So You Have A Wayward Child

Bible Book: Proverbs  1 : 20-22
Subject: Parenting; Family; Home; Children

Raising children has been called the most difficult job on earth. Some people who are very successful in their career feel like total failures when they become a parent.

The challenges and the obstacles to raising good and godly children are greater today than ever before. Now there is no such thing as a perfect child and there is no such thing as a perfect parent. No matter how badly your children have turned out, you can always look around and imagine how it could be worse.

For example, a young college freshman girl who had gone away to school wrote back home to her parents:.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I just thought I'd drop you a note to clue you in on my plans. I've fallen in love with a guy called Jim. He quit school after the 11th grade to get married. About a year ago he got a divorce. We've been going steady together for about two months now. We plan to get married in the fall, until then, I'm going to move into his apartment, I think I may be pregnant. Oh, by the way, I dropped out of school last week although I'd like to finish college sometime in the future.

Mom and Dad, I want you to know that everything I have written until now is false. None of it is true. However, it is true, Mom and Dad, that I got a "C" in French and I flunked Math. I need an extra $200 next month.


Your loving daughter

You see it's all a question of perspective.

I heard about a woman who had 3 very wild, rebellious and obstreperous teenagers. Somebody asked her this question, "If you had it do to all over again, would you have children again?" She said, "Of course I would - but not the same ones."

Now that may be true for you. But the relationship between parent and child is a very special relationship. And it is tragic that today in America parents are not getting along with children and children are not getting along with parents.

As G.K. Chesterton once said, "We spend the first half of our lives fighting with our parents. And we spend the second half of our lives fighting with our children." Now that's sad but it is all too often the truth. But it doesn't have to be that way. My heart is broken because of what is happening to our children. We are at a crisis point in America. 100,000 of America's children are in prison. Four out of ten live in a broken home. We read that 65 out of every 1,000 children between the ages of seven and eleven have received or are receiving psychiatric help. One million girls between the ages of 12 and 17 will get pregnant and deliver a child this year. (That doesn't even count those that will have an abortion). One in five uses drugs at least twice a week. It is reported that 10 million minors are infected with venereal disease. The suicide rate is staggering. 10% to 15% have seriously contemplated it or attempted it.

God has given us a timeless parenting manual called the book of Proverbs. In the opening chapter He gives the appeal of wisdom. Proverbs 1:20-22, "Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech; 'How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?"

Now verse 22 is a very important verse. Look at it again. He refers to 3 categories.

1. Simple ones - "Gullible adolescent."
2. Then He refers to the mocker - "Know-it-all teenager."
3. And then He refers to fool - "Rebellious trouble-maker."

Now there you have the problems in our homes today: The naïve open-minded gullible young person; The smart aleck, know-it-all teenager; and, The rebellious, trouble-making young adult.

Now this verse deals with all three. God's Word tells us how to be able to keep our children from becoming rebellious wayward adults.

Throughout the Proverbs there is a word that describes a young person who has turned his back on wisdom and has become troubled and rebellious. The word is fool.

Now in the Bible, there is almost no hope for a fool. And some of you may have a fool for a son or a daughter. And if so my heart goes out to you. And let me say with all of the sympathy in my heart, you have probably lost them for time and eternity and will never get them back.

Now this message is a message of prevention. This may be the most significant message that I have delivered in a long time. And I would like to make a request before I begin. Would you please not require me to be humorous or dynamic in order to hold your attention this morning. I want to speak from my heart and help many of you parents who still have the opportunity to help your child walk in wisdom.

Now let's look at these terms again. When we talk about the simple, or the mocker, or the fool, it has nothing to do with their mental ability.

They may knock the top off of the charts on an IQ test and still be simple, or still be a mocker, or still be a fool.

The word "fool" does not refer to their mental ability, it refers to their heart.

The Bible says, "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God." Now notice that says, "in his heart." Not with his lips.

A fool may say, "There is a God." But in his heart he lives as if there is no God.

Throughout our auditorium this morning, and throughout our church family, there are dozens of parents whose hearts are broken because they have raised a foolish child.

This morning, I want to help you raise a son or a daughter who is wise, not a fool. You see a child is not born a fool, a fool is self-made. But he often has a lot of help from his parents.

