Curtis Hutson often said, “You don’t produce what you want; you produce what you are.” You cannot continually fail and yet avoid failure. You cannot live a life practicing activities that lead to failure, and then reap success. There is not a parent in this room my age or older, who’ve reared some kids that finally turned out right because those parents believed God and said “Boy, I don’t understand this. It doesn’t look like it’s working, but God said it – therefore I’m going to do it.” There’s not a parent in that category who didn’t go through some times when he said, “Lord, I don’t think this is working, something’s wrong. I’m going to lose my kids. They’re not going to turn out the way I thought. The way I thought it was going to work this year, it’s not working, and therefore I’ve got to manipulate the will of God. I’ve got to decide.” I can’t accept that, I cannot settle for that. Now you can get mad at me, but I’m just drawing a line in the sand again. I would do anything I could to salvage you parents and keep you as part of this church. I want you to say “Let’s do this thing together!”
I have outlined sixteen child-rearing principles in the Word of God. I didn’t write them all down at once, but rather over a period of years as I thought about it and determined what is working and what is not working, and how we can do it and how not to do it.
I’m trying to give you the truth of the Word of God that will change your life and help you salvage your kids. I do not believe nor am I convinced that your grownup kids have to go and live in the world for four and five years and run the risk of totally ruining their lives and their availability to God forever. I do not believe that has to happen. I just don’t believe it, and I think I could give you the names of the twenty kids that are in Bible college now, of the several who have already graduated and are serving God in various places, and several others who are here right tonight. I believe I could give testimony after testimony after testimony and not preach anything but say “Here’s the product.” I didn’t say any of them were perfect, but I’ve seen folks leave the church, youth group, and Christian school, and I’ve seen the end result of it. It breaks my heart, and I don’t want to see you lose the battle. I want to see you win the battle.
I have often heard the example of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden used in a family series. They had two children. Those children were in the exactly the same atmosphere. Those children were in the exactly the same home. Their parents had the same values for both of them. They both had the same temptations or lack of temptations. They both had inherited the same sin nature. However, one of them was pleasing to God while the other one was the first murderer. “What a failure,” you might say. Well, they were in the perfect atmosphere. They were in the perfect environment. They had parents who knew God, knew the plan of salvation, and had everything they needed.
I do not think that you can just automatically say, “I am going to work this exact formula to have my kids turn out.” You see, for one thing, every child is different. In your own home, each one of your children is different from the others. They react differently to different circumstances. For one child, you can say, “Hey, straighten up,” and he will look up at you with that little defiant expression, to see how far he can push it. When you say to the other one, “Hey, straighten up,” he immediately begins crying. He is broken because you raised your voice. Children can be very different from each other. They are different in their temperaments. They are different in their personalities. They are different in their responses. How we need God’s help in raising our kids.
One of the keys to raising a good family is spending personal time with the Lord and claiming His blessings. The Bible says, It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late… God said that even working hard at it is vanity. You are wasting your time. But in another place God said, Children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of thy youth. Your children are like arrows. You are going to shoot them off in some direction or another, and they’re going where you point them. I tell you this, with God’s help and with everything you can muster; it is going to take everything you have to hit the target that you want them to hit. It is my prayer, and should be yours too, that that target is the will of God.
Let me also say very quickly that no one is a final authority on any child rearing. Even the Lord himself wondered what could have been done more for his vineyard (Israel). No parent is perfect. Even if I gave you a hundred things to do to help you raise your kids, you could do them everyone exactly as I told you to do them, but they might not work exactly right for you. You have to get God involved in this area in your life. The leading of the Holy Spirit in your life and the word of God have to work together as you apply these principles, but you must have a starting point. These sixteen categories I’m giving you are nothing more than starting points.
Using these starting points and trial and error, you can, I believe, rear some pretty good kids. I just don’t believe that you have to lose your kids to the Devil! Sometimes, however, despite the very best-laid plans and the greatest efforts made, that a young person gets to a certain point in his life and decides to make his own decisions. In that case, there is very little you can do, no matter what you have previously done. A young person is sometimes going to do his own thing. But I will say, for the most part, young people will do right because God will work in their lives. You will see the fulfillment of the biblical truths that I’m giving you. Much of what God gives us concerning the family and concerning children are guidelines. They are not things you can do perfectly. For example, the Bible says Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it. That is the example for husbands to follow, but not too many of us have gone out and been crucified for our wives. That’s a guideline, the type of commitment He wants, but He doesn’t really get into the specifics about how to do it. But I believe he wants us to depend on Him for the specifics in our individual lives. Please read with that in mind.