What to do with the Rebel Child

Mike provides a practical strategy for Christian parents struggling with children who have lost their way.
Sermon by:
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Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
- Proverbs 22:6

There have always been children who rebelled. It's a pretty common theme in the Bible. Adam and Eve rebelled against their Heavenly Father. Cain rebelled against his earthly parents. Absalom rebelled against his father, King David. In the New Testament, Jesus teaches about a parent's worst nightmare, the rebel as a prodigal son who goes against everything that he has been taught, while wasting his inheritance and his life in willful, sinful living. So the rebel child is the theme of man's sinful history, recorded in the Bible and noted in every generation right up until this day.

Even in our own families, we have been witnesses to this phenomena, not only in our own lives, but also in books and films and various social movements that celebrates or use the rebel child attitude and the rebel child experience to promote an agenda.

There are so many examples. Think about the 1950's, Marlon Brando epitomized this character in the movie, The Wild One, where he played the part of a motorcycle gang leader. If you go to the 60's and the 70's brought on the drug culture, hippies, the love generation, the rebellious generation. The 80's and 90's (in the USA anyway) saw the rise of thug culture and it's hip hop/rap music and then we go to the 21st century's rebel children are seen primarily in the various social and cultural groups who found strength in numbers, social justice rebels like Antifa, Black Lives Matte, Neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups. We have also today cultural and moral groups like the LGBTQ movement and various progressive feminist groups. All these groups are simply a reflection of the rebel child as an individual or as a type. We have types of anti-types not just in the Bible, we have them in society as well.

These each have a social and moral agenda. But for better or worse, they rebel against the traditional order. One of their tactics is to create their own cultural bubble sharing ideas or clothing or music and informational media that echoes and becomes an echo chamber to maintain their isolation and control over the ones who buy into the revolution.

The main difference between past social revolutions is that today's rebel doesn't simply want to change or have inclusion into the traditional culture and society. Now today, the rebel wants to tear the whole thing down and rebuild it according to their own ideology.

I use as an example in the 60's and 70's, you had the gay rights movement and their goal was to simply have their lifestyle, the gay lifestyle, be accepted as normal without any debate. That's all they wanted. "We just want to be accepted" or "We didn't want to be discriminated against." That was the original mantra of the gay rights movement back in the 60's and 70's. Well today, the LBGTQ+ advocates want to dictate what society should think and what it should say about gay and transgendered people. Even how they are supposed to be addressed and they're ready to destroy anyone who disagrees or doesn't submit to their agenda. We've come a long way from the 60's, the thinking and the approach.

In today's sexual revolution, the rebels, take no prisoners in their effort to assert their opinion on everybody else and whoa to that individual that may disagree with them. Now, I mentioned these things briefly in my introduction, but my lesson is not about discussing the problem of the rebel child, as a social scientist or a historian. I'm neither of these things. No, today I want to approach this issue as a parent, because the one common factor binding all of these rebel children together is that in most cases, they each have moms and dads who probably felt quite helpless in the face of their children's rebellion.

That's the one common denominator between the 60's and the 21st century rebel. All of them probably have parents who are mortified at the fact that their children are acting in this way. Not all but probably the majority. To be more precise, I want to speak to Christian parents whose child has gone off into, you fill in the blank as to the rebellion of their choice. What could it be? Addiction, sexual immorality, criminality, violent, political extremism, or even perhaps they've been seduced into a religion or a sect that does not follow the New Testament or rejects Jesus Christ's deity altogether or worldliness.

I mean, have I mentioned all the categories? Have I mentioned all the things that parents can be afraid of that their children might become involved in at one point or another? All of these things are possibilities when it comes to rebellion against God and parents and society and the established order. And so, parents and that's what I'm, that's the point of view I'm talking about. Parents dealing with a rebel child usually, parents have just one question and that is, what do I do in order to win my son or daughter back? That's usually the question.

What, I will do anything that I need to do to win back my rebel child. Just tell me what to do. Now, they're usually torn, parents are usually torn between several options. One is perhaps punishing them, or maybe banishing their rebel child, or pretending that everything is fine just to maintain the semblance of peace and harmony to the outside world because the other thing that happens when you have a rebel child is, you don't want anybody to know.

And so a lot of energy, a lot of time is given over to hiding the fact that you have a rebel child if at all, if it can be hidden if it can be kept from the outside world. Unfortunately, none of these tactics, banishment, punishment, none of these tactics are very satisfying, nor do they change the situation, nor do they quell the rebellion taking place.

How Do I Win Back my Rebel Child?