So let's notice how it all begins. I want to start with the...

I. The Marks Of The Gullible Adolescent

Now the Bible calls him the simple. Look at Proverbs 1:22 again, "How long will you simple ones love your simple ways?"

A. He Loves Simplicity

This describes a child who likes his lifestyle. You see these are the happy go lucky years. He doesn't want responsibility. He does not want restrictions. He likes it free and open. Now who can blame him? He's got it made. I heard about two teenage boys who were talking together one day. One said to his friend, "You know I'm worried about my mom and dad. My dad works and slaves all day to give me everything I want and to pay for my college education one day. My mother slaves around the house, cooks me three meals a day, cleans my clothes, and picks up after me. His friend said, "Well what are you so worried about?" The boy replied, "I'm afraid one day they will try to escape."

B. He Lacks Understanding

Proverbs 9:4 says, "Let all who are simple come and hear, wisdom says to those who lack judgment."

The word judgment there means understanding. You see the simple lack understanding. Now it didn't say he lacks intelligence. He may grow up to be a surgeon or an engineer or an entrepreneur. He has a lot of gray matter but he lacks understanding.

C. He Is Led Easily

Proverbs 14:15, "A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps."

You tell him something, he'll believe it. That's why Hollywood and Madison Avenue loves the teenager. They target the teenager. Why? Because teenagers today have more discretionary income than    ever before. In fact, they have more spendable income than almost any segment of our society except for empty nester adults. But a teenager doesn't have the wisdom of an adult. He doesn't have          the life experience of an adult. So when they are told they can have this, that they can buy this, that they can go here, then they do see the repercussions or the problems that may be around the corner.

The Hebrew word for simple means "open door" it's the picture of the front door that's been left open. Anybody or anything can walk through it. That's why peer pressure is such a powerful force.

Let me share with you two true stories. A man went into a doctor's office. He walked in and he saw the waiting room filled with people who were sitting there in their underwear. The man looked around, he very carefully took off his clothes, hung them on a rack, and sat there and began to read a magazine in his underwear just like everybody else.

A man walked into an elevator and the elevator was filled with people who had their backs turned to the door and were facing the back of the elevator. Now there was no door in the back of the elevator but they were standing there. He turned around and faced the back just like everybody else.

Where did this happen? Candid Camera. You remember Candid Camera and Allen Funt. He had set up these two scenes to demonstrate how gullible people can be and how easily they follow other people even if other people are acting silly. Now let me ask you a question. If grown people will do that, how much more will your child do that?

D. He Is Living In Danger

Proverbs 22:3, "A wise man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it."

Your child does not have the ability, unless you teach it to him, to see the danger that's down the  road. That's why if you give him the keys to your car, but don't teach him how to take that responsibility seriously, he'll get out in the car, get his friends, go and buy some beer somewhere, go barreling through town and likely will kill someone else or himself. You see he thinks he is invincible. He doesn't understand the danger. "A wise man sees danger, but the simple keep going and suffer for it."

I read in the USA Today recently that  "... every 22 minutes someone dies in a drinking/driving crash. The odds are one in three that the victim is 15 to 24 years of age, most likely beer is involved."

But all your teenager sees is the commercials on TV with people out in the woods with people  having a Michelob moment and saying, "It doesn't get any better than this." He's told by his friends, this is what it looks like to be cool. This is what it looks like to be grown up. And he believes it. Now does that remind you of any teenagers you know? That's you when you were younger. That's all of us when we were younger. We were gullible and easily impressed and easily led. We were simple minded. Our minds are like open doors where anything can come in and go out. It doesn't mean you were a simpleton, but simple minded. It doesn't mean that our children don't have any brains, but often they don't know how to put their brains in gear. Now a gullible adolescent, if they are not taught and trained properly, becomes a cocky teenager.

In the book of Proverbs there is a word that Solomon used to describe this kind of person. The word is mocker.

II. The Marks of a Know-It-All Teenager

Years ago in school they called him "a smart aleck or a fresh kid." In the university he is called a "cynic." In business he's called "a loose canon" but he's the same guy with a different name.

Now here is the first characteristic.

A. He Delights In His Mockery

Look at Proverbs 1:22, "How long will mockers delight in mockery." This is a young person who gets his jollies from making fun of those in authority.

