To the Parents of My Grandchildren

G. C. Willis.

Exhortations to Parents

1) New Testament

The stories of children with their parents have drawn to a close: not that we have exhausted our Treasure House, for I can think of many another; but I fear I have exhausted your patience, and so I turn for a brief moment to the exhortations that Scripture gives to parents. We have looked a little at those in the Old Testament already. But now I want to bring you to the New Testament exhortations: and strangely enough I seem unable to find any such exhortations for the Mother. I suppose the "mother-love" should make her wise enough to know how to deal with each child, without instructions: though she might do well to bear in mind the Divine instructions to her husband.

For there are instructions — very few, and very simple — for the Fathers. Many a heart-ache will it save, if only these few words may find a permanent lodgement in the father's heart.

Ephesians 6:4 reads: "And ye fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord." The Greek word for "Do not provoke" is one that is rarely used. The only other place we find it in the New Testament is in Romans 10:19. The noun formed from it is found in Ephesians 4:26, but nowhere else in the New Testament. There it means "Irritation". You have been irritated, and the Lord says: "Let not the sun go down on your irritation." Perhaps the exhortation to the fathers might be rendered: "Ye fathers, do not irritate your children." How easy it is to irritate them. The word is not as strong as to make them angry. Perhaps it includes the teasing that so often we are tempted to indulge in towards our children. Perhaps we think we have a right to do this, and that it is good for them. On the contrary, it is direct disobedience to the Word of God, and will most surely bring a harvest of sorrow. We are to "bring them up." The word translated in this way is used again in Ephesians 5:29; where we read that Christ 'nourishes' the church. We are not to "drive" the children, but "bring" them: and what a difference! We are to bring them up in the "nurture .... of the Lord." This word translated 'nurture' literally means 'the rearing of a child.' We find it again in 2 Tim. 3:16, where it is translated "Instruction." There it is the Word of God, the Scriptures, which 'nurture', or 'instruct' us. In Heb. 12:5, 7, 8, 11, we find it again, translated this time: 'chastening.' This includes the disciplinary spankings and other punishments that we are responsible to give our children, and the Scripture tells us that at the time this "does not seem to be a matter of joy, but of grief; but afterwards yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those exercised by it." (Heb. 12:11, New Translation). We are disobeying the Lord when we do not chastise our children, but we have noticed this when speaking of Eli and his sons. But let us bear in mind that to bring our children up in the nurture of the Lord, chastisement is included. This word also includes training, learning, instruction, discipline: each one is most important for the child in its own way, and all included in "nurture." But there is another word. We are to bring them up in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord." The word admonition literally means "Putting in mind." Perhaps most children are forgetful, and part of their training is to put them in mind. What patience is needed for this. Perhaps the word also includes teaching, exhortation, and warning: surely not threatening. All these we must have, but all are to be "of the Lord". And let us remember, never are we to irritate them.

We get another little word for the fathers in Col. 3:21. It is only one line in my Greek Testament: but how much is found in that one line! "The fathers, do not stir up your children, in order that they may not be disheartened." The word for stir up (or, provoke) is found also in 2 Cor. 9:2; not elsewhere in the New Testament. God our Father is the God of all Encouragement, and we are not to do anything that will dishearten, or discourage, our children. Our character towards them is to be the same as our Father's character towards us: Encouragement. May the Lord Himself teach us how to do this according to His will: to imitate (literally: mimic) Him. Eph. 5:1.

Some of us, with whom the opportunity to heed these admonitions is passed, look back with bitter regret on times we have failed to give heed to them. May the dear ones for whom these lines were penned forgive these failures toward them, and may they never have such regrets, as they grow older.

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Though there does not seem to be any special admonition to the mothers, there is a most important message to the young women, and it is clear this message includes the young mothers. The Apostle is telling Titus of the duties of the aged women; and part of this duty is to 'teach' or 'admonish' the young women. It is a remarkable word, used only here in the New Testament. It literally means to "recall one to his senses." Very similar words are used in three other places in this chapter, and translated 'discreet' or 'sober'. Well, the aged women are to admonish the young women to be "attached to their husbands, to be attached to their children, discreet, chaste, (pure, undefiled), diligent in homework, (literally — workers at home: a very much needed word today, when there is a special temptation to 'work away from home'), good, subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be evil spoken of." (Titus 2:4, 5).


2) Old Testament Admonitions

Let us look together at a few of the Old Testament exhortations to us who are parents or grandparents, for we find both are included.

"Take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons." (Deut. 4:9). A word for each of us there.

"And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thine house, and on thy gates." (Deut. 6:6-9).

"And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates; that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth." (Deut. 11:19-21).

These Scriptures may well give us to understand the urgency of teaching our children the Scriptures. As they get older, school work and homework will take up their time; and year by year you will find your opportunities grow less. While they are little children is the time to teach them this blessed Book. When we were children, my Mother used to gather us every day, in our holidays especially, and she would read aloud to us; and make the dear old Book live to each one of us. I feel sure that each child in our family looks back with unmixed and unbounded pleasure to those afternoon reads with our Mother. It was no weariness to us, whatever it may have been to her, to sit and listen to stories from the Bible; and what little we may know of the Holy Scriptures, I am sure we largely learned from her. Our Father, too, taught us in the daily morning and evening readings; and we had an Aunt and a Grandmother, who also taught us these Holy Scriptures. They each one loved them, and we well knew that; perhaps that was the secret that unconsciously made us love the Holy Scriptures also.

When we turn from the Book of Deuteronomy to the Book of Proverbs, we find an entirely different type of admonition to the parent.