And so an answer to the question, what should I do? I offer parents the following suggestions.

Suggestion #1 - Enter into a long-term commitment of prayer, specifically focused on the situation of your rebel child.

In relation to prayer, Paul the Apostle says:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
- Philippians 4:6

Notice he says, in all thing, in everything that includes, the rebel child, that includes praying for our children who have gone away, if you wish.

pray without ceasing;
- I Thessalonians 5:17

We think that's just like a suggestion. Pray without ceasing, "oh yeah sure." No, he means it. When it comes to the rebel child, it's not just one prayer and done. It's not simply, filling out a blue card here's a blue card, get the elders to pray for the rebel child one time we're good to go. Rebel children may require you to pray consistently for the rest of your life. Or until they return, or until they die or until you die. But sometimes the prayer is over a period of years, decades, not just days. Realize that the forces of evil have been activated against your child and you must counter these by marshalling the forces of the kingdom of God on your rebel child's behalf and realize also that if you're not praying for them, who will? Who's going to be praying for them, if you're not praying for them? Understand that Satan is into it every single day until death.

So therefore, you must be ready to be as committed as he is with your prayers every day, until death. And so step number one, therefore, is that whenever you pray or think of praying, your rebel child is mentioned.

Now, this doesn't mean that you don't pray for anybody else, or you don't pray for anything else, doesn't mean that. But, it does mean that they are always included when you do pray. And you have committed yourself to unceasing prayer every single day.

Suggestion #2 - Humble yourself

Having a rebel child forces you to take stock of yourself. Not blame yourself, that's unproductive. I mean it's natural to blame oneself but that's unproductive. Many times God uses various trials to humble us and to teach us spiritual lessons or to produce spiritual growth that cannot be acquired in any other way.

For example, Paul, the apostle suffered all kinds of opposition and hardships because of his ministry. But the thing that God used to deal with Paul's pride was a personal physical disability that forced him to be dependent on God as well as dependent on other people.

We read about that in Second Corinthians chapter 12.

And I'll read that passage for you. He writes, because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations for this reason to keep me from exalting myself. Notice, to keep me from exalting myself. Paul knew himself, knew that he may have had a penchant for, exalting himself.

He says, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me to keep me from exalting myself. He mentions that twice, so it must have been a problem.

Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, "for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness.

Notice he talks about vaunting himself a third time. Now he says, if I'm going to boast which may have been a natural inclination for him, a very smart man, a very successful as far as ministry is concerned, a man privileged with so many Christian gifts.

It may have been easy for the flesh to kind of lift itself up. And he says, most gladly, therefore I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Is there is a more helpless feeling than the feeling you have about your rebel child? Is there anything that can be done to you in your life that reduces you to helplessness, like having a child that has completely forsaken all that you have taught them? Or is captured by a particular sin or involved in a particular situation which is sinful, that they neither can get themselves out of or want to get themselves out of? Is there anything that makes you feel more helpless than that, weak? No amount of, as far as Paul's concerned, no amount of jail time or beatings or the working of miracles had the power to produce this level of humility in him.

But having a rebel child you see, is a lot like this experience. It surpasses our parenting abilities. I mean, I can't tell you how many times in my office, parents have said, "What did I do wrong?" "I thought I did everything right.

" It weakens us emotionally and spiritually. It tempts us to complain to or to accuse God, or worse still to abandon our spiritual walk with God. Parents want to say, well, if this is what it's going to be after everything I've tried to do, I can't even.

.. My own child, I quit. Humbling ourselves at times like these means that we neither blame God, which is presumptuous, or completely blame ourselves, which is defeatist and manipulative. Humbling ourselves means that we go before God confessing the weaknesses that we know that we have, and asking Him to reveal other failings we may have that have contributed to the situation.

In other words, we don't take all the blame, but we want God to show us the things that we are guilty of that have led to this rebellion. Humility requires that we repent, that we change, that we make an effort to improve.

I want to tell you something, nothing impresses a child, even a grown one, more than seeing true repentance and lasting change in their parents. In their parents attitude, in their parents behavior, especially with regard to the things that have affected them negatively as they grew up.

For example, seeing dad start to control his temper. Or watching and hearing mom complain less. Or watching dad be more caring and tender for mom or observing mom just letting things go. Or feeling more love and concern for the entire family.

Children are partly formed in the home not completely formed since the world has tremendous influence on them as well. Romans 12, verses one and two, but the home still has the greatest level of influence.

Parents need to first see themselves more accurately. That's what humility is, by the way. Humility is the action of seeing ourselves for exactly what and how we are. That's humility. And so parents need to first see themselves more accurately before they can hope to bring about a meaningful change in their rebel child.