He will sit in church and while the pastor is preaching, he'll give the kid next to him an elbow and make a smart remark and laugh. He likes that. He thinks that makes him cool.

In school, he will find a way to cut a class or cheat on an exam. It gives him a feeling of superiority. You see he knows more than everybody else knows.

B. He Defies Instruction

You can't tell him. He knows it all. Proverbs 13:1, "A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke." You can't tell a know-it-all anything. That's why he's called a know- it-all. You might as well be talking to a brick wall. He'll turn you off and tune you out.

C. He Despises the Good and Godly

Proverbs 15:12, "A mocker resents correction, he will not consult the wise."

You see it's bad enough that he ridicules authority, and he runs from good advice. But the thing about a mocker is he resents it when you try to correct him.

You correct a smart aleck, know-it-all teenager and he may not say it with his mouth but look into his eyes. He'll be saying inside, "I hate your guts." That's the way he is.

Listen to Proverbs 9:7-8,"Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult, whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you, rebuke a wise man and he will love you."

You see a mocker despises the good and the godly. If you tell him what is right then he will insult you to your face.

E. He Is Destined For Destruction

Proverbs 13:13, "He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded."

You see a mocker can laugh his way into trouble, but he can't laugh his way out. He is destined for destruction, but you can't tell him that.

When you talk to him, it's like pouring water on a rock. He is a cynic. He's a scoffer, he does not value authority.

At one point, he was gullible and naïve and open-minded. But now he's not that way any more.

Now I pray to God that your child is not a mocker. I pray he's not a know-it-all. But he may be. I'm going to tell you what to do about it. You see there can be hope still at this point. But if he goes to the next level. If he or she becomes what the book of Proverbs calls a fool. I offer you very little hope.

Now we've talked about the simple - that's the one who loves his simple ways. We've talked about the mocker - he delights in his mockery.

But what about the fool? What about him? The Bible says here in V.22,"He hates knowledge."

Now notice the shift. The first two are known by what they love. Even if they love the wrong thing. The simple love their simple ways, the mockers delight in mockery. But the fool is known not by what he loves, but by what he hates. The chief characteristic of the fool is it is someone who has allowed anger and contempt and rebellion to set it.

III. The Marks of the Rebellious Troublemaker

What are his characteristics?

A. He Rejects Wisdom

Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. They absolutely despise discipline. They will not accept it.

B. He Ridicules Righteousness

You see a fool will make light of the things that are holy. Proverbs 14:9, "Fools mock at making amends for sin." Anything that is good and wholesome and right, he ridicules.

C. He Rejoices In Sin

Isaiah 5:20, "Woe to him who calls evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

You see the fool is in a fixed position. Even the consequences of his sin doesn't turn him around. You see God has placed a law in the universe that is designed to make us pursue what is right. It's called "the law of sowing and reaping." When you choose the wrong path. When you go in the wrong direction, you suffer the consequences.

But the fool, because of the hardness of his heart, is not turned around, even when he faces the consequences of his actions. And this is the most serious thing of all.

D. He Is Reserved For Hell

That's why Proverbs 23:13 says, "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from hell."

You see if you short circuit God's law of sowing and reaping, a child will grow up to experience hell on earth.

Proverbs 17:10 says, "A rebuke impresses a man of discernment, more than 100 lashes a fool."

What Solomon is saying is that if you take a fool and beat him, you won't change him. He's come to far. He's gone to low.

Lock him up in prison, he'll come out a worse criminal. Take away his privileges, and he'll just hate you more and more. By now he is set. And there are so many more scriptures that warn that when a young person becomes like this, there is very little hope. Now I'm not saying there is no hope, because we serve a mighty God and He is powerful to save. But you know you can tell a lot about where a young person is in these stages by how they respond to discipline and correction.

It's the same difference between David and Pharaoh. You remember when David sinned, God sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke him, and David repented. But when Pharaoh sinned, God sent Moses the prophet to rebuke him, but Pharaoh the Bible says, "hardened his heart all the more."

Now how do you prevent your child from becoming a fool? How do you give him what he needs so that he will not break your heart, ruin his life, and ruin the lives of many others?

How does a simple minded, open and naïve adolescent, learn the ways of wisdom.

