God is the perfect father. He doesn’t abuse his children, but he does lovingly correct and discipline us…all with a quiet and kind voice. Teaching our children to hear and obey our voice prepares them to hear and obey their heavenly Father’s voice. How can we become more confident in listening for God’s instruction in our own lives? And how can we in turn instruct our children so that they can live a life in obedience to the Holy Spirit?
According to www.dad.info, a child can recognize their father’s voice while still in the womb, at about week 22! As I searched online for information about fathers and young children, I came across a video of a screaming newborn who quit wailing and calmed down immediately at the sound of her father’s voice. What a picture of our walk with God. If we are finely tuned to the voice of our Father, even in times of distress, we can be instantly calmed by his voice. Learning to hear this voice is something that happens early on in our walk with God. Scripture tells us that by accepting Christ we are to be “born again” and to become like “little children.”
Hearing our earthly parent’s voice is milk, it’s the easy stuff, and yet many Christians fear that they do not know God’s voice. They struggle, grimace, and groan trying to listen with all of their might. The truth is that once you are born of God, hearing his voice is instinctive, just like it is for the unborn baby. Jeremiah 1:5 states, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
John 10:27 tells us, "My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me" (NKJ). The God’s Word Translation puts it this way, "My sheep respond to my voice, and I know who they are. They follow me." We know God's voice, but the truth is that sometimes we have selective hearing. We hear what we want to hear because we don’t necessarily want to act on what we have heard. According to the second translation of this verse, not only do we need to hear God’s voice, but we need to respond and follow after God’s voice. Are we treating God’s voice the way a distant hearted husband treats the voice of his wife?
God’s ways are higher and wiser than ours. Perhaps there are times when because of our own skewed relationships, we don’t really believe that God has our best interest in mind. Sometimes we think that God only wants to make life difficult. There is often a stage of development in which we are afraid to trust in God’s goodness because we are certain that his plans are for us to experience hardship without benefit.When we meditate on the fact that God's ways are better than ours, it is easier to follow God’s instructions for our lives. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that God has good plans for our lives.
Once we truly trust in the goodness of God, we can surrender to his plan. It is only then that we can experience that instinctual leading of the Holy Spirit. This leading may be like that of the father's voice for the screaming infant. We may not understand the words that our father is saying, but at the sound of his voice, our misery is interrupted and quieted. This is why Proverbs 3:5-6 is so important as we learn to obey God’s voice. It states, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." When you trust in God, you will find that you have been led without even being aware of it. You will find that your path has been directed by a kind, all-knowing, and all-loving God.
As we mature, God’s Word becomes a powerful source for God’s voice. Psalm 119:105 reads, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." When our ears seem to be able to differentiate between the noise and clatter of this world and our Father’s voice, we can rejoice because we can hear him in the instructions he has left behind. He has left us a guide book for while he is gone! When we seek to hear him, studying what he said will often bring illumination and revelation to our spirits.
God's word also brings correction and direction to us as we learn to follow him. "The commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life"(Proverbs 6:23). Timothy's life shows how God's word serves as lifelong guide.
"…And how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:15-17).
This reference reminds us that 'from infancy' we have been familiar with God’s voice. We can be sure that we are equipped for the plans God has for us when we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in communion with the teaching of Jesus, the word of God.
So how does all of this translate into teaching our children to listen to and obey us and thereby learn to listen to and obey God?
We recognize God’s voice because he is our Father. But God doesn’t speak in an angry and chaotic voice. I Kings 19:11-12 tells this story perfectly. Elijah was seeking to hear from God.
And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
God spoke to Elijah, not through the strong wind nor the earthquake nor the fire, but through the sound of a low whisper. Likewise, you can make a decision to quietly and gently instruct your children. As you do so, you are training them to be in tune with the quiet, still voice of God.
Reassure your children that, like God, you have their best interest in mind. Take notice of teachable moments when their obedience has benefited them. Remind them that they have a heavenly Father who has a good plan for them. He is infinitely wise and knows what will be best in the long run for their lives.
Make your rules and regulations clear as well as the rewards for their fulfillment. Having written instructions with a reward system in place is an excellent way to guide your children. Such a system illustrates the correlation between God's commands and the benefits of following them. Like it is in God's word, boundaries should be spelled out clearly so that children are never surprised by discipline. They need to have a firm grasp of the expectations so they can follow confidently.
Make sure that consequences of disobedience are given with grace and love. Jesus is likened unto a shepherd in his guidance and correction of his people. Do not be afraid to use the crook of the staff and discipline your children when they have gone astray. They may not realize that you are saving them from danger now, but in the end you are taking good care to watch over what God has given you stewardship over. However, use God's word as the shepherd’s crook to prod them to the safe path, not to harm them!
Obedience is an important part of our relationship with God. Obeying our parents is the first of the ten commandment that includes a promise (Exodus 20:12). We are reminded that obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). And Isaiah 1:19 instructs, "If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land."
The art of hearing the voice of God and being obedient to his leading will allow you and your children to experience the goodness of God, and isn’t that all that we could ask for as a parent anyway?
Rev. Deb Koster
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra