that pain comes with rebellion. And when we feel like giving up on good, God connects the dots to the longer term benefits of righteous living.
How do we Connect the Dots? I would like to look at 1) How God Connects the Dots When He Parents Us; and 2) How We Connect the Dots When We Parent Our Children.
I. HOW GOD CONNECTS THE DOTS IN HIS PARENTING
In Hebrews, a book in the New Testament, we get a bird’s eye view on God’s parenting style. And how he connects the dots with us. I want to show you ways God connects the dots for us.
A. God Connects the Dots Between Trust and Reward
Hebrews 11:6 without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
The main goal of God’s parenting is “trust” or “faith.” He wants us to trust him. To connect the dots between trusting him and wanted to please him. If we trust Him and his way, we will obey him. It begins and ends with trust. And part of trust is God wants us to know that “He is a rewarder” of those who diligently seek him. He says, “Righteousness will cause gain.” I will reward you for doing the right thing. This is key to his parenting. Trust and Reward.
B. God Connects the Dots Between Love and Discipline
3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
When our parents disciplined us, we heard phrases like, “This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you.” And if your parents spanked you, you thought, “Let’s switch roles and see who hurts the most.” Then you become a parent and realize that it’s true. You don’t want to see your children hurting, suffering, in pain, or without blessings. In fact, if you ground your kids from the car, who is “hurt the most” usually the parents are inconvenienced with more trips and car pooling, etc. God says that before you think about, or get discouraged by His discipline, remember, “HE who endured hostility” In other words, when bad stuff comes into your life, and your temptation is “Why God?” “God hates me” God must not love me… You must look at the cross and see that the ONE thing that can’t be motivating God is hatred. He loved you enough to die a painful death for you. So remember he loves you… and therefore his discipline is always motivated by love. A Loving Parent Disciplines. Period.
C. God Connects the Dots Between Rebellion and Pain
6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives. 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Notice “Joyful in the present.” No one likes consequences. No one likes feeling the pain of rebellion. No one enjoys in the moment when their parents let them realize that “rebellion causes pain…” But “afterward” you discover that “Righteousness will cause gain.” When you are “trained by it.” There is parenting right there. God is “training” you as his child. Training you to trust Him. Training you to trust his Way. Training you to see that rebellion causes pain. Training you to see that Righteousness will cause gain. And the writer of Hebrews says, “If that is how God parents you…Then that’s how we should parent our kids…”
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