Well I want to give you some steps. Here are some steps to raise a wise son instead of a wise guy.

Step #1 - Begin early.

Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go..." You Ways the Holy Spirit will help you.

Step #2 - Continue-wisely.

Now God has given you the book of Proverbs ladies and gentlemen. This book of Proverbs is a book that every parent, and especially the fathers, ought to master. Make it your purpose to learn the Proverbs. I try to read in the Proverbs every day. I've learned that a Proverb a day keeps the devil away. Make it your purpose to sit down and explain it to your child why he is still a simple one and has not become a smart aleck or a rebellious troublemaker. Look in Proverbs 1, let me show you how this book begins. Proverbs 1:1-4, "The Proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: For attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young."

Now let me ask you a question. Is that what you want for your children? Wouldn't you want your children to have discipline? Wouldn't you want them to know what is right and just and fair? Now notice he says, "For giving prudence to the simple." Now remember the simple has an open mind. Open-mindedness is not necessarily bad. Solomon says you better give them wisdom while they will still listen to it. Listen to Proverbs 19:25, "Flog a mocker and the simple will be ware." When a naïve teenager sees someone get in trouble for his sin, something goes off in his head. You see he learns the law of sowing and reaping. Listen to Proverbs 21:11, "When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom." Now that's a very important principle. Your child needs to see wickedness punished. One of the worst things that can happen to a child or a teenager is to have that child grow up in what we call a permissive society. That's the reason our children have such a poor chance today. Because they do not see sin punished. They see people living high wide and handsome. They see people selling drugs, they are arrested one day and out on the streets the next day. What does that say to them? They see someone charged with a crime and that person goes on and on and he never gets hauled into court. If he goes to court, his case is postponed and postponed again. And then if he's found guilty then he is put on some kind of an appeal. Finally, the judge says, "Well the jails are so filled that we'll just give him a lighter sentence." Listen to this verse, Ecclesiastes 8:11, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men are set in them to do evil." The worst thing for any generation is for people to live where they don't see wrong swiftly punished. The Bible says, "If you smite the mocker, the simple will listen." I remember hearing about a lady who sent her son to school and she packed a note with him that said, "Now Johnny is a nervous boy, so if you see Johnny misbehaving, just slap the boy next to him and Johnny will straighten up." Well I'm not advocating that, but there is a small part of truth to it.

Not too long ago I was watching an evening broadcast and there was a story about a judge in Sacramento, CA named Judge Gunther. He talked about how he was dealing with teenage drunken drivers. He had some very unusual sentences. Among other things he would do, he would take these teenagers down and make them spend a few hours in the drunk tank where they kept the people who had been picked up for public drunkenness. Sometimes he would make them visit the hospitals, the ward where they kept the terminally ill because of problems from drinking their life away. He also made them spend some hours in the emergency room and see people who had come in after they had been sliced up in accidents. Another thing, he made them visit the coroner's office and look at the bodies of people whose lives had been snuffed out through drunken driving. Judge Gunther had these teenagers write some essays. One teenager wrote, "Mr. Bowers opened the door and I could see about 20-30 bodies covered under the white linen. Then he guided me to one particular body that was set in the center of the room. He uncovered the body. I saw this lifeless body that was one time a living person less than 24 hours earlier." Now this is a teenager writing. "The face to that body was very disturbing. His eyes were blackened all the way around. His head was shaven with staples replacing the stitches that enclosed incisions." This is a person who was killed as a result of beer and drinking and driving. Now that may sound severe, but these teenagers had their eyes opened. Do you know what you ought to do sometimes dads? You ought to put your children in the car and take them down to the emergency room some Saturday night and just sit there with them. Let them see what comes in. You ought to take your son and drive through skid row and see that drunk, that man of distinction who used to be somebody, now he's in the gutter covered with flies and vomit. Take him to the halfway house and let him see a drug addict with his sunken chest and hollowed eyes and his scrambled up mind. Take him down to the courtroom and the jail. Let him see that. They don't understand. The Bible says, "If you flog a mocker than the simple will understand." Let him see what Hollywood has so well covered up with their situation comedies. You see what a person laughs at he'll never take serious again. So you may have to show him the other side. The serious side of sin.

