Setting an Example: Chapter 22

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Children need not be very old before they become adept at discerning real sincerity or the lack of it in their elders. They may not be able to describe their reactions, but they are nonetheless influenced by what they observe. Therefore it is very important for parents to consider that their dear children are watching them and their ways—not that parents should act before them what they are not, but they should be very careful to have no relapses in the consistency of their walk, for little eyes and little ears will take in much. They will discern whether or not their parents' Christianity is the practical kind that governs the whole manner of life. Their future may more or less depend on what parents do, rather than on what they counsel. This is not said to nullify the importance of instructing them in "the right ways of the Lord," but to emphasize the importance of living practically before them what is taught to them.
Of what value would it be to instruct children that "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good" (Prov. 15:33The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3)), and that He sees them when they cheat their playmates, if they see their parents take advantage of their neighbor or the grocer? In like manner it would be ineffectual to speak to them of God's hearing any lies they tell if they observe their parents practicing deceit—not that the parents' failures are really any excuse before God for the children to sin.
The Apostle Paul was the instrument used by God to the salvation of many of the early Christians to whom he wrote. He said to the Corinthians, "In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:1515For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. (1 Corinthians 4:15)); they were his children in the faith, and as his beloved children he admonished them (v. 14; J.N.D. Trans.), but he sent Timothy to them to bring to their remembrance his ways which were in Christ (v. 17). He was a fond parent, teaching his children by word of mouth, and showing them by example, how they should walk.
Timothy was also Paul's son in the faith, and he had a jealous care for Timothy's spiritual welfare. Paul wrote freely and intimately to him, and spoke affectionately of him to others. He gave Timothy words of "edification, exhortation, and comfort," but he was not content to stop there; he wrote to him: "Thou has fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity [love],
Paul's doctrine was important, and it is today; it is all the distinctive truth of Christianity; but Paul reminded his beloved son and co-worker of his manner of life—it was one of truthfulness, uprightness, and integrity. His purpose was equally impressive, for it was to get through this world to God's glory and to reach the Christ who had captivated his whole being. He had that day-by-day faith in God that counted on Him in any and every circumstance. We see many examples of his long-suffering in The Acts and in his epistles, and he loved the dear Corinthians, though the more he loved them, the less they loved him. As to patience, he could say, "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience." 2 Cor. 12:1212Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. (2 Corinthians 12:12). Even his apostolic authority was never allowed to interfere with his exercise of patience, but rather it was demonstrated through patience.
May Christian parents consider their ways, and may they be formed more after the pattern of Paul's ways toward his children in the faith. Parents occupy a somewhat relative position in that they are to act as spiritual, as well as physical and moral, guides to their children.
There is no place where we have to be more careful not to indulge the flesh, nor to allow relapses in Christian conduct, than in the home. Someone has said, "If you want to know me, come and live with me." It is in the family circle where our real state is most apt to be seen. O that young parents may realize the great importance of living as Christians before their children! It is of great moment how the little things of life are done. And if we walk consciously before God all the time, it will make no difference whether we are at home or abroad, with our brethren in Christ or among the ungodly at work.