"What If He Rebels?"
By Tamara Eaton
Every month we hear from distraught parents who are worried about their teens rebelling. Often these parents fear to confront their children on important issues because they're afraid of "losing" them. Yet, even when we feel weak and helpless, the Lord is still strong and MORE than able to do the necessary work in our children's hearts. By the time they are teens, we can't turn them over our knees or force them to have "time outs", but we can pray the prayer of faith, trusting that the Lord will lead us and soften our child's heart, restore relationships and heal all wounds.
There are times when we have to take a stand, as parents, and do what's right by following the Lord and establishing godly principles of conduct in our family, having faith in the Lord that HE will do the necessary work in our children's hearts to draw them to Him. We can't compromise because we fear our children will rebel and that we'll lose them, on the other hand, we must always demonstrate our unconditional love and let them know that we are always here for them!
We experienced this some time ago--we had to make some decisions that were not popular with one of our teens. Thankfully, he submitted and the Lord worked in his heart, but we had to do it in faith, confident that the Lord would work it out.
I remember going to the Lord and saying, "Lord, I know this is right and what you would have us do--and I have no idea how this teen is going to take it--but I trust You to work it all out. Give him a hunger and thirst for more of You and a love for Your Word. Reveal Yourself to him more and more and help him walk in a way that is pleasing to You. I give this whole situation up to You and thank You for the work You're doing."
In a sense, I had to be willing to lose my son in order to obey the Lord, but also I knew that it would be impossible to totally lose him because he could only go "so far" and he could never escape the Lord! We had dedicated him to the Lord at birth and we knew God had a purpose and ministry that only he could fulfill.
Parenting is definitely a walk of faith. We can control outward behavior when they're little, but we can't change their hearts--only the Lord can do that, and hearts are His speciality! It is so comforting to know that the Lord has not left us defenseless as we encounter trials and tests from the enemy. He promises to give us wisdom, strength, comfort, grace, peace, and meet our every need.
Many times parents have to recommit their home to the Lord--or at least change specific areas that need correcting. We are ALL growing and there are times parents need to call a family meeting and explain to their children what God has revealed to them--and pray that the Lord would give their children understanding and a desire to do His will. Or maybe the parents are new Christians--it's not always easy when parents have just given their lives to the Lord and suddenly see so many areas of their family life that need changing. Yet the same Lord who softened the parents' hearts will also work in the lives of their children--even in seemingly rebellious, hardened hearts.
At one time William taught the Bible at a Christian Ranch for people who struggled with drugs, alcohol or emotional problems. The people were literally saturated with prayer and the Word of God. It was truly amazing to see the changes that took place. Most of these people were ages 19-35, and for the first time in their lives, they were forced to choose to lead disciplined lives and submit to authority. For many of them, the alternative was prison--and they began to realize that the life they had chosen to live truly WAS a prison and only the Lord Jesus could set them free!
My point is this: If the Holy Spirit can make such a change in ADULTS who have lived in rebellion their entire lives, how much more is He able to make a change in our CHILDREN?! The Lord will be faithful to perform the heart changes when we are faithful to carry out His Word and principles of bringing our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord!
We must also examine our own hearts to make sure that there are no seeds of rebellion--whether it be resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness or anything else that would hinder our own prayers and walk with the Lord. Children are great imitators and we will surely reap what we have sown.
Modern parents often think it's more difficult to be a parent today than in the "olden days", but that's not necessarily true. Take time to study God's Word and see how parents have had their trials all through the ages. Even as far back as Adam and Eve! (Have you had a child so jealous he stooped to murder?!) But God in His mercy has not left us comfortless or without help--He wants us to take the time to seek Him for wisdom, He wants us to exercise faith in Him, trusting that He WILL answer us--that He WILL perform His work in our children and work everything out to His glory!
I am convinced that with each new stage of parenting, God's grace is still ABUNDANTLY available! I don't think teens have to rebel but that doesn't mean that our parenting and relationships will always be trial-free, regardless of a Christian parent's diligence in godly child-training, praying, and trusting God to work in the teen's heart. Our children have to make choices daily to take up their cross and follow Jesus, just like we do. But we can pray...and know that the "effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man [parent] availeth much." (James 5:16)
So we pray. We pray that the Lord will keep our teens' hearts close to Him as they face temptations to lower His standards to what is more readily accepted by the "world". Now, more than ever, we want our children to be able to tell others from their hearts that they have convictions to maintain God's standards and that they want to please the Lord and glorify Him in all they say and do!
And if they fall, we want to demonstrate the Father's unconditional love for them, pray that they'll receive the gift of repentance, forgive them, encourage them to be filled with His Word, stand in the gap with intercession and trust the Lord to fan the flame in their hearts for Him!
We want to see our teens ON FIRE for Jesus, setting an example for others! God is looking for yielded vessels to use and we've encouraged our children to BE THOSE VESSELS submitted TOTALLY to the Lord in EVERY area of their lives and let His light SHINE in their young lives! Naturally, we, as parents, want to model this life of abiding in Christ-- on fire for Him, becoming pure and yielded vessels willing to be used to glorify Him in every area of our lives, too.
Our attitude in training and discipling our children makes such a difference! If parents are angry, inconsistent, unfeeling, harsh, nagging, and unkind, they often wind up with rebellious children. Instead we want to cultivate a close relationship with each one of them by:
* spending time with them and making the effort to really KNOW them
* listening to them and trying to understand them
* setting loving, reasonable limits of what is acceptable in our household and what is not, and explaining our convictions
* keeping the lines of communication open, allowing them to express their opinions and feelings respectfully
* encouraging mutual respect
* appreciating them and affirming them
* letting them know that we see them as blessings!
Then they have assurance of our unconditional love and commitment to them and are more likely to be open to our thoughts and guidance!
Sometimes we have had to tell our teens that we don't know the answer yet to a specific issue or problem, but that we will all seek the Lord together to find out what He wants us to do. We encourage them to make godly decisions themselves, based on God's Word and their relationship to Him. We are here to guide them and step in, if necessary, but we are training them to discern the right path for themselves!
How thankful we are that we are not alone! Yes, we have a responsibility to faithfully help plant, water and nurture our "plants"--but it is GOD that gives the increase! Parents have their own little "mission field" at home so they can say with Paul:
"So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God..." (1Corinthians 3:7-9)
Our "works" (faithfulness to train, discipline, disciple) must be mixed with faith in the Lord:
* Having confidence that our children are "His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we [they] should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10)
* Knowing that "it is God which worketh in you [them] both to will and to do of His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
* "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you [them] will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)
Whether your family has been committed to the Lord for many years or you are new to walking in His ways--He delights to work in families and you can trust Him implicitly to work out all the details! Even when circumstances seem bleak and you're tempted to despair--don't give up but look to the Lord, He will surely hear you.
"For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house. Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me." -Micah7:6-7
"And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." -Matthew 21:22
"The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice. My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways." -Proverbs 23:24-26
"My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life..." -Proverbs 6:20-23
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"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children."