Now how to you continue in wisdom. Let me give you a few thoughts.

Thought number One - Guard his company.

As best you can, you help him chose the right people to spend time with. Listen to Proverbs 13:20, "He who walks with the wise grows wise. But a companion of fools suffers harm." See to it that your child walks with wise men. He is open right now. Peer pressure is not necessarily a bad thing. It depends on who the peers are. That's why you ought to have them in this youth group. That's why you ought to have them in this church. So that they can meet friends and get close to people who hopefully will not drag them down.

Do you know what you ought to do? You ought to say that our home is headquarters for teenagers. If you have one. Put food in the refrigerator. Stock it with the right kind of beverages. Have a playroom. Buy a tennis table. Get some good movies that they can watch. Let them sit around on the furniture. You say, "But they'll ruin my furniture." Praise God, let them ruin it. "You say well they'll step on my flowers." Who cares about the flowers? Let your home be the happiest most fun place around. Let him bring his friends around. They're looking for a place to hang out, let them hang out at your place. And then watch. And monitor what kind of friends and what kind of relationships and what kind of conversation they have.

When Billy was four, he wanted a sandbox and his father said, "There goes the yard, cats will be over here, they'll make messes in it, and it will kill the grass." And his mother said, "The grass will grow back." When Billy was six, he wanted a Jungle Jim with swings that would carry him up to the sky and with climbing bars that would take his breath away. And his father said, "You know what our yard will look like, A Missile Site. You'll have the whole neighborhood over here. And it will kill the grass." And his mother said, "The grass will grow back." Between breaths when Billy's father was blowing up the plastic swimming pool; he said, "You won't be able to take out the garbage without coming back with mud up to your neck. They'll be mud everywhere. There'll be water fights. And it's gonna kill the grass." And his mother said, "The grass will grow back." When Billy invited his friends over for a campout, his father looked out the window and said, "God, I've never asked for much, just a few crummy blades of grass, those big feet are gonna trample down everything I've worked so hard to create, bikes are gonna ruin the lawn." "And don't tell me," He said to his wife, I know, I know, I know the grass will come back." The basketball hoop on the side of the house drew bigger, crowds than the summer Olympics. And the crowds grew larger, and the grass grew thinner, and the barren spot underneath the hoop got bigger and bigger until it encompassed the whole side yard and just when it looked like new grass was gonna grow back, winter came, snow fell, and sled runners beat it into the ground. And Billy's father said, "Why didn't I just save myself the trouble and put the grass seed in the cereal bowls." And Billy's mother said, "The grass will grow back." The grass this year was luscious, it was green and thick and beautiful, it rolled out like a sponge carpet, it rolled out along the flowerbeds where little boys used to dig with teaspoons. It rolled out along the garage where bicycles used to fall. It was a beautiful lawn. But Billy's father never saw the grass ... His eyes were focused beyond the yard ...and he said, with a catch in his voice, "He will come back, he will come back, he will come back ... won't he?"

Thought Number Two - Don't Diminish the Consequences

Don't diminish the consequences. Some of you parents are confusing your children by not letting them suffer the consequences of their actions. If your child gets in trouble in school, you shouldn't immediately think that it's the teacher's fault.

I know you think he's a little angel. But let me tell you something, angels lose their wings and develop horns.

Thought Number Three - Be A Good Example.

I am amazed at what parents are letting their children watch on television. I am amazed at the way mothers are letting their daughters dress out in public.

Now here is the third step

Step #3 - Pray Faithfully

Now God knows you can't make your child do right. And some of you may be saying right now "Pastor my heart is breaking. I know I started too late. I have a foolish son or I have a foolish daughter." Now my friend, God knows how you feel. God had 2 children in a garden. And He provided for them and He loved them and He surrounded them in a good environment but an evil influence came in. And God knows that children can choose to go the wrong way if they choose to. And God hurts when you hurt. But you can pray faithfully for your child. And the Bible says, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." Now it's going to take more than you just setting as a goal to raise a godly child. You see you need to see the difference between a desire and a goal. A goal is something that you can control. But you can't control your children. Therefore, your desire is to raise godly children. You do everything you can to help them walk in wisdom. But your goal is to be a godly parent. And you can do that. You have some control over you, although you will never have control over them.