The Trajectory of Your Parenting
Passage: Mark 10:13–10:16
The Trajectory of Your Parenting
November 30th, 2008
Way of Grace Church
I. Understanding The Goal
Whether you are a parent, or hope to be a parent someday, or if you're a grandparent, or if you simply want to pray for parents around you, you must begin with the overall direction of your parenting.
Listen to how various sources I ran across defined the big picture, the goal of parenting:
"The goal of parenting is to teach kids to develop self-discipline."
"The goal of parenting is simple - to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids."
"The goal of parenting is to raise healthy, productive adults."
"The goal of parenting is to help your children develop a sense of autonomy"
Now I suspect that many of us would agree that those are great general goals. But many would say that a spiritual component has to be added to those basic goals. Listen to how some other writers described the goal of parening:
"The goal of parenting is to raise a kind, moral and responsible human being."
"The goal of parenting must be, from the beginning, to mould our children's character to one of blamelessness."
"[The goal of parenting is] to be a faithful instrument in God's hands for actively bringing up my child according to biblical principles."
"The goal of parenting is to prepare the child to love God."
Now, you may be sitting here thinking to yourself, "That sounds about right." Or you may be saying, "Do I even have an explicit goal for my parenting?" Well, even if you do not have a goal that you can verbally communicate, every parent has a trajectory when it comes to their parenting.
You know what a trajectory is right? It's that course, that path that a rocket or a missile takes when it's been launched. You may not have a specific destination in mind, but all of us are headed in a particular direction as parents.
What is the trajectory of your parenting? If you've launched off the pad of parenthood, then where are you taking your children?
This morning I'd like to turn to the Scriptures and see if we can't learn more about what our Creator tells us about our trajectory as parents.
Turn with me to Mark 10.
This morning we begin a new series about parenting. And as I mentioned before, whether you're a parent, a single parent, a grandparent, or hope to be a parent at some point; or you have friends or siblings who are parents, if you want to encourage and pray for them in light of what God's word tells us, then I pray that God will encourage you with these upcoming messages.
Being a parent is not an easy thing, is it...no matter how old your children are. Maybe you sometimes feel like Erma Bombeck who said, "When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they're finished, I climb out."
But it's always the most important things that are the most challenging. And God has not left us without direction in this area.
II. The Passage: "Let the Children Come" (10:13-16)
So let's look together at Mark 10:13-16. Listen to what Mark tells here as he recounts an episode from the earthly ministry of Jesus.
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
Now don't be fooled by the size of this passage. There might only be four verses here, but this story is incredibly important.
In this account we read that "they" were bringing children to Jesus. Who are "they"? The "they" here has to be the "crowds" mentioned back in 10:1. Maybe it was mothers in that crowd. Maybe it was fathers. Maybe it was older siblings, or grandparents, or aunts or uncles. Maybe there were many different kinds of people.
But what all of them had in common is that they were taking their children to Jesus.
A. Taking Your Children to Jesus (10:13, 14)
Look at what verse 13 tells us about why they were taking their children to Jesus:
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them...
There's no indication that these children were sick or demon-possessed or had any kind of problem. These people had undoubtedly heard about Jesus and what God was doing through Jesus, and they want Him to bless their children. These parents, or whoever they were, they were concerned about the souls of these children.
Now, whether or not they understood that Jesus was the Son of God (most didn't understand), we find here confirmation of the fact that their impulse to bring the children was absolutely correct.
How do we know that this was not simply a cultural custom that Jesus merely tolerated? Well look at his reaction when His own disciples try to keep these children away. Starting again in verse 13:
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant...
The only reason Jesus would be "ticked off" here is if the disciples were trying to stop something important from happening. Jesus' own reaction is a barometer of the importance of what these parents or guardians were trying to do. Look at what Jesus tells the disciples in verse 14:
14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them...
Let me suggest this morning that this story is not simply an account of what some parents once did long ago. No, I believe it is a reminder of what all parents should do all the time even now.
A few minutes ago, we asked, "What is the trajectory of your parenting? If you've launched off the pad of parenthood, then where are you taking your children?"
Here is the example we need to follow. We need to take our children to Jesus.
Now what do I mean by that? Well, let me first explain what I don't mean. I don't mean by this that our goal as parents is to get our children to make a decision for Jesus.
In his book "Shepherding a Child's Heart", author Ted Tripp confirms this is a common goal:
"I have met many parents whose preoccupation was getting their children saved. They focused on getting their child to pray "the sinner's prayer". They wanted him to ask Jesus to come into his heart...They thought if their child would get saved, all the problems of living would be solved."
Now obviously, a child responding in faith to the gospel, that Good News about Jesus Christ is exactly what we should hope and pray for. But our vision for the trajectory of our parenting has to be bigger than "a conversion experience" about which, frankly, we cannot have absolute certainty and that, biblically, is always just the beginning of the transformative work that God wants to do.
No, the goal of parenting is not ultimately to get our children to pray a "sinner's prayer". It is to help them understand that they are sinners in desperate need of rescue. In the same way, the goal of our parenting is not ultimately to get our children (quote-un-quote) "saved". The goal of our parenting is to point them, at all times and in every way, to Jesus Christ as Savior.
What does it mean to take your children to Jesus? It means that you must become, in every circumstance, a minister of the gospel to your child. Is that how you envision yourself as a parent?
Your most important role in your child's life is not provider; it isn't role model; it isn't mentor, or protector, or nurturer, or coach, or even teacher. Even though all of those are critically important, your most important role as a parent is as a minister of the gospel.
