While still a few years away, I realize that I am fast approaching the time in life when I will be a parent of teenagers. My realization that my children are in a different point of life than they were five years ago is growing. My role as a parent is also transitioning. I am becoming more acutely aware of my failures as a parent and my desperate need for God’s help in imparting His wisdom from His Word to them as best as I can, and pray that God continues His work of drawing them ever closer to Himself through His Word and His Spirit that is in them.
One thing that has struck me in this regard recently is thinking of Daniel and his three young friends who were taken into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar, as told to us in Daniel 1. These four young men were able to stand firmly for God in the face of great danger and difficulty. Babylon would not afford them the same pleasures and privileges of Judah. How would they survive? How would they handle living in a place that did not worship Yahweh?
As I considered the qualities that Nebuchadnezzar was looking for in young people to train, I thought to myself that those qualities were taught, at least in part, by the parents of those four young men. What did their parents teach them? And how does that apply to my parenting?
1. I need to teach my children how to take care of themselves physically. These were youths “without blemish, of good appearance” (v4). Their parents were diligent in taking care of these children while they were young, and then teaching them to take care of their own bodies. Their appearance was such that was noteworthy. I need to teach my children to take care of themselves physically. Physical health is important in the work of the ministry as it provides stamina and energy to stand up for God.
2. I need to teach my children to take care of themselves mentally. These were youths who were “skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, [and] understanding learning” (v4). Part of loving God means to do so with all of our minds. These young men knew how to think and reason well, and had a level of discernment to evaluate things mentally. I need to teach my children not only what to think about, but also how to think. Thinking Biblically about all of life is crucial to the spiritual success of any Christian’s life. To claim Christianity without cultivating a Christian mind is detrimental to the Christian life.
3. I need to teach my children to develop good social skills. These four friends were said to be “competent to stand in the king’s palace” (v4). There was a certain maturity and decorum taught to these young men by their parents. They could present themselves well in different and difficult situations. These young men were able to stand even amongst the king’s court. I need to teach my children how to carry themselves in a humble, but secure way with people. I need to teach them decorum, how to converse with people in a mature fashion, and how to interact socially in a proper way.
4. I need to teach my children to be spiritually strong. These four young men were taken out of their home environment and placed in a foreign country. Their lives demonstrated that they were already spiritually strong. Trials do not build character; they reveal character that is already there. These young men were spiritually strong prior to entering Babylon, and from the beginning of their captivity they evidenced a deep-seated allegiance and affection for Yahweh. Their parents were no doubt instrumental in that. This is the biggest challenge and task for parents. While the other three areas are important, the spiritual lives of our children are of greater importance. I must do what I can to bring up my children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, praying for God’s Word to penetrate and saturate their hearts and lives, and work its way out into their daily living. As a parent, I must do what God wants me to do in training my children up in spirituality. While I cannot make them spiritual, I must be faithful to impart to them spiritual truth and help them reason through life using the grid of the Scripture to guide them. I must teach them that they do not sit on the throne of the universe, but God does.
While nothing is really known about the parents of these four young men, their training of these youths was successful as all four stood firm for the cause of Yahweh in the face of trial, physical danger, and even death. Who knows what will happen to my children in the coming years. Yet one thing seems to be certain. They are going to have to stand strong for God in a country that is growing more Babylonian in its worldview, its culture, and its worship every day. This will not be easy for them, as it probably wasn’t for Daniel and his friends. It is vital that I as a parent be faithful to shepherd their hearts towards God and pray for God to continue to grow them into the young man and woman He desires them to be. O how I, and they, need God’s grace to glorify Him as we should.