I once taught a class on Proverbs and as we were discussing 'Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he shall not depart from it,' a older brother interjected 'I don't think that's valid anymore.' Quite frankly, I was at a loss as to what to say. The world's just too bad, he continued--it's impossible to keep them faithful. It always seems that it's that way, but the Preacher wrote, 'Do not say, "Why is it that the former days were better than these?" (Eccl. 7:10) This man had lost his child to the world; his story is not unique. But we can't invalidate the Bible because things didn't work out for us. The Proverbs are general principles, not iron-clad rules. Sometimes children will be unfaithful despite what we do.
Something I don't think this brother wanted to consider, however, was that maybe he really didn't do what he could have for his child. I wasn't there, so I can't say. But I preached at a congregation where almost every single (adult) child of the elderly members there were unfaithful to the Lord. Something had gone wrong somewhere. It doesn't do any good to berate these Christians about it. There's nothing they can do now.
But as a parent of a 2 year old and a 3 month old I want to learn from their mistakes. My wife and I see our primary goal as parents as raising godly children. Yesterday my daughter brought me Just In Case You Ever Wonder, by Max Lucado (yes, Lucado gets on my nerves, too, but this is a very good children's book) and said, 'Will you read to me about going to heaven?' Now that will just make your heart melt. We talked about being in heaven together with Jesus. At two year's old she very much wants to be there. At 22 and 82 I still want her to have that same desire. But how do I do that?
Kevin Young has some good insights on about raising faith-filled kids. He puts his finger on the common mistake, the mistake that is causing us to lose our children rather than win them for the Lord:
I used to think that if my kids attended Sunday school, memorized enough verses, and sat up straight and tall during family devotions, we would produce in them extraordinary faith.
For many it's worse than that. Far too many are convinced if their children show up to Bible class a couple of times a week (or month) that exposure to Biblical teaching will somehow inoculate them against the world and its powerful forces. It won't. Churches can--must--assist in training children, but parents, not churches, are the ones who are going to do the important training. They're going to set the tone and the priorities. Our 2 year old who wanted to go to heaven yesterday also said Sunday morning, 'I don't want to go to Bible class.' We talked to her about it some, trying to convince her that she did. She still didn't. She went anyway. Parents who would never think of letting children miss arithmetic class will all too readily heed their child's reluctance to go to Bible class. Which is more important to them? I can tell you this, God's not going to make them pass a math test before they can get into heaven.