Remember what Paul said about the gospel in Romans 1: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes...
To be clear, when we bring our children the gospel, we are in fact bringing them to Jesus Christ. As we consistently minister with the Good News of who Jesus is and what Jesus did on the cross we are asking Jesus to minister to our children, to touch their lives through "the power of God".
Now, for many of you this may seem extremely basic. But look back at what Mark 10 tells us about what these parents encountered when they took their children to Jesus.
B. Encountering Resistance (10:13)
Again, verse 13: And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.
When these parents brought their children to Jesus, they encountered resistance. But why? Well, we're not sure. The text doesn't explain why the disciples rebuked these people. Whatever the specific reason, it's obvious that, generally, the disciples thought blessing children was a waste of Jesus' time. They believed there were more important things to do.
In the same, all of us will encounter resistance when we attempt to take our children to Christ.
Just as the disciples accepted wrong-headed ideas about what was and was not important, we also accept ideas that end up serving as substitutes to Jesus. And like the disciples, these ideas end up hindering our children on the path to Jesus.
We accept the idea that a good education is the most important thing for our child, and so our trajectory is set with this is as the greatest good.
We accept the idea that being well-behaved is the most important thing for our child, and so we spend most of our time training our children to say and do the right things.
We accept the idea that being accepted is the most important thing for our child, so we try to get them the right look and take them to the right places and get them involved in the right activities so they will be popular.
We accept the idea that making our children happy is the most important thing, as thus we do or buy or say whatever we need to do, buy, or say in order to keep them happy.
We accept the idea that being a good Christian is the important thing for our child, so we teach them what good Christian boys and girls should and should not do.
Or we accept the idea that giving them a Christian worldview or massive amounts of Bible knowledge is the most important thing.
Is one of these ideas, or some other idea, setting your trajectory as a parent?
As wonderful as some of these things are, as necessary as some of these things are, they are not the most important thing. Jesus Christ is the most important thing. And when we act as if something else was more important, we are in effect hindering our children from seeing Jesus Christ as their only hope in any and every part of their life.
Parents, stop for a minute and think about your child or children. No matter how old they are, think about the direction you want to see them go in life. Think about the things you hope they will experience and accomplish.
Now, if we were to push past the summer trips, the sports victories, the weddings, the scholarships, the degrees, the grandchildren, the good job, what is the one non-negotiable at the top of the list? If your child "failed" in all of these other areas, what is the one thing that would bring all of those failures into perspective? Wouldn't it be a passionate love for and an undying allegiance to Jesus?
If you believe that, if that's what you desire for your child, what kinds of seeds would God want you to be planting right now? If you believe that, how does that affect what you do and what you say and where you go and how you live? What kind of parenting does God want to use to bring our children to a passionate love for and an undying allegiance to Jesus? The kind of parenting, the kind of life that is overflowing with a passionate love for and undying allegiance to Jesus.
C. In His Arms (10:16)
So, how might I convince someone out there that this should be goal of their parenting? Obviously, most of the parenting books and experts out there aren't going to say this.
Well, I think verse 16 says it all: And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
I take my children to Jesus in the hope that He will take them in his arms and bless them. Full stop. Is there a place anywhere in the universe that would better than the arms of Jesus?
A good job or a good education cannot hold onto your child like His arms. No earthly success is as strong as the arms of Jesus. No spouse's embrace can compare to the loving arms of Christ. No award or approval or admiration can hold a candle to the blessing that Jesus gives.
Parents, where are you taking your children? From the way you speak to them, from the way you schedule their time, from the things you buy them, from the time you spend with them, from the way you remind them of what's important, from the way you punish them, from the way you praise them, can they see where you are taking them? And is it to Jesus?
The goal of our parenting is to always be bringing our children to Jesus by always ministering to them with His gospel.
III. Conclusion: Your Child's Ministry to You (10:15)
You may have noticed that we skipped over a verse this morning. In verse 14, Jesus said...
"Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."
I've spent the majority of this message talking to you about your ministry to your children. But the main point that Jesus chose to expound on here is actually about your child's ministry to you.
Notice that Jesus says, "don't hinder the children, FOR...FOR this reason...to such belongs the kingdom of God." In keeping the children away, the disciples were foolishly missing out on opportunity to learn something crucial about the Kingdom of God.
Jesus' point here is not that the kingdom belongs to children necessarily; it's that the kingdom belongs to those who are like these children. In what sense? In the sense that children were seen as powerless. They were needy and they recognized their need. They were weak and they recognized those weaknesses. Even though they sometimes act to the contrary, children naturally live in a state of humble dependence.
If they disciples would have understood this, they wouldn't have rebuked these parents. They would have rejoiced. They would have welcomed and celebrated the precious lives of these children.
For those who have children at home, Jesus wants to encourage you with this advice: listen. Listen to the message that God wants to share with you through your child. Let their humble dependence on you, their inherent helplessness as children, remind you that you are helpless without Christ the King; that you are dependent on Him for everything. The kingdom, the reign of the King over your life, is your only hope as a parent.
And the only way we can have that heart of humble dependence is to find it at the cross where Jesus died; the cross where the divine parent gave his only Son for our good. Take advantage of the season and use Christmas as a reminder that the greatest gift you can give your child is Jesus Christ.
Tips, techniques, principles are all great. But they can never replace the power of God that is available to us through Christ. That must be your hope. That must be your child's hope
"Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God."