Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
- Read Proverbs 22:6 out loud in your group. What wisdom did you gain from Sunday’s teaching on this passage?
- What does it mean to view this Proverb through the lens of a warning instead of a promise? How can we pay attention the warnings it is intended to give?
- Why is this verse important for our entire church to pay attention to, even for those who are not raising small children? How can the family of faith surround, support, and encourage those that are?
- What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard on Sunday?
So I've been sitting over there for the last four weeks, and now that I'm up here, I have absolutely no idea what in the world to do with that song. I know I'm not going to join in and sing, and I know it's sad that I'm old enough to remember when Conjunction Function, or whatever it was called, was around, so that's how old I am. Actually, this next month, in September, I will celebrate teaching the Bible for 35 years in some capacity here ...
That's not why I said it, but ... That's the closest you get to a bow.
So it is my passion and it has been my career choice to study and teach the Bible and hopefully be as accurate as I possibly can be in presenting it. I want to understand the context of what was said and written by the authors, inspired by the Holy Spirit. I don't want to get that wrong because I recognize that even today, several thousand are listening to me declare the word out of the Book of Proverbs, and I don't want to get it wrong. I want to get the context and what the verse says.
So conversely, you can imagine that as a Bible teacher, it frustrates me when people rip a passage of scripture out of context and give it a meaning that the author never intended. In fact, specifically for today, when someone takes what seems to me to be a warning and make it out to be a promise. Perhaps you have heard someone do that with this verse out of Matthew. "For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them." Now, you might hear that, even as I did growing up in a small, small church and coming to a Wednesday night prayer meeting and have only 10 people show up. And we don't need to really be worried about that because, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I'm in the midst of them."
And quite honestly, let's be real. He's ever-present, so it doesn't matter if two or three or a hundred or a thousand or one is gathered in His name. He's with us. But that's not the context. The context actually, in Matthew 18 where Jesus says that, is conflict resolution. So Jesus goes like this, "If your brother has done something wrong, he's sinned against you, go to him alone and tell him his fault. And if he listens to you, great. But if he doesn't, take two or three witnesses so that every word can be established to make sure that the conflict is handled right." Those are the two or three that Jesus is talking, "Where two or three are gathered, I'm in the midst watching to see how the conflict is going to be resolved."
The only thing I can think of is when my brother and I are six and seven years old and we're in our playroom, and that playroom has become now a boxing match and we're fighting with each other. And all of a sudden, we look over our shoulder and see our dad in the doorway, and he doesn't look too happy. And he's eager to find out whether or not his presence is going to make a difference in the way we solve this. And I think that's what Jesus means when he says, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I'm in the doorway and I'm watching how you believers handle conflict." So making a warning into a promise can be a little problematic.
I have another one that I want to talk about, and I need you to brace yourself and stay with me because I'm going to maybe loosen some pegs that you've been leaning. But I want to get you to a point at the end of this message with great hope, because out of Proverbs, there's another passage of scripture, which some people have made a promise or a guarantee. It sounds like this. "Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old, he will not depart from it." We've made that a promise. In fact, some of you may have that as a plaque in your home.
But the problem I have with looking at this as a promise or a guarantee ... I mean, I'm just being honest with you. There are too many good people that I know who have done, by my observation and others, the very best that they could with their children. And now their children are adults, and they're not walking with God. I mean, for heaven's sakes, I had friends in church growing up with me, and we were in church every single time the doors were open. It seemed sometimes like I lived there. And the friends that I had that would do the same growing up with me, as adults, some are following after God and, to be honest, some are not.
So I have a problem with seeing this as a promise or a guarantee. Now, the desire to make Proverbs 22:6 a promise is not necessarily a bad thing. We all want our children to grow up, I hope, and walk with God. No one ever said that better than John did in his third letter when he said this, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." So the desire, as we read this passage, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it," the desire is good. I'm just not so sure that Proverbs 22:6 is saying everything that we have thought it says.
