Day 24: Obedience
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Hear, my son, your father's instruction,
and forsake not your mother's teaching.
When my son started second grade, I asked him what he had learned in school and his answer was intriguing. He said his teacher was instructing them how to be second graders. Curious, I asked, “What does that mean?” He replied with his chest puffed out: “In first grade we just had to listen, but in second grade we also must remember.” That is a good lesson for all of us. We must not merely listen to God’s Word, but also remember and obey (Jas. 1:22). Unfortunately, fathers your little rebels often find obedience to be difficult.
Late one evening . . .
Late one evening I told my boys, “It’s time to brush your teeth and go to bed.” And one of them shouted, “No!” It was a reflex action. He didn’t even pause to think about his answer, yet the very fact that I had issued a command was enough for him to rebel. I was ready to unleash all of my parenting wrath, but then something amazing happened. My son stopped, virtually in mid-air while jumping on the couch, and said to himself, “Oh, wait. Obedience means now.” Then he went off to brush his teeth. I stood there speechless, not knowing whether to laugh or to cry. Even funnier, his brothers were grinning like Christmas had come early, because this was the first time after years of instruction and discipline that this particular son had shown any sign of comprehensive obedience. Now I know there’s still a ton of parenting to do, but that’s the story of slow sanctification in each of our lives. Christ-like obedience does not develop overnight.
Growing in character takes time and practice like learning how to ride a bike. When my boys first began, I held the back of the bike and walked with them as they wobbled down the street. Soon I was running behind them until finally I let them coast on their own. At first, they were nervous about falling so I bundled them up in layers of clothing, but now they zip around with reckless abandon. So also, the development of Christ-like character requires practice. If you and your wife are used to throwing around angry words, it may seem strange to both of you when one turns away wrath with a gentle answer (Prov. 15:1). If anxiety overwhelms you because of pressures at work, faith in God feels like leaping over the edge of a cliff (3:5-6). If gossip entices you to go out of your way to hear it and out of your way to tell it, backing off may feel like cutting out your tongue (11:13). Developing Christ-like character feels awkward at first (and a little bit scary), yet repeated obedience eventually becomes like second nature.
In our home, obedience means quickly, sweetly, and completely. We ask for obedience within the time allotted (e.g., Rom. 5:6; Gal. 4:4), with the right attitude (e.g., Luke 22:42; Jas. 1:2), and with full completion (e.g., Heb. 1:3; 10:12). This was the example of Jesus’ obedience to his heavenly Father.
Obedience grows from the principle of habit. Many in Hawaii are familiar with the city life of Honolulu and the beaches of Waikiki, yet tourists rarely venture into the island center of Oahu—a mountainous rain forest where komodo dragons still roam in the caves and crevices. One day, my friend and I strapped on packs and explored the valley until we found a hiking trail heading up the mountain. We were surrounded by luscious vegetation on all sides as rain poured down so hard we could barely see. Yet as long as we followed the well-worn track we knew we could not get lost. In like manner, your children are hiking through the jungle of life without a clear vision of the peak. They may feel alone in the pouring rain and even hear the hissing of dragons.
Dads, teach your children to learn from wise teachers who have gone before them: “I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness” (Prov. 4:11). “Paths” speak of well-worn tracks in the ground which did not come about because just one person walked that way. These are the well-worn tracks of godly saints who trod the ancient paths before us (Heb. 12:1). Children learn obedience not only by studying God’s Word, but also by walking in the steps of faithful theologians, pastors, and parents. It is prideful folly to start from scratch when the trail has already been blazed. Therefore, Solomon exhorts: “As long as you can see the well-worn track, you’re doing alright. The paths of uprightness reveal that other Christians have walked this way before.” Wise children listen to wise parents.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Help me to grow in wisdom as a parent. Teach me to walk in the paths of righteousness as I study your Word and learn from those who have gone before me. Show me how to pass on these truths to my children and lead them in the way of obedience. In your Son’s name, Amen.
LifeWork: Write down one way you will apply today’s Proverb.
Click here to learn to teach your children how to obey.
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