Standing Firm with Your Teenager

The apostle Paul urges those in the Philippian church to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel (1:27). The phrase whatever happens is one of those wonderful statements in Scripture that should bring rich encouragement to you every day of your life. The Spirit of God is so confident of the power of his Word (Hebrews 4:12) that he says whatever happens in your life, you have an opportunity to honor Christ by living in a manner worthy of the gospel.

While this charge from the apostle applies to all the many challenges church members face, if you are the parent of a teenager, or are soon to be one, this phrase should have a special meaning to you. Why? Because if you are the parent of a teenager, “whatever” happens a lot! And here is Paul telling you that even when “whatever” does happen, your first response should be to live in a manner worthy of the gospel. This is a compassionate directive that God gives you. With teenagers, it is all too easy to be hurt, angry, dumbfounded, overwhelmed or astonished at the events of everyday life. But no matter how unexpected these events with your teenagers may be, God encourages you to act first in a manner worthy of the gospel.

What does that look like? Good question! Living in a manner worthy of the Gospel means that you live as one who has received the grace of God yourself. It means that you remember that you did not earn favor with God yourself–far from it. Despite your own poor and rebellious behavior, God, who is rich in mercy, lavished his grace upon you (Ephesians 1:6-8). It also means that because you have been brought into the kingdom of God, you must represent him in all you do, especially with your family. So the natural thoughts that come quickly to mind–like how could you do this to me?–are replaced by the mercy and grace of Christ. Instead of reacting in frustration, or even anger, to poor and rebellious performance by your teen, you respond with love and compassion for his battle. In Ephesians 6:4, God calls fathers not to exasperate their children, but to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Stand beside them and offer a helping hand.

Paul then urges those in the church to stand firm as one man, contending for the faith of the gospel. There is an important message here for parents. While your children are still in your home, you have the responsibility to live in a manner worthy of the gospel. This means that you offer the gospel, not alternative solutions, to behavioral problems. If your teenager has professed faith and he does “whatever,” you should not ignore the reality of the gospel. While there may be natural consequences for his actions (such as paying for the fender that was crushed while he was driving inattentively) his error with the car does not change the level of his acceptance with God or with you. Reminding him every time he goes near the car that he really messed up and must be more careful is not living with him in manner that is worthy of the gospel. This would hold true for similar events, such as a poor grade at school. It also holds true if unkind words were spoken and then repented of. Can you recall some of your own less-than-stellar moments as a teenager? Are you thankful that God does not hold those things against you? This is a way to stand beside your teenager and appreciate together the mercies of God and his rich kindness given for you. It is an opportunity to demonstrate love as presented in I Corinthians 13:4-7. And even more importantly, it is an opportunity to stand under the banner of the gospel with your teenager. Rejoice with your teenager that God does not treat us as our sins deserve, and don’t treat him as his sins deserve, either. You can assure your teenager that you need the grace of the gospel every bit as much as he does. So, if his behavior is not perfect, or perhaps if it is even alarming, you can stand firm with him instead of in opposition to him. You can then contend as one man, as one family, for the faith of the gospel.
I am sure that someone is asking, okay, how is it possible to stand together for the gospel if my teenager has not professed faith? What must happen in such a case is that the offer of the gospel must always be given as the only real answer to the problems that are faced. You still are not free to offer alternatives to the gospel, such as you will have to do extra yard work for two weeks to make up for the mess you made. You must not back off from offering the gospel. You can still tell your teenagers of the grace of God extended to you. You can and should affirm that God does not treat you as your sins deserve. You should offer to them the call to stand with you under the banner of the gospel. This call must be practical and heartfelt. If your teenagers have not embraced the faith of the gospel, you do not want them to think that their “good” performance around the house can become an acceptable alternative to following Christ. For example, if an offense has occurred, you still correct them, but you also remind them Christ is the real solution. But you want to do that as someone who lives in light of the mercy of God given for you in Christ. Anger and exasperation are not consistent with someone who has been lavished with the grace of the gospel.

Give this some thought. I am sure that some of you will have thoughts or questions regarding these things. God has given Christian parents the wonderful task of presenting his gospel to their children.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel. Philippians 1:27

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