Lessons from a wise father – Proverbs 4:1-27
A century-and-a-half ago there died a humble minister in a small village in Leicestershire, England. He had never attended college and had no degrees. He was merely a faithful village minister. In his congregation was a young cobbler to whom he gave special attention, teaching him the Word of God. This young man was later to be renowned as William Carey, one of the greatest missionaries of modern times.
This same minister had a son, a boy whom he taught faithfully, and constantly encouraged. The boy’s character and powers were profoundly affected by his father’s life. That son was Robert Hall, the mightiest public orator of his day, whose sermons influenced the decisions of statesmen and whose character was as saintly as his preaching was phenomenal. It seemed that the village pastor accomplished little. There were no spectacular revivals, but his faithful witness and godly life had much to do with giving India its Carey and England its Robert Hall.
This influence of a father is one that is irreplaceable. Pope John the 13th said, “It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” The greatest tragedy in the history of our nation is the ever growing number of absentee fathers. Sadly, there are those in our nation that are trying to destroy the very fabric of our society, the home, made up of one man and one woman and their children. Take the home away, and you destroy the nation. Take the father away, and you destroy the home. Dads, we need to take seriously our calling to be Godly leaders in our home. The future of our children depends upon us. The future of our nation depends upon the path that fathers choose to take.
Here in Proverbs chapter four, we see five simple lessons that a loving father teaches his children. These are lessons that every father should teach his children. Remember, however, the greatest influence a father has on his children is in how he lives. As in the words of Clarence Kelland, “He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
Get wisdom. In verses 1-13 of proverbs chapter 4, the father encourages his children to get wisdom. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. It is putting into practice the things that you have been taught. It is discretion. It is the ability to discern and make right choices. There are two things we see about wisdom here. (1) Wisdom comes from listening. The father continuously encourages his children to listen to his words. He mentions that his father taught him to retain his father’s teachings and to obey his commandments. The key to having the wisdom needed to live in this world is found in listening. Dads, teach your children to listen. Teach them how to think through things and ponder and meditate. Teach them to listen to instruction. Teach them to listen to God. You may say that your children won’t listen to you. They are rebellious and they will not do anything you say. Dad, are you listening? Remember, we teach by example. Our actions speak much louder than our words. Are you listening to your children? Do you take the time to listen to what they have to say? Do you seriously and honestly listen to their concerns and their fears? So often I am afraid that we tend to want to give our children all the answers because we know what is best. However, sometimes what is best is that we get quite and listen. There are so many joys that we miss out on because we do not listen to our children. We are too busy; we have too much on our minds. A loving father will make their children feel important by listening to them and concerning his self with the smallest details of his child’s life. Teach your children to listen by listening to your children. (2) Wisdom will save you. Understanding wisdom and learning discernment will save your life. Wisdom gives life. The beginning of such is wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ, there is no wisdom. It is impossible to know how to live right without knowing the giver of life in a real and personal way. Dads, teach your children by example. Fear God. Make your relationship with Jesus the top priority of your life. A father who does not know Jesus can teach his children how to do a lot of things, but he will never be able to teach them how to live. Teach your children how to really live by living your life for the glory of God.
Be careful who your friends are. In verses 14-19, the father warns his children about the destructive ways of those in the world. He tells his children to stay as far away from sin as possible. He teaches them to choose their friends wisely and to avoid the path of the wicked. I am afraid that many times as fathers we will tell our children to do as I say, not as I do. A father will tell his children not to do drugs or drink alcohol or smoke, yet his children see Dad doing those very things himself. A father will tell his children to stay as far away from sin as possible, yet he lives as close to sin as he can get. Dads, we need to practice what we preach. We need to live such a life that we can with confidence tell our children to watch us and live as we live. We cannot keep our children from all the wickedness in the world. They will have to decide for themselves which direction they will take. However, we can certainly guide them down the right path by showing them by example how they should live. Dads, show your son how a real man treats a woman and how a real man leads his family and how a real man fights off temptation. Dads, show your daughters how a man is suppose to treat a woman. Show them how a real man shows respect. Show them how a real man loves and gives of himself for the good of his family. Our children should not be looking to their friends for guidance; they should be looking to their father. Children need no other role model than Dad. Show you children the kind of friends that should have by being a true friend to others. Teach them to be careful who their friends are and teach them by example the kind of friends they should have.
Guard your heart. In verse 20-23, the father is teaching his son to guard his heart. The eyes are the downloading device of the heart and mind. What you look at is downloaded into you and it affects how you think and how you live. A good and loving father will teach his children to guard their heart. He will teach them to be careful about the things they look at and the things they allow into their life. Teach your children the