When I was 12, nothing excited me more than the prospect of turning 13. I couldn't wait to be a teenager. The mere mention of the word brought wonderful visions of make-up and parties and the hope of one day being able to drive and date. It couldn't happen soon enough.
My mom, on the other hand, had different feelings about her baby becoming a teenager. She looked toward my teen years and knew I would face moral dilemmas and difficult decisions that would affect the rest of my life. Where I saw a need for cool friends and a great wardrobe, she saw a need for wisdom. Her goal was to raise a godly woman. So she took me straight to the book of Proverbs.
When Solomon became king, God said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you" (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon could have asked for anything, but what he valued most was wisdom. God made Solomon the wisest man ever. Why did Solomon value wisdom so highly? Because his busy father, King David, had taken the time to teach his son the value of godly discernment.
Solomon said, "When I was a boy in my father's house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, 'Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you'" (Proverbs 4:3-6).
Solomon was obviously concerned with passing this love of wisdom on to his son. Proverbs is written from the perspective of a father to a son. That makes it a perfect place to start a Bible study with your child. I can tell you from experience that this deeply practical book has the power to change your child's life. It certainly changed mine. Here are just a few of the results of studying Proverbs with my mom:
We grew closer. As we spent time together in the Scriptures, sharing, praying, laughing, and crying, a strong bond developed between us. Her love was loud and clear during those times. It meant a lot that she not only wanted me to be wise, but that she wanted to be the one guiding me toward knowing God. I was also able to see her love for the Lord and her own journey toward understanding. I discovered new and wonderful insights into the life of this godly woman. She willingly shared her time, her love for God, and her life with me.
I got to know God. One of the first things I learned through our study was that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7). I learned that fearing God didn't mean being terrified of him. It meant realizing he is God and I am not, which meant that I am to revere, respect, obey, and worship him. This really was the beginning of my understanding of God and his great love for me. Mom encouraged me to ask God for wisdom and he would give it (James 1:5). As we studied, I saw God answering my prayer, and my faith grew because I knew I could trust him.
I fell in love with the Word. I found Proverbs to be so practical, down-to-earth, and helpful. I'll never forget reading, "Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, 'I was only joking!'" (26:18-19). I always said, "just kidding" after making a joke. I thought I really was joking, so as we read this proverb, I looked at my mom and said, "I don't think it's a lie to say I'm kidding. It doesn't really hurt people." She smiled and told me to pay attention to whether I used "just kidding" as a way to say hurtful truths without any consequences. I quickly realized the proverb was dead on, and soon took "just kidding" out of my vocabulary.
I saw that God's Word was the absolute truth. It became important to meÂ—real and relevant. The Bible became my answer book. I wanted to know it and do what it said.
Because it has 31 chapters, Proverbs lends itself to a daily Bible study. After a month of studying Proverbs every day, I'd developed a daily habit of digging into the Bible. After I'd read through Proverbs many times, I started turning to other books like Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and the Gospels. I couldn't get enough.
That study we did the summer I was 12 had an invaluable impact on my faith. I praise God that my mom saw my need for wisdom, took action while I was still teachable, and prayed for the Holy Spirit to work in my heart. I did indeed need wisdom during those tumultuous teen years.
Like King David, King Solomon, and my mom, you can use the book of Proverbs to help your children become lovers of God and of wisdom. Here's how to get started:
Seize the Day
My mom knew that at the age of 12 I was still willing to accept instruction, a window that might close as I moved into my teen years. Start your children on a daily dose of Proverbs right now and you can help create in them a hunger for wisdom. Even if your children are already teens (or the teen years are a ways off), the Proverbs spark conversations about how to live as God's peopleÂ—something we all need to hear about on a regular basis. Don't worry about having an elaborate plan; just jump in and get started. If you meet some resistance, persevere. When your kids begin to see their newfound wisdom paying offÂ—in making decisions, in choosing friends, whateverÂ—they'll be hooked. Additionally, you as a parent will benefit from the book as you go through it each day.
There are many Bible studies on Proverbs, but it's not hard to study the book on your own. You can read a chapter a day together, or read individually and then meet to discuss what you've read. You can go through Proverbs by topic (see sidebar) or just start at the beginning and read chronologically. Keep in mind that Proverbs can easily be taken out of context, so consider them in light of the rest of the book as well as in relation to the rest of Scripture.
As is true of all spiritual teaching, God is the only one who can open hearts, souls, and spiritual eyes to truth. We act as mouthpieces and guides, but God does the work. However, we know that "if we ask for anything according to his will, he hears us" (1 John 5:14). We can be confident that if we help our children seek wisdom, God will honor our desire that they know and love him.
God may not answer our prayers right away. Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." But many parents know that despite their best "training," some children choose to turn away from God. Still, our children are never out of God's hands, even when they wander. We can still cling to hope because God has promised to complete his work in each of us (Philippians 1:6). Love your rebellious child and pray for her with great confidence.
As you go through Proverbs with your children, share yourself with them. It meant the world to me that my mom gave me her time and attention. And be flexible. Of course you want to accomplish the lesson, but sometimes other topics will arise that your child will want to discuss. While these "interruptions" may sometimes seem like diversionary tactics, they are actually great teaching opportunities. Mom and I often talked about things barely related to our lesson, but those conversations taught me that I could trust my mom with anythingÂ—a trust that helped us deal with the difficult issues of teen years as allies, not enemies.
You can also have a tremendous impact on your child by talking about what God is doing in your life. Just because you are the parent doesn't mean you have to act like you have it all figured out. Show some vulnerability. Be real. Share some experiences that prove God's Word to be true. Those stories can help cement truth for your kids, too.
There are no words to describe how grateful I am that Mom taught me the Proverbs that summer. Her efforts opened my eyes and heart to God's Word and his love. My faith grew by giant steps as we shared our quest for wisdom. I can't wait to hand my own children a Bible and say, "There's something I want to read with you."
Rebecca Brooks is a freelance writer in Augusta, Kansas.
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