In other words, start working on the change in you before working on a change in them. And then the third suggestion, I don't know if I've reached three. These three because I know that they work, I know that they have impact.

Suggestion #3 - More love

Surprise you, right? More love. You may be thinking, how can I love my child more? Well it's possible. And in the case of the rebel child, it's necessary. To succeed in doing so will mean that there are some things that you must not do. Okay, things that you must not do. So more love, for example means, you must not compromise on what is right. For example, parents who indulge their rebel child's behavior thinking that this is somehow a show of their love.

If I kind of blink at their misbehavior they'll love me more. Doesn't work. I see this all the time. For example, parents accept their child's abuse of alcohol or drugs or porn or immoral sexual behavior or violent nature or laziness. And they excuse this by saying, "Well that's just the way they are." And they believe this type of tolerance is the form of parental love that will bring them around. Brothers and sisters, this isn't love this is called enabling, and it's destructive.

It's not loving. Real love, more love, will not encourage an alcoholic daughter to just drink moderately. More love won't turn a blind eye to a son living with his girlfriend and justifying it by saying, "Oh well, they're engaged." More love will not tolerate your gay child's gay friend sleeping over in order to avoid a scene. Compromising on what's right and pure and acceptable to God's word is not love. It's not Christian love.

Parents if you don't confront sin in your rebel child who will among those who really matter to them? Realize that you may be the very last thing holding them back from complete surrender to the sin that they are enslaved to. Don't cave in. If you do and somehow they come to repentance anyways by some other means, you may find yourself having to ask them for forgiveness because of your weakness, that jeopardized their soul.

Someone might say, well, how is this a sign of love? The world says that real love is seen in tolerance, no judging, live and let live. Well, this might be true, if there was no God. If there was no God, maybe this approach might work. And if there was no such thing as God's inevitable judgment. However, because there is a God and because there will be a promise judgment, and in case we're not sure of that, let me read a few passages where the spirit makes this abundantly clear.

because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.
- Acts 17:31

No excuses. He's provided proof that Jesus is God by raising Him from the dead. So if God says there will be a judgment, there will be a judgment.

5But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6who will render to each person according to his deeds:
- Romans 2:5-6

Then just one more, Second Corinthians, Paul writes again,

9Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
- II Corinthians 5:9-10

There's going to be a judgment. It is necessary for us as parents to warn of the consequences of sin. This is truly the way to show more love because in confronting your sin, I am risking that you will reject and hate me because I'm telling you the truth about God's word. That's how this is more love.

For parents, not compromising is the greatest love since they risk forfeiting their rebel child's love by withholding their approval of their sinful behavior. Very difficult to do. More love also requires keeping the lines of communication open.

One mistake that parents often make is to banish the rebel child from their presence. Cut off communication, eject them from the family, put them on a permanent timeout until they change. Don't talk to me until you change there's no, I'm not talking to you. This is a mistake. It's a mistake simply for the fact that you have eliminated any chance that you may have of exercising family influence on your child. Even the rebel child needs love, needs encouragement, needs a chance to laugh and feel the influence of family.

We certainly don't want to approve or tolerate sin, but not everything in your rebel child's life is sinful. Is it? I mean, you have to find ways to keep the lines of communication open, so that you can take advantage of expressing love for birthdays or holidays. That you can congratulate for achievements and milestones in their lives, graduation or a promotion or a new baby or something. Not everything is bad. They know you don't agree with some of their decisions and actions, they know it. You don't have to constantly repeat it, they know it. You see, it's a balance that you need to create so that they are on one hand aware of your stand on parts of their life that you disagree with, while on the other hand, they see your continued effort to communicate your love and encouragement, despite this crisis in your relationship with them.

Realize that the pathway of communication that you keep open may very well be the way that they use to come home to you one day. And then finally, more love requires, loving them in ways that you have not in the past.

Here's an open secret that all parents know or should know. You're ready? You're the parent! You're the parent. No matter how old they are, how far they are, how rebellious they are, they need their parents love and they hunger for their mother and father's approval.

Parents need to find ways to custom fit their love for the child that they have, not the child they wish they had. Many times rebellion is a form of acting out on issues from childhood. And in many cases, the common denominator for these is the lack of some form of love by a parent in some way or another.

For example, counselors who work with people who experience but do not want same sex attraction. And you might find that strange, you wouldn't know it if you listen to Hollywood and most major media, but many people who have same sex attraction reject this phenomenon, and they seek out counseling in order to find ways to return to normal heterosexual experience and desire. And in many cases, they have success in doing so. Anyways, counselors who specialize in this type of therapy tell us that one of the root causes of this sexual dysfunction is a condition they refer to as, father hunger.

