Help for Sean: Rewind—the Power of Pleasant Words

Posted on December 10, 2010 · Posted in Parenting, Shaping Influences

Most Christians know Hebrews 4:12, which states that the word of God is living and active. Also, most Christians long to know more of the power of the sword of the Spirit. Access to this power comes through faith. While there are many ways that faith can be described, one is that we trust the Bible to provide us wisdom, even when we can’t see all the benefits of obedience. Living by faith and not by sight includes engaging in discipline by faith. Let me explain.

Let’s go back several years in Sean’s life. Perhaps you recall from his story, told in an earlier post, that the bullying that he was experiencing was painful and fearful. After four weeks, he has still not told his parents what is happening in his life. For the record, Sean’s parents are committed Christians who attend church faithfully. They pray for Sean and his siblings. They have been consistent with discipline when they see wrong or inappropriate behavior. But there is one area of scriptural discipline they have neglected:  correcting with pleasant words (Proverbs 16:20-24). Seldom were they angry in discipline or correction, and seldom did they raised their voice—but they were almost never pleasant. Like many Christian parents, their default tone for discipline and correction was somber and stern, occasionally mixed with exasperation. While it is important not to be angry and harsh, this is not enough. It is pleasant words that promote instruction.

When we hear the word “instruction,” it is easy for us to interpret this word in the context of a modern classroom, where formal teaching occurs. But in Israel, 3,000 years ago, there was no counterpart to our modern-day formal instruction of children. As Deuteronomy 6 indicates, teaching primarily occurred along the road of everyday life. It was in this setting that parents were to be continually adorning their children with the truth of God’s words, words that were on their own hearts. This is God’s pattern for teaching children about him—from the heart to the heart (Deut. 6:6). The most effective way to do this is to make pleasant words, delivered in faith, the default tone of all your communication, including discipline and correction. Proverbs teaches this combination of pleasant words and the rod for discipline. Both are equally important.

So, what difference would the use of pleasant words, spoken in faith, have made in Sean’s situation? Just this—Sean would have been drawn immediately to his parents when he faced difficulties. Pleasant words are an essential component of gospel-based parenting. Biblical, gospel-based parenting is about building relationships. It is the relationship with parents that is designed to lead to relationship with God. Parents know that God does not treat them as their sins deserve. They know that God treats them on the basis of Christ’s covenantal commitment to them. They know that God is never exasperated with them. Children must know that their parents are committed to them at all times, but especially when discipline and correction are needed. This is where pleasant words come in. The regular, daily use of pleasant words fosters close relationship. This lets the child know that he will be loved and cared for. This knowledge helps to drive out fear. It builds a desire to communicate with mom and dad when things are difficult. Pleasant words promote the knowledge of God, the fountain of life (Proverbs 16:22).

Now, lets look again at Sean on the first day bullying by Jeremy began. But this time we are assuming that the correction and discipline of Sean’s parents was dominated by the pleasant words of Proverbs 16:20-24. Because Sean’s parents had lived by faith and consistently employed pleasant words instead of stern, somber ones, a stronger, more trusting relationship had been built. Sean knew that he needed to go straight to mom and dad with what had happened the very first day that Jeremy began to bully him. When Sean did come to them, the first thing they did was to pray and ask God for wisdom and help.

We will look  in more detail at what they did in the next post. Please consider how the use of pleasant words, spoken in faith, can make a difference in your parenting.  When you are trusting God by using pleasant words with your three-year-old, you are probably not be thinking that this will help you overcome a situation with bullying several years down the road. But this is what it means to live by faith and not by sight.

Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.