Because I Said So
We had just finished dinner with some family friends when our hostess stood up from the table and announced that the children needed to go downstairs because we were going to watch a movie. At which point one of her daughters, a four year old, wheeled around and began pleading with her mom. Said, Mom, can we watch the movie, too? Don’t make us go downstairs, mom. It’s early yet. Come on. Can we watch? Her mother answered very evenly and very unambiguously, No, it’s a grown-up movie. Downstairs. You could almost hear her four year old wheels starting to click and turn as she gathered herself and made sure that her audience was in place and then asked her mother this question: It’s a grown-up movie? Does it say stupid and shut-up and butt?
Now, you know that she wasn’t asking a question. In her own little four year old way, she was making a statement. She actually was issuing a declaration of the war of the wills. She was saying to her mother and father, game on. I’m fixing to test you, mom. I’m going to test you, dad. I’m going to see if you really and truly mean all of this stuff that you’ve been saying. I’m going to see if you mean where those lines are drawn in our home. And more than that, I’m going to test and see if you’re willing to enforce those lines with company around. That’s what she was saying in her own little four year old way. She was administering a test.
It’s the same test that children of all ages administer to parents at all stages of growth and development. They’re testing all the time to see if parents mean it when they establish those boundaries, when they establish those lines of discipline. I like what James Dobson says. He calls it the flopping of a big, hairy, four year old toe over the line of authority to see if parents mean it. Isn’t that good? Flopping a big, hairy toe over the line. That is what happens. That’s the game of discipline that parents are called by God and tested by children to play, to discipline and train them. That really goes to the heart of the mom and dad mission that God gives us in Proverbs chapter 22.
I want you to take your outlines out. And you’ll know that we’re going back and using our baseline scripture for this entire series that we’re wrapping up today. Proverbs chapter 22 verse 6. Probably if you’ve been here for a couple of weeks, you’ve probably got it memorized already. It says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Now, God issues in Proverbs 22:6 both a command and a promise. He says train your kids, and when they’re old, they won’t turn from it. There’s command and promise. And the primary tool for training in every parent’s parental toolbox is discipline. That’s what it’s called when we do this right. It’s important that we understand here at the beginning what discipline is and what it’s not. Discipline is not just spanking your kids or putting them in time out or grounding them from the car or the telephone or the computer. Those things are all side issues. Discipline is training. Discipline is proactive. Discipline is preparing and equipping kids for the lives God created them to live. That is what discipline is all about. We need to understand that when you just get right down to the bottom line, all of parenting comes down to one thing. All of parenting comes down to power. Don’t miss that.
As a matter of fact, parenting is ultimately a power play. That’s how God set this thing up. Now, we understand power. Power transcends just parenting, doesn’t it? I mean, life takes power. You have to have power to get out of bed in the morning. Some of you got your power a little bit later than usual this morning because of the time change. But every part of life takes power. If you’re going to have a job, it takes power. If you’re going to be married, it takes power. If you’re going to date people, it takes power. It takes energy to live life. That’s power. And God has created the family structure in such a way that there is a definitive progression in how power plays out and what happens. And I’ve just kind of crafted this sentence to help us remember that, okay? Here’s how power plays out. God delegates it, parents regulate it so children can demonstrate it. You see how that works? Let’s say that together. Let’s say that with some power and authority, okay? God delegates it, parents regulate it so children can demonstrate it. Your power kind of waned there at the end a little bit. But you see how that happens? That’s how it’s set up. And it’s important for us to understand why God does this.
Because when a child is born, that little bundle of joy, that little sweetness and light, that child is powerless. That child can’t do anything for himself or for herself. Cannot feed himself, cannot clothe herself, can’t clean herself. All of the power resides in the parents. Now, the end game is that hopefully and prayerfully and intentionally when that child leaves home, they have been empowered to go out and live the life they discern God created them to live. That’s the goal. That’s the end game. And at all points in between there is a constant giving and receiving, using and sometimes retrieving of power. That’s how it happens. God delegates it to parents who regulate it so kids can demonstrate it.
As our kids demonstrate more competence, more credibility, we give them more power. A six year old is not ready for a car. Just not. I don’t care how gifted and talented your kid is, at six, they’re not ready for a car, even if it’s got one of those really cool GPS maps in it. They’re not ready for that. It’s too much power for them. As parents, our job is to discern the flow of power to figure out what’s the right amount to regulate into our kids’ lives. And it’s going to vary from child to child, age to age. That’s why as a parent, my first prayer is for wisdom, is for discernment, because there are going to be things happening that there is no manual for. So I’ve got to figure that out. As a parent, you’ve got to figure that out.
This is the prayer that Paul prayed for his spiritual children at the church in Ephesus. Paul had helped to plant this church, this nascent congregation there in Ephesus. Look at what he says in Ephesians chapter 1. He says, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” And saints just means Christ followers or believers. “And his incomparably great” — what’s that word? “Power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.” This is the prayer of a parent. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened. I pray Emily, I pray Joseph, that you may experience the power of God in and through your life. See, at the end of the day, I don’t want Emily and Joseph living out of their power. When they grow up and leave, I don’t want that for them. I certainly don’t want them living out of my power. I don’t want them at 25 or 30 or 45 years old living in reaction against dad and mom, because that power is limited, that power is flawed by sin.
The power of God, on the other hand, is unlimited. The power of God raised Jesus from the dead. That’s the power I want them tapping into. So I want to help train them. I want to discipline them so that their eyes are enlightened by the hope of the power of Christ. That’s the difference. It’s not about my power. It’s not about disciplining my kids so that I prove I’m in charge or in control. At the end of the day, who cares? But it’s about pointing them to the real source of real power that they will never extinguish, they will never get to the bottom of. That’s why discipline matters. That’s why power in the home is important.
In the ’60s, there arose in our culture a great movement toward the democratic family. The democratic family where we vote, and children are treated as equals and respected as equals. It’s a great concept. There’s one little problem with it. It doesn’t work. There’s no such thing as a democratic family. Somebody is in charge. Somebody has the power. And our kids are consistently flopping their big, hairy toes over the line, testing to see who’s in charge, testing to see who’s in power. It’s not a democracy. God has set it up to be a God-honoring, eternally loving, benevolent dictatorship. Make no mistake about it. Parents are commissioned by God to regulate the power as benevolent, meaning well-meaning, loving, dictators.
Now, dictators can have conversations. They’re welcome to engage in discussion and to explain why. But at the end of the day, somebody in your home, someone in my home is going to have the power. And Emily and Joseph, as wonderful as they are, are not capable. They’re 12, 10 years old. 16, 17, they’re not ready for that much power. And here’s what we’ve got to get our minds and our hearts around. There’s a critical piece of the power puzzle that we have to put in place, and it is this: That God’s power always flows through authority. That’s how God exercises his power, is in authority. Whether it’s in a home, whether it’s on a team, whether it’s in a business, whether it’s in the kingdom of God, the authority is the source, it is the conduit of the power of God. And that’s why God says this in Ephesians chapter 6. He says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” This is right. Then he quotes the 10 commandments and says, “Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Fathers, do not exasperate your children. Instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Now, first of all, children, obey your parents for this is right. This is about authority. Fathers, do not exasperate your kids. How many of you are parents? Just raise your hands real quick. Hold your hands up for just a second. Go ahead and keep them up. As a parent, keep your hands up if you have never been exasperated with your kids. I really admire that. I’m not sure that I believe it, but I admire it. I’m teasing. I’m kidding. I believe you. As parents, we get exasperated. I’ve had moments as a parent where I’ve gotten like a nervous twitch. I’m kind of like what? I mean, are you serious? Didn’t we just talk about this and we said we weren’t going to use that language? There’s a point at which as a parent you want to go, hello, McFly? Is anybody home? But of course we don’t do that because we love our kids and we’re compassionate and encouraging. We understand that feeling as parents. But here God’s telling parents don’t exasperate your kids. The real word is don’t provoke to anger. Don’t provoke your children to anger. Set them up for a win. Bring them along disciplining them in the nurture, the training and instruction of God.
You see, we frustrate them when we don’t do that. We provoke them to anger when we don’t discipline them. An alarming trend that happens with unbelievable regularity, if you find a father who is disengaged, he may be there, but he’s not there. Father who does not discipline, a father who does not train and equip, almost every time, you will find a son who is angry. He’s frustrated. He doesn’t know what to do with his boyness. He hasn’t been trained and equipped what to do with the most dangerous drug in the world, testosterone. He’s angry. By the same token, if you have a father who’s disengaged and you see a daughter, you see a girl who is afraid, you see a girl who is reserved or maybe striving for someone else’s attention.
See, when we engage, when we listen, when we discipline, then we’re not exasperating our kids. When we set those boundaries, when we establish those lines of authority and of discipline, that’s how it happens. Friend of mine’s a pastor of a little church in Dallas, and he has a thing that he calls the law of authority. This is a great law. I want you to write this down. Because the fact of the matter is that God has given every one of us authority. Every one of us. You may be a student. You’ve got authority, you’ve got free will. I’ve got the free will. I can do whatever I want to do. I can choose to do whatever I want to do.
If you’re a parent, you’ve got the authority in the household. Go all the way back to creation. God gave Adam and Eve authority. He gave us dominion over creation. So there’s responsibility for the created order. That’s just a part of it. God always exercises his power through authority. But here’s the law of authority. We can only get over what God has placed under us if we will get under what God has placed over us. Now, think about that for a second. If you’re going to have authority, if I’m going to have authority over something, if I’m going to have authority over something, I have to first be under that which God has put over me. That’s the law of authority.
Let’s go back to when I was a kid growing up in Houston. 14 years old. And man, I could kind of push my mom. I’d kind of test those limits and talk about it, and there were times where I was disrespectful, where I rebelled against her authority. Here’s what I was doing. Even at 14 years old, I had authority in my life. There were decisions I could make. God gave that to me. But the second I stepped out from underneath my mom’s authority which God had put there, I stepped out from underneath the authority God had placed over me, I also then was no longer over that which God had put under me. I stepped out of that flow of power. I stepped out of the chain of command that God has instituted, and now all of a sudden, I’m out here on my own. It’s all Mac all the time, good, bad or ugly. I’m no longer living in that flow of power from God that he’s instituted and exercises in authority because I’m no longer under what he has put over me. That’s the law of authority. And every time that happens, we take ourselves out of the flow of power from God, we take ourselves away from the protection, we take ourselves away from the blessing, we take ourselves away from all that God has in his power and just rely on ourselves.
So that’s my job as a parent is to teach Emily and Joseph. I’m not perfect. I’m going to blow it. But as long as you submit to what God’s instituted in our home, you’re better off. You will be in a position to be blessed by God. It’s the law of authority. Now, how do parents regulate that power?
If God delegates it so parents can regulate it, ultimately leading children to demonstrate it, how do you do that? One word. The rod. Parents regulate the power of God through the rod. R-O-D. Look at this passage of scripture in Proverbs 22. “It says folly,” or foolishness, “is bound up in the heart of a child.” Could I get a witness on that? I wish somebody would help me preach. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Now, don’t miss this. The rod of discipline is a gift of God. You cannot understand the rod of discipline apart from the shepherd.
Psalm 23, one of the most quoted passages of scripture in the Bible, read at more funerals than any other verse in the Bible. What does the 23rd Psalm say? “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He leads me beside quiet streams. He takes me to quiet, green pastures.” Look at verse 4. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Now, that sounds a whole lot different from the rod of discipline, driving it far from me. Here, the rod’s comforting. The staff is comforting. What is up with that?
You see, in the Middle East, shepherds guide their flocks because the shepherds know where the green pastures are. The shepherds know the dangers that are out there. Sheep are a lot like children. Sheep see right here. Sheep don’t worry about tomorrow. Sheep don’t worry about the lions that may be over there. They don’t worry about the wolves that may be behind that rock. They just know grass, baa, baa. And that’s all they think about. And if a sheep sees water, they don’t care if it’s still water or if it’s rushing water, they want water. And they will go to a rushing stream and put their mouths down into the water to drink out of this.
But in rushing water, a sheep’s life is in danger, because in rushing water, a sheep will put its head down to drink, and the water will begin to saturate the wool around the sheep’s mouth, and as the sheep gets more and more water, they begin to absorb that water, and they then are sucked into the rushing water, where their wool absorbs the water like a great sponge, and the sheep can no longer fend for himself. And the sheep drowns under its own weight because it took on more water, more responsibility than it was ready for. So the shepherd comes along with the staff, with his rod, and just kind of taps the sheep. Says no, no, no, no, not here. This is not the water I’m going to take you to. I’m taking you to still water. I’m taking you to pure, clean water. No, no, no, no. Sometimes the shepherd has to kind of ratchet up the intensity, kind of whack the sheep. Sheep’s like, what’s up? I’m drinking. Shepherd’s like, not here. It’s that rod that comforts the sheep. It’s that rod that leads the sheep where it should go and keeps it away from where it shouldn’t go. And as a parent, I wield the rod.