In fact, I'd like to start here. Again, remember, stay with me, because I'm going to loosen some pegs that you might have been leaning on. I think Proverbs 22:6 is not a promise, and you might want to write down the word guarantee. I don't think it is. And one of the main reasons why I say that is because the Jewish people, the Hebrew people, the covenant people of God, who would be the very first people to hear Solomon's words in Proverbs and specifically this one, would have never understood it as a promise or a guarantee. They would have understood it as a probability.
In fact, they would have seen Proverbs as this, observations about what it means to live a life that pleases God in a broken world where right and wrong are not always obvious. So to the Hebrew mind, let's start where they do, and where they would have started is with the Torah, the Pentateuch, the law, the teaching. And in the Torah, God said, specifically, "Here are some things that are right. Do them. Here are some things that are wrong. Don't do them." In fact, there are 613 of those things, and despite the incredible volume of the law where there are things that are right and there are things that are wrong, the Hebrew mind would have known the exact same thing that we know, that the Bible doesn't specifically cover everything.
But at least at the start, the law would ask this question. "What is the right thing to do?" And obviously, today, it's a great question. There are certain things that are right, and there are certain things that are wrong, and the Bible tells us. But they would have understood that the Torah, the law, doesn't cover every particular issue. And so they were led to ask another question, which syncs with the first. And Proverbs seeks to answer that second question, and it is this, "What is the wise thing to do? When the Bible doesn't give you an absolute right or wrong, doesn't address a specific issue, what is the wise thing to do?"
You see, Proverbs tells us what the Hebrew people would know, that there are two paths that you and I can be walking on. Pastor Jonathan spoke last week about one particular path or way, and it's the path of foolishness. There is a way, the foolish way, that appears to be right but in the end, it leads to death. So there's a foolish way that leads to death. It seems right to you, but it leads to destruction.
Conversely, there is a way of wisdom, and this is how Solomon wrote about it. "I instruct you in the path, or the way of wisdom, and lead you along straight paths." So to the Hebrew mind, Proverbs sought to answer a different but important question, essential in your faith. "When there is not a clear right and wrong, what is the wise thing to do?" And so the Hebrew mind would start off not, "Well, it seems right to me," but they would start off with the fear of the Lord. This is how the book actually opens up. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
So what the Hebrews would do, those who really wanted to follow after God and live a life that pleases Him, would start off with a awe or fear of God and saturate their minds with the word of God so that they would begin to see life from God's perspective. "What is the wise thing to do?" Let me bring it up to speed with us so that you might understand. The Bible knows nothing ... I'm making it real simple right now. The Bible knows nothing about movies, and so I might not be able to find a right and wrong about this movie, but based on what I'm hearing, it might not be the wise thing to do.
You might want to marry this guy or gal. You're both Christians, and so there's nothing in God's book that says this would be right or wrong, but maybe, given your circumstances, even if it's just now, right now it might not be the wise thing to do. Or you get a job offer, a nice job offer, a great job offer, but it requires that you relocate. And given your life circumstances, even though it's a great offer, the circumstances of belonging to a community like this or where your children are in school, it might not be the wise thing to do. Or you want to go to this college, this great college, but given life's circumstances, like the kind of student debt you'll have coming out of that college, it might not be the wise thing to do.
This is what they would be about. This is what the Proverbs is all about. Starting with the fear of God and having my life and mind saturated with the word of God, what is the wise thing to do about everything, it seems Proverbs is interested in. "What is the wise thing to do with my tongue, with my work ethic, with my finances? What is the wise thing to do with my married life or if I'm single?" Everything. And so these observations in Proverbs are not promises or guarantees because we live in an imperfect world. They're probabilities, but they're not guarantees, and we recognize that.
Sometimes a soft answer doesn't turn away wrath because the person you're talking to, he's going to be mad regardless of what you do. Still give the wise response. Still give the soft answer, but understand, you may not, in this imperfect world, get the outcome you want. Sometimes a lazy person doesn't come to ruin. Sometimes they run the company, and you're left scratching your head wondering how that could be. Work hard because that's the wise way to live, but understand you might not get the consequence or the outcome you should.