"A wise son maketh a glad father; but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother." (Prov. 10:1; See also Prov. 15:20; Prov. 19:13; Prov. 29:3).

In a sense this verse might be taken to sum up much of the teaching of the Book of Proverbs. It has been called The Young Man's Book, and there is much truth in this saying, though the young women should equally give heed to it. You will note in the verse just quoted, and the verses quoted below, that the word is addressed to the "son" and not to the "father". It is the father who is speaking. And that father was Solomon. And as we read these earnest, burning words, and then remember Solomon's son, Rehoboam, and all his evil, the tragedy of it seems increased a thousand-fold. The fault, as we have seen, lay with Solomon himself, and the seeds of the trouble went back even to David. But that does not lessen the sorrow one feels in reading the Book of Proverbs, with one eye fixed on Rehoboam. Yet all the words are true, and if our children would but heed them, how much sorrow and misery they would be saved from.

We will now quote a few of these exhortations to the "son", which you will note is in reality the very same teaching as we have just seen in Deuteronomy, but from another point of view.

"My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother." (Prov. 1:8).

"My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: for length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee." (Prov. 3:1-2).

"Hear ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, let thine heart retain my words; keep my commandments and live. Get wisdom, get understanding; forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth." (Prov. 4:1-5).

"My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh." (Prov. 4:20-22).

"My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding; that thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge." (Prov. 5:1-2).

"Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth." (Prov. 5:7).

"My son, keep my words and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart." (Prov. 7:1-3)

"Doth not Wisdom cry? — Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children; for blessed are they that keep my ways." (Prov. 8:1, 32).

"A wise son heareth his father's instructions" (Prov. 13:1)

You will notice that the Scriptures we have just quoted come from the first half of the Book of Proverbs. In the latter part of this Book we find more admonitions to the parents. It may be in his later life, when he saw that it was too late, and there was no hope, that Solomon learned these lessons that he so earnestly presses on parents today.

When pondering the lessons that Eli and his sons teach us, we looked at a number of these passages that exhort the parent to use the rod. We will not repeat these, with the exception of Proverbs 23:13, 14: "Withhold not correction from the child; for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." This is a Scripture that should burn its way into the heart of every parent. We often forget that God says that the use of the rod helps to save our children from hell. The rod is painful for them, and painful for the parent: but how much more terrible for both if the child must suffer the eternal pains of hell, for lack of a few good spankings when the child was young.

Another Scripture we do well to seriously ponder is Proverbs 19:18: "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying." We can bend the twig when it is young and green, but soon it gets hard and brittle, and there is no hope to bend it then. There is hope for the children when they are young, and surely that is the time to chasten them. There may be times, even when they are older, when there must be spanking: but it is a much more trying ordeal for both parent and child, than when they were little. Let us remember how quickly the time when "there is hope" passes away, and let us take advantage of it for this painful side of the training; so that later on it may not be needed.

There is one more Scripture which we have spoken of already but which I would like to remind you of again before we leave this most practical Book, and it is Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." This seems to me to be a very encouraging promise for the parents, and one that we may well take to heart to cheer us on the way, as we seek to train up our children in the way they should go.

The words of the grandfather are ended: but they have greatly condemned him. They have made him feel how he has failed, and how utterly unqualified he was for such a work. But within these pages are promises and warnings, counsel and encouragement, from 'Him Who Faileth Not'. On these we may rest with implicit confidence. These can surely guide us aright even through these last days when we know that difficult times must come. (2 Tim. 3:1 New Translation). Our own failure and frailty may often cast us down, but let us ever "look off unto Jesus". There alone will we find strength for the day. And let us ever and always remember, "God is faithful".

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"Who is sufficient for these things?"

(2 Cor. 2:16)

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"Our sufficiency is of God."

(2 Cor. 3:5)

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"His mercy endureth for ever"

Psalm 136


About the Author

My father, George Christopher Willis, was born in Toronto, Canada in 1889. At an early age he accepted the Lord Jesus as His Saviour and his whole life was devoted to his Master. As a child he used to read "China's Millions", a magazine published by what was the China Inland Mission. He was greatly influenced by this and from that time he wanted to go to China, to share the good news. He studied engineering at McGill University and was married a few years later. When he proposed to my mother, it was not, "Will you marry me?" but "Will you go to China with me?"

My parents went to China in 1921 with their three little children. They were "independent" missionaries and things were very hard at first. They moved from South China to Killing, a beautiful spot in the mountains in Northern China, as the children could not tolerate the weather in the South.

Here my father obtained a job supervising the building of a post-office. Many missionaries used to go to Killing for their holidays, and here, for the first time, my father met "liberal" Christians. He was so shocked at some of their beliefs, that he wrote to England and bought books to refute their teaching. He used to sell these on the side of the road, in front of the post office building, during his lunch hour. It was here the idea of a good and sound Christian book shop germinated. In 1924, we moved to Shanghai, where my father opened the Christian Book Room which is still operating.

My parents were both interned by the Japanese during the Second World War and were home in Canada for only a short time before they went back. His whole life was spent serving the Lord and he loved and was dearly loved by the Chinese people.

In all his business he found time to write several books and was often working on illuminated Scripture texts. He operated the Christian Book Room and did a great deal of evangelizing. He finally returned to Canada in 1967.

Even in his old age he still wrote and worked on his illuminated texts and spent much time visiting. I remember so well, when he was unable to care for himself, and I looked after him, the thick callouses on his knees from all the time he spent in prayer. It can be truly said of him that even though he is now with the Lord, his works still speak.

Frances Mary Willis. (1989)