As a parent, you are called by God to wield the rod. Now, some people think, well, that sounds a lot like spanking. You know what? In a young child it may be. You can make a strong Biblical argument for godly, loving spanking. I don’t agree with that. I understand that. That’s fine. But let me explain something to you. If you have a three year old — don’t spank a 12 year old. You’ll hurt your hand. But if you’ve got a three year old, you cannot negotiate. You don’t negotiate with terrorists or three year olds. And many times, there’s a fine line between the two. As a parent, don’t let the terrorists win. And sometimes it’s a little rap. Sometimes it’s physical. Not out of anger or frustration. I’m not talking about child abuse, so don’t go there. Because a lot of people argue against that. No. But just a quick rap, little love tap, go hey. It’s to get their attention for the purposes of pointing them forward. It’s not out of anger because of what’s already gone before. It’s to get their attention going forward. The rod.
Now, as they age and as they grow up, the rod changes. A lot of times, the rod becomes a smaller, becomes keys to the car, the cell phone, the computer, time with friends. Whatever the rod may be, it is leverage that you are called by God, that I am called to use for their good. If I don’t wield the rod, ultimately it damages Emily and Joseph. Not me, not society or culture. It’s about them. Three words to help you remember the rod.
Number one, responsibility. R. Responsibility. Proverbs 19 says, “Discipline your children while there is hope.” That’s how we discipline our kids, out of hope, out of what we hope they can become. Not out of fear, not out of guilt of what we might have done or gone through when we were kids. We discipline out of hope. “Otherwise, you will ruin their lives.” That’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it? Discipline out of hope. It’s a responsibility. One day, I will stand before God, and one of the things he will judge me for is how I wield the rod. He will. O is obedience. Obedience. Expect it. Expect obedience. Don’t, man, I wish they would obey.
Let me tell you something. The parent who counts deserves what they get. One, two — listen, your kids are smart. They know they don’t have to pay attention till two and a half, if then. Now, why is that? Look at this verse. Colossians 3:20, “Children obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” When we expect obedience, we are putting them in a position to please God. When we don’t, we’re setting them up for failure. Expect it. Why? Because God expects it from me. God expects me to be obedient. He expects you to be obedient. God doesn’t count. Mac, one — don’t make me come down there. Obedience. And then D is diligence. Diligence.
Man, discipline is hard work, punkin. It’s tough. Listen, discipline will only wear you out physically, emotionally and spiritually if you do it right. It’s hard work. But watch this. Proverbs 13. “He who withholds the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” You love your child? Prove it. Now, why does this matter? Why is this such a hot-button issue? Why does it get so heated in our homes or in our conversations, in our schools? I want to show you something. I want you to write these passages down. They’re not on your outline, but I want you to write these down for future reference and to look at this afternoon. 2 Timothy chapter 1, verse 7. 2 Timothy chapter 1 verse 7, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and self-discipline.” You see that? That’s what God’s called us to. That’s what God wants your children to grow up to live out of. Not timidity, the wall flower, little shrinking violet, hey. No. A spirit of power, of love, and self-discipline.
Now, Romans chapter 5. Romans chapter 5 verses 6 through 8. This is why this whole thing matters. “You see, at just the right time when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” See, that’s the ultimate power play. And the reality is that none of us in and of ourselves possesses the power to pull ourselves up out of sin. No one does. I don’t, you don’t, our kids don’t. It is only by the power of God that we are rescued from the consequences of sin. So in a very real way, this issue of power and authority and discipline is an issue of life and death. And ultimately, we are about pointing our kids toward life.
It’s been really interesting to me, as I’ve gone through this series, as I’ve prepared for messages and prayed about them and studied and read, I noticed something. If you look at every subject that we talked about, tell the truth, do your best, marry well, take care of God’s money, because I said so, authority, power, it’s not ultimately about my kids. It’s about me. It’s about what I do with each of those things and how I am used by God to equip them. It’s about how I respond to the power and authority of God in my life in everything I do. Parenting just happens to be a major stage on which that plays out.