I often study the books of I and II Timothy to try to gain insight into the training of my children, since these books were written to a young man. Recently a passage in II Timothy stood out as particularly compelling in outlining a plan for raising godly children.
In II Timothy chapter 3, Paul begins by describing problems which will come in the last days. "People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power."
This list reads like Tuesday night's TV Guide.
If these are not the last days, we face the same challenges outlined in this chapter. Accordingly, the advice Paul gives is very pertinent for anyone who lives in the midst of this kind of rampant wickedness.
After rehearsing this list of evil, Paul says to Timothy, "You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings. . . ."
Paul had a major role in the spiritual training of Timothy—a course of instruction which had started with Timothy's mother and grandmother. Paul believed the instruction he had given Timothy would put him in the right position to stand against the world—even if Timothy lived to see the fullness of the days of evil coming at the end of the age.
We obviously want our children to have this same ability to stand for God no matter how evil our society becomes. I believe it is quite instructive for you to ask yourself, as I have had to ask myself, whether my course of instruction for my children is as thorough as Paul's teaching of Timothy. There is a series of questions we need to ask ourselves.
Do my children know my teaching? Obviously, as home schoolers were are engaged in the academic instruction of our children. But are we as systematic in teaching the Scriptures to our children? Our children should be able to write a high-level doctrinal statement and defend it at the end of our teaching.
Do my children know my way of life? For me, this means many things. I want my children to be committed to home schooling their children. I want them to be committed to fighting for a biblical worldview and true freedom in public policy. I want them to really love and embrace the gift of children. I want them to be fun-loving. I want them to be madly in love with their spouse. These are aspects of my own way of life which are very important to me. Paul expected Timothy to know and follow his way of life. We should give the same example to our children.
Do my children know my purpose? Knowing my purpose is different than knowing my activities. My children need to know why I do the things I do. And they need to know my all-important purpose in life, which is to really know God.
Do my children know my faith? Knowing my faith is different from knowing my doctrine. Paul was able to show Timothy how he genuinely trusted God for the impossible and depended on God for direction and answered prayer. In the same way, my children need to see me put my trust in God in a very real way on a very regular basis.
Can my children learn patience by watching me? Oh boy, that is a convicting question. Do they see me contentedly waiting on God for answers to tough questions, or do they see me knocking down walls of resistance which impede my own desires? More importantly, am I patient with my own children when they are behaving in an irritating manner? Tough questions—at least for me.
Do my children really feel my love? Unconditional. Strong. Pure. Merciful. I find it interesting that Paul begins all his epistles prayerfully asking for "grace and peace" from God for those reading the book. In both letters to Timothy—and only in these two letters—Paul asks that God give his reader "grace, mercy, and peace." I believe a parent's love for his child involves a whole lot of mercy. Sometimes our love for a disobedient child seems a little thin. That thinness comes, I believe, from a deficiency in mercy. Disobedience must be corrected. But mercy must be the spirit of our correction if love is to be really felt.
Can my children learn endurance by watching me? Do I cut and run from difficulties? Do I finish what I start? Home schooling moms are great models of endurance, sticking with a task because they know the long-range rewards despite the short-range difficulties. Those who demonstrate endurance with little or no complaints have even greater effectiveness in teaching this character quality.
By watching me, can my children learn to stand firm even when facing persecution? Paul reminds us that "all those who want to live a godly life in Jesus will be persecuted." I know thousands of home schoolers who can add their personal "amens" to Paul's statement. But it is not enough for our children to see us receive persecution. It is far more important for them to see us face such attacks with dignity and fidelity to God. If we revile our persecutor or deny our Lord, our children get the wrong message.
Can my children learn to respond to suffering by watching me? Persecution is different from suffering. Persecution involves an attack because of our faith. Suffering happens to everyone, sometimes in a random manner—or so it would seem. Close friends of mine tragically lost their only child, a six-year-old daughter to brain cancer. Other friends lost their twelve-year-old grandson in a vehicle accident. These are sad examples of suffering. No one wants to suffer. But I want my children to see me cling fast to my Lord when these times come through my life, as they inevitably do for everyone.
Paul gives us quite a checklist. I doubt that any of us really measure up to these ideals. But all of us can draw closer and closer to God's desire for us as we realize that teaching our children involves a whole lot more than the transmission of data and facts.
God will show Himself strong to equip you to do even better, if you show yourself willing to follow His Word.