And sometimes, you can train up your child in the way he should go and when he is old, he doesn't continue to walk with God. Usually, but sometimes, he doesn't. And that's because the Hebrews would understand that life is far more complex than a simple formula, and they would understand, related to your child, that there are other factors, like your child's free will, like your child's inclination to sin, like the friends your child hangs around with who have influence, like life circumstances that are difficult for your child to navigate through, and sometimes they use it as a reason or explanation or an excuse to walk away from God rather than run to God.
So there are a lot of other factors that would suggest that maybe Proverbs 22:6 is not a promise or a guarantee. In fact, hold onto your seats as I give the second point. I actually think that Proverbs 22:6 might be a warning. I want to explain why, but I want you to hold on and listen all the way through. But I think actually that Proverbs 22:6 could actually be seen as a warning, and there's some reasons I say that.
Here's the first. Common experience. We already got an, "Amen," before. How many of us know parents, who by our observation, did the very best that they could with their children and somehow, their adult children are not walking with God? The common life experience tells us that this may not be a promise, but it actually could be a warning. I mean, the person who wrote this, Solomon, would understand that this could be a warning because Solomon raised up his son, and Rehoboam, his son, was so foolish that he is the one that caused the kingdom of Israel to split, he was so foolish.
But wait a minute. We can talk to God. And a long time ago, a perfect God created two children, Adam and Eve, and placed them in a perfect environment, Eden, and they still chose to walk away from God. The very experience of living in a broken world says that our children, just along with us, have a free will, and sometimes they use it to walk away from God.
But there's a second reason why I see this as a warning. It's surrounded by warnings. Now, as I said at the beginning, to a Bible teacher, context is king. And so let's just look at the verse before the verse we're talking about and the verse after and see that maybe it's surrounded by warnings. Here it is. "In the paths of the wicked are snares and pitfalls, but those who would preserve their life stay far from them. Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it. The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender." So in verse five, there's something to avoid, "The paths of the wicked." In verse seven, there is something to avoid, being enslaved to a lender. Is it possible that that the way the verse reads in the original language, verse six, "Train up a child," there's also something to avoid? And I think there is, and that leads to the third thing that I want to say.
I think it could be seen as a warning because of the way that this verse can read. And I realize as I talk that probably very few of you have had the luxury of ever studying the Hebrew language in which this verse was originally written, so I want to walk carefully through this. But when I look at this verse, I see that there are some things that, depending on what you do, it could be seen as a warning by how it reads. I'm going to start off right from the beginning.
"Train up." That's the first word. Now, first of all, the word train can mean to reinforce. That means as a parent, there are certain habits that you want to see in your child, and there's certain habits that you don't. Reinforce the ones you want, and do something to drive out the ones you don't. But you do it from the start. This word was also used to speak of dedicating something, as in the temple that Solomon built. So train up, reinforce, from the start. In other words, whatever you do with your children, whatever you want from your children, don't start when you see the terrible twos. Don't start when they're teenagers and they display an attitude. Start right from the start. There are no CEO babies in your home. They don't run the show. You do, and you reinforce from the start.
But this isn't the American way. The American way is, "Just give me 10 steps to better parenting, or let me google it. This is how I'm going to parent." No, it's this. I have 18 years, 936 weeks. That's it, and they're gone. And talk to any parent with an adult child, and they'll say, "It goes so fast. I mean, it was just yesterday we're holding our children in the hospital, and now they're going off to college." And it's not like you can do a do-over. You can't get in Marty McFly's DeLorean from Back to the Future and start all over again. So this is something, he's saying, "This is the warning. Whatever you're going to do, you need to start from the start and do the very best you can."
But there's a second reason I think this could be seen as a warning. "Train up, reinforce from the start, your child," and you've noticed I've inserted the word foolish. There's a reason I've done that. The word for child in the Hebrew is [foreign language 00:21:58], and it occurs seven times in the book of Proverbs, including this verse. And all other six times that it occurs, it's associated with a fool. Let me give you four examples for time's sake. Proverbs 1:4, "For giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the [foreign language 00:22:22]." So the [foreign language 00:22:24] in this passage, he lacks prudence. He's simple. He needs knowledge. He doesn't have discretion.