In other words, people who have had, abusive or absent or immoral men as fathers have failed to receive the kind of parenting from fathers that satisfy a child's need for what a father should provide.

And this by the way, what is really interesting is the same for male or female. Males suffer father hunger and females also female children also suffer father hunger. Now for many, not all, but for many children, this can lead to a warped sense of sexual identity as they grow up. Of course, father hunger is only one of several factors that cause this sexual confusion. Other factors, a cold and distant and controlling mother, a heightened sexualization at an early age through exposure to pornography. Same sex experimentation or molestation as a child, and of course, the normalization and promotion of homosexuality and transgenderism as a normal even desirable lifestyle in our society and government and educational system.

All these factors kind of come together to create an environment where sexual dysfunction and disinformation becomes part of a child's, or interrupts a child's normal development sexually. So all of these together create an environment where sexually confused and vulnerable young people are easily captured into this sinful practice.

Now, what I'm saying here is that in many cases, the root of the rebellion, no matter what form it takes, is a lack of love of some type that was not given, especially by fathers. The return of the rebel is also set in motion, by the love expressed by the single most influential people in the rebels life and that's their parents.

So ask yourself, as a parent of a rebel child, how can I show them more love in a meaningful and spiritually acceptable manner? Let this be part of your committed prayer life on behalf of not only your rebel child, but for all of your children. I mean, much better that you change yourself first to avoid having a rebel child and that situation in the future. In closing, let me encourage all parents, not only those with children who have strayed, let me encourage all parents, don't think that you're safe.

Don't think that, wow, it can't happen to your baby, your sweet girl who thinks that you're just the greatest mom and dad in the world and then 10 years down the road that little darling won't even take your call. These things that I have shared the things to do, they're not simply the result of research and training as a minister, they also come from many years of painful experience as a parent. They're not only things to do, they're not the only things to try, in order to win back a rebel child.

They're also a strategy to avoid this situation ever happening to your child to begin with.


So, remember, just to summarize, pray for your children without ceasing. Praying for... The commitment to pray for your child without ceasing is your way of not giving up. It's your way of not giving up. When the situation is, aah they've been like this for 10 years, 20, I mean, it's a lie. I think I'm just going to have to write him off. Don't do that. Your consistent prayer life on behalf of your child is your way of not giving up. Everything else might go by the wayside, but if you continue to pray to the very end of your life or their life, you will be able to say at least I never gave up, praying for you. I never gave up hoping for you. I never gave up loving you.

Secondly, humble yourself before God and your heavenly Father will show you how to become the mother and father that your child needs. Unfortunately, we want to be the kind of mother and father we want to be.

But then we have a child, we recognize that the child, he needs a different kind of mom and dad because he or she's got a different character. You've got all the answers maybe, you've got all the, you've read all the books, what to expect when you're expecting and you've read all the books about teenage and you've got all the answers. And then you have some kid, your own kid starts asking you questions that you don't have the answers for. Humble yourself, so that you can be the kind of parent your child needs, not the kind of parent you want to be.

And thirdly, of course, more love. You remember that passage that we read at the beginning of the lesson seems so far away and so long ago, right, I'll put it back up. Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it. This passage does not mean that if you train a child according to God's word he or she will never stray. That passage doesn't mean that. Human history shows that this cannot be true. Many trained in God's way have rebelled. The point of the passage, is that if you train them when they are young, later on when they are fully grown and seek the right way to live, they will know what exactly the right way is. They'll know what the right way looks like.

You see, a child who has never been taught and trained in the way of the Lord cannot be restored because he doesn't know the way in the first place. The untrained rebel needs to be converted, and that's a lot harder to do as an adult, living apart from parents than training a youngster living in your own home. More love often means, more of an effort by parents to train their children in God's word and ways while they are still living at home, and under parental control. Brothers and sisters, come to church and please, bring the kids with you.

Bring the kids with you. So here's my invitation this morning, if you're a parent, struggling with a rebel child and need the help of the church, to bring that rebel home, then come for prayer, make your need known that we might as a church pray for you. That doesn't mean you stop praying, but it does mean that you include the church as part of your team if you wish to pray for your rebel child. And if you're that rebel child, know that not only your parents want you to come home but your heavenly Father awaits your return as well.

Won't you come home as we sing this wonderful song of invitation at this time. God bless you and all those rebel children out there if they're listening, please come home now as we begin to sing.

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