I expect most have heard that a child will go through a rebellious stage in their teen years. If that is true, have you ever wondered how God could require in 1 Timothy 3:4 that a church elder, “ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity”? It hardly seems fair for God to require this as a qualification, and then put in human nature the flaw that causes all teenagers to go through rebellion.
It is just like God to require a man to know how to shepherd his family well in order to be entrusted with a position of authority in the church. Since it is a requirement for serving in the church, we can be sure that a rebellious teen is the responsibility of the parent.
How can we avoid rebellion from happening in our families? Most of us know someone we respect who has had a rebellious child. They seem to be a good parent; they seem to love and serve the Lord, yet the child is a rebel. How can this be?
As we read that section in 1 Timothy 3, we see many tests for the would-be elder. What sort of reputation does he have? Is he the husband of one wife? Does he keep himself from alcohol? Does he know the Scriptures? Is he hospitable? Is he gentle and not quarrelsome? Does he love money? These all address his character. He is to be above reproach in his private life, and that is a qualification for church leadership. As listed earlier, even the behavior of his children are part of his credentials. So we see that his example in the home is critical and a litmus test of whether he is good for the church.
I believe the father’s example and leadership are the first two legs of a three-legged stool that are necessary in raising children who will not rebel. They are vital in the home. Interestingly, I think these two legs are easier than the third leg, even though the third leg is unbelievably easy. However, that third essential aspect is often neglected and left on the shelf. It is available to every Christian and will not cost us a cent. When a crisis comes, it is one of the first things used. Unfortunately, due to it not being used consistently, it is often quite ineffective. It is possibly the greatest true measure of a Christian. Do you know what it is? It’s prayer.
You see, Jesus Christ changes lives. Prayer will, somehow, bring the power of the Lord Jesus into a person’s life to change his heart, as nothing else can. We read in Matthew 17 that when the disciples could not cast out a demon, Jesus said, “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). I’m not saying that a rebel has a demon, but I believe this verse teaches that prayer and fasting must be used when the heart is not changing. Whether it is our children or our spouse, Jesus Christ works in hearts.
Years ago I was very troubled over how our sons’ participation in team sports was stealing our family time. I finally told Teri we needed to quit team sports after the season was over. Teri and I both loved to watch the boys play ball, as they were very good. She just couldn’t agree to it. I decided that I would begin to cry out to the Lord to change her heart. Notice I wasn’t asking God to change her heart due to a selfish motive. I wanted to allow more time so we could be in the Bible in the evenings. In a very short amount of time, God changed her heart and the rest is history!
Earnest, intense, ongoing, sincere prayer is, I believe, the missing weapon of many fathers. I think that if our prayer life is what it should be, God will likely reveal problems early enough that they may be “nipped in the bud.”
Dads, do we pray? Do we cry out to the Lord on behalf of our children and wives? Do we know how to pray? Do we love prayer? Can we afford not to?
I believe this “three-legged stool” is why God justly requires obedient children as a qualification for being an elder.