The next verse, Proverbs 7:7. "I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men a [foreign language 00:22:40] who had no sense." The next verse, Proverbs 23:3. "Do not withhold discipline from a [foreign language 00:22:50]." Why? "Because he needs it, and if you punish them with the rod, they will not die." And then the last one, what we all know. "Folly is bound up in the heart of a [foreign language 00:23:01], but the rod of discipline will drive it far away." And that would lead me to say that it's entirely possible that what Solomon is saying here is if you reinforce, from the start, your child's foolishness, when they are old, they will not depart. And the reason I really say that is because of the next part.
"Train up, reinforce from the start, your foolish child in his way." Now, I know the Bible in front of you says, "In the way he should go," and you recognize that when words are translated from one language to another, the translator will sometimes supplement it with words to make it more understandable. And for whatever reason, the first people to translate it into the English language put, "He should go," when it really literally just simply says, "Train up a child in his way." His what? "His foolish way." So in this way, Solomon could actually be sarcastic. "Train up a child according to his foolish way, and when he is old, he won't depart from it."
He's saying what we all know. "Your child is bent towards foolishness, and if you reinforce that bent, when he is older, he probably won't depart from it," and his future wife or her future husband might come back to you and say, "What did you do to your child? It's like I'm married to someone whose parents never said no. Thank you for that." This is what it could be. So it sounds more to me like a warning than a promise or a guarantee.
So now that I've deflated the balloon, how do I give you hope? It's by how you respond. Well, if it's a warning, I'm going to turn it into a positive probability. Here's how we do it. "Train up your child in the way he should go, and trust God with the consequences." "Train up your child in the way he should go, and trust God with the consequences." So if this verse is a warning, you don't just throw your hands up and say, "There's nothing I can do." There's plenty that you can do, and what you are going to do, and I hope this makes sense, this is what we are responsible for as parents. This is it.
Create the environment for your child to flourish as an adult. Create the environment in your home for your child to flourish. What I'm looking to do, since I cannot control the outcome, because my child has a free will ... What I'm looking to do is increase the likelihood that they will walk with God as adults. That's the only thing I can do is increase the likelihood by how I parent. And specifically, I want to give you four, I hope, very, very helpful things.
Here's the first. Know your child. Know your child. That means you're going to have to be involved in his life, her life. So Proverbs 22:6 tells me that my child is bent. Let me, first of all, talk that he's bent in a spiritual way. Let me talk about his spiritual or her spiritual life. Ever since the enemy walked into the Garden and caused our original parents to fall, every child has been bent to walk away from God. So somehow, you need to know how that inclination shows up in your child and cooperate with the Spirit of God to drive that out of him and lead him to Christ.
So you might have, on a wide spectrum, two different children in your home. One is the stubborn, strong-willed child, and he or she might be very, very difficult to manage. But once that child's will is arrested by God, he's probably going to be solid. The person that you probably need to really be concerned about is the compliant child, the child who grows up, "I'm going to be the good child," usually to show up the other siblings, but, "I'm going to be the compliant and I'm going to be the good child." This is the one ... I'm patting at myself for a reason. This is the one you have to be concerned about because this child becomes self-righteous and very difficult to introduce his need for Christ. Know your child in the way that they are bent towards their relationship with God.
And there's a reason for that. There's a spiritual battle for the heart of your child. 2 Peter 3:9, paraphrasing, says that, "God is not willing that your child should perish." John 10:10 says that, "The thief, the enemy of our soul, has come to steal and kill and destroy." There is a spiritual battle going on for your child, even if that child is 45.
So about 10 or 12 years ago, I was counseling a couple, and I was getting nowhere. I probably should have sent them to my brother, Pastor Dave, our counseling pastor. But I was counseling them, and all they were doing was Hatfield and McCoy back and forth. They were arguing in front of me. And I was frustrated because I didn't know what in the world to say to them, to even just get them to calm down so they could talk through some of these issues.
And it dawned on me while I was counseling this couple that back home, there was a babysitter watching four of the most adorable kids that you would ever want to see. And so I took out a Magic Marker and a piece of paper, and I wrote while they were arguing. They weren't paying attention to me. And I wrote on a piece of paper and showed it to them, "Satan wants your kids." It got their attention. He does. So know your child.
Your child is bent, and here I'm talking emotionally and relationally. Your child might be an introvert, might be an extrovert, might have a temper, might be passive-aggressive. Know your child. Be intentional to help him or her become emotionally mature so that your child doesn't grow up to be an adult that's a burden to the people who love him or her. Know your child.
Know your child. Your child is bent, and here I'm talking about he might have a great interest in music or sports or science or writing or computer or whatever. Don't feel a need to get them involved in everything so that they are confused as to how God has wired them. But allow them to be bent towards something and cooperate with the way that God has wired them so that they grow up and are actually doing something that they have a passion to do and can make a positive contribution in the world that they live. Know your child well.
Secondly, have spiritual conversations with your child. Have spiritual conversations with your child. Regardless of the way that you have interpreted Proverbs 22:6 and the way a Hebrew would interpret Proverbs 22:6, they would have never seen this as one-dimensional, meaning, "I always made sure that my son or daughter was in the synagogue every Sabbath," or, for us, "I always made sure that he was in church every time the doors were open. Isn't that enough?" No, it would not be enough to them. They would not have seen it ... They would have seen it as far more holistic, and that's because of where God takes them in his Torah, in his teaching.
Let me walk through a very familiar verse to the Hebrews, Deuteronomy. Here's verse four. "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God. The Lord is one." That means, "Make sure your children know of your allegiance to God through Jesus Christ. There's only one God to you, and it's Yahweh." Verse five. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all of your strength." You know what the best thing you can do for your children is to make sure that they know that you love God more than anything or anyone else? That's what he's saying here.
The next verse. "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts." Walk in integrity in front of your children. This is not just something that we do on Sunday. This is our life. This is why you have spiritual conversations. You walk in integrity. Sometimes I could, as a teacher, ask a really stupid question. So here's a stupid question. Do those of you who are parents want your children either to grow up or, as adults, be blessed? Is there anybody in here who would say, "I do not want my child to be blessed"? What a silly question.
Well, here it is, Proverbs 20, verse 7. It's not on the screen. "The righteous man, the righteous woman, walks in his integrity and his children, her children, are blessed after them." This is what he's talking about. It's not just one-dimensional. We showed up in church. We demonstrated through the week a life devoted to the things of God. And then verse seven. Here's where the conversation comes in. "Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. You talk about everything and connect it to your relationship with God."
My son, Pastor Jonathan, who spoke last week, has a daughter. She's going to be five next week, and how I love to hear them after they've watched a TV program and Jonathan, on her level of understanding, "This is what the world believes about life and this is what a follower of Christ believes about life." That's the kind of spiritual conversations that he's talking about that we ought to be having with our child. So what we're doing ... And I know this illustration is old. I've used it before, but it's the only thing I can think of that will help.
When we were teenagers, we had a pool above ground in our backyard for three years. That was all. Just three years. And when we got tremendously bored, we would walk on the inside of the pool around its perimeter to create such a current that it would, if someone wanted to turn around and walk the other way, it would be almost impossible. Again, your child has a free will, but what you want to do is create a current in your home that if your child decides to walk against and away from God, it's going to be extremely difficult to do. That's what he's calling for. That's what this is calling for.
Number three. Make your parenting about discipleship. Make your parenting about discipleship. Now, everyone can finish this sentence, but I'll do it, just not to make anybody awkward. Here's what discipleship is. Daily following Jesus and compelling others to do the same. You've heard us say that multitudes of times. Why in the world would I not be doing that with my children? Daily following Jesus and compelling my children to do the same. And that doesn't happen by chance.
I cannot control all the factors and influences in my child's life, but I can and will be very intentional about my goal because it isn't my goal. It's God's, and you may have never seen it connected this way, but this is my goal as a parent. Matthew 28. "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations." In fact, why don't you start in your own home? "Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I've commanded you. And surely, I am with you always to the very end of the age."
My role as a parent is disciple-maker. That means it is my responsibility to do what Kim has already talked about just a moment ago and what's on the wall outside of this sanctuary, and that is to make sure that my child has repeated opportunities to see and hear the good news of the Gospel. That means they see it in me. That means there's an authenticity in me. I cannot increase the likelihood that my child will walk with God as an adult if they have not seen me walk with God in front of them.
Do not underestimate your role in the spiritual development of your child. I know you can do all sorts of things with statistics if you want to, but here's one to throw out. If a child is the first person in the family to come to Christ, there's a three-and-a-half-percent chance that the rest of the family will follow. If the mother comes to Christ first, there's a 17% chance that the rest of the family will follow. You know what I'm going to say, right? If the father is the first to come to Christ, there is a 93% chance that the rest of the family will follow. Do not underestimate your responsibility in the spiritual future of your child.
And for heaven's sakes, discipleship is so important. Don't do this alone. It's why you're going to hear over and over again, "Belong to a community group." My son and his wife, [Gabe 00:38:06], belong to a small group, a community group, 12 adults, 15 children, and the oldest child is five. They're like a small church. The small group I'm in, I think we have a cat, but that's it. But can you just imagine the spiritual health of these 12 parents doing life together, bouncing off how to parent together? And can you think of the incredible blessing of these 15 children going from zero to 18 in a family that does life with other families? Don't do it alone.
Now, I've been waiting for you to say this all morning long. "I'm not a parent. This message doesn't relate to me." You couldn't be more wrong. Disciple your nephew or your niece. Get involved in King's World or student ministry. Get involved in a community group where you can help lessen the load of parents and perhaps offer, as an outside observer, the wisdom that they need. Don't ever allow the kids in King's World to get to the point of Judges 2:10. "There arose a generation that did not know God or the things He had done." Why? Because the previous generation didn't tell them. Do not underestimate the spiritual responsibility you have. Do not ever hear anyone hear you say, "I'm letting my child make the choice about their spiritual life." God has never called you to do that. Get involved.
Number four. Turn your child over to God, the perfect parent. Turn your child over to God, the perfect parent. There's a fundamental error that we all commit, and I get it, that we need to self-correct. It's when we refer to our children as, "My son," or, "My daughter. Now, I get the birds and the bees. Biologically, I know, fruit of my loin. I get that. But in reality, that child belongs to God. That child is on loan to you, and so you and I would tremendously handle things different when we recognize that we're not an owner but we're a steward and we recognize that we are to give consideration to the purpose of the perfect parent, God, in the life of our child. They belong to God, and that means that we take our stewardship seriously.
Our children will make the decision for themselves, but no one will have more influence on where they spend eternity than Mom or Dad. That ought to make us tremble, and it ought to make us pray. We steward, and that means that we carry out the wishes of the owner. Not my wishes. Not what I want my son or daughter to be because I could never be that or because I think this would be cool, but what God wants for our child. No one has ever said it better in my presence than my brother Dave who says that, "What we want is children who are independent of us and dependent on Christ." That's what I'm moving towards when I turn it over to the perfect parent, God.
And that means I can do it with a great deal of hope. And that hope comes from reading the last part of the verse. It reads this way. "Even when he is old, he will not depart from it." But it could also read this way, "Even when he is old, it will not depart from him." I was talking to someone this past week, and they grew up in a Christian home. And they said, "I started hanging out with people, friends, who didn't, and I began to do the things that they were doing. But I was never able to escape the way I had been raised." And it's almost like we're praying, "God, get her. Get him. Bring him back to you, God. God, you chase after my son now that he's an adult. You chase after my adult now that she's an adult, and you bring them back to yourself."
God loves your son or daughter more than you ever will, and He can actually accomplish what He purposes. And that's why ... And I hope this takes a weight off your shoulders. Never take more credit when your child turns out well than you should, and never take more blame than you should when he doesn't. And here's the reality, and I hope this ministers to you. There are things in your parenting that God will bless and honor, and there are things, and I know this from experience, there are things in your parenting that God will redeem. And we want you to take peace and rest in that, and it means that we always hold out that same hope for our children. If they grow up and mess up like we did, if they walk away for a while, we express the same heart as the perfect Father. And that means that they know if they've walked away, they can always come home.
I've been in ministry now for 35 years, and I've heard, "If you marry that girl, we're done. If you go and make that choice, if you take on that lifestyle, we're done." That's not the heart of the father displayed in the Prodigal Son, who finds himself at the doorway every single night, wondering if that little dot in the horizon is his son coming back home. Your children need to know, regardless of how they've messed up, they can always come home. You never give up on your children, and the reason you don't is because they are God's, and because they are God's, we hold out this hope for our children. I love the way Henry Blackaby says it. "God can do more in one day than you could do or undo in a lifetime."
If the God that is spoken of in scripture can turn the heart of a king and move it any way He wants, He can do that for your son. He can do that for your daughter, and He can do it like this. And no amount of finally parenting the right way, no amount of undoing what you did and made mistakes, like we all have, could do it as quickly and more concretely as God. And that's why we turn our children over to Him.
Would you bow your heads with me? Close your eyes. In this closing time of prayer ... Outside of our relationship with Jesus Christ and outside of the choice that we perhaps have made to be married, there may not be anything more important to us than our children. And that's why this message is designed to minister hope to you. So I want to do it this way and close this way. Maybe you have children at home still. Maybe they're great kids. Maybe you're concerned about something. But this right here, this is a time of rededicating your parenting to match what God wants, and you want to make an expression, as we close in prayer, that you are rededicating your children back to God, if they are home. And if that's you, I want you to stand right now. I'm going to pray in just a minute.
You have children at home, and you want to stand and say, "I want to pray, and I want to dedicate my heart and our home back to what God wants, because I realize just how important this is." Don't be ashamed of standing. There's nothing more important than your kids. We get that. Maybe your children are grown up and they're out of the house. They're walking with God and that thrills your heart. But you want to pray that the enemy can't have your kid, even as a 45-year-old. And so you want to pray for your child right now when they're adults and they're living on their own and they're following after God, that they would continue to follow God. Stand up.
And maybe right now, you have adult children and they're a great concern to you. They grieve and break your heart because they're not walking in the ways of the Lord and they're not doing the things that would please and honor Him. We want to pray for them too. You stand up. And there's one last person in this room, or listening or watching me. And maybe you're that son or daughter and you're not following after God like your parents have been praying that you would. You know you're not living a life that pleases God or that they wanted you to live. And one of the greatest things that you can do in honoring your parents, which we've been called to do, is say, "I'm going to begin today living that life that God wants me to live," and maybe you stand too. So there's a lot of people standing in this room. And if you're not, if you're able to, just to go to someone that is standing and maybe place an arm or hand on their shoulder as we close this time in prayer for our kids.
Father, with all the love that we have in our hearts, there isn't a single thing that we wouldn't do for our children. And it doesn't matter what number's on the birth certificate, whether they're five days, five years, 50 years old. We'd do anything for our kids. But the one thing that we truly want more than anything is that they walk with God, they continue to walk with God, or they return to God, and to realize that it wouldn't take anything for you to turn their hearts back to you.
And Lord, we're committing right now that we're going to pray, whether it happens in a year or 10 years, or it might happen after we go home to be with you, that it would happen. Lord, there is nothing more comforting to us than knowing that all our children are in. We would give any price to see that happen. And Lord, I pray that there would be such an encouragement in our hearts that we would recognize there is nothing more powerful in the life of our children than a praying dad and a praying mom. And we are going to continue to trust you for what you will do in the lives of our children and help us to be the kind of faithful, imperfect, consistent demonstrations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And we pray this in Christ's name. And everyone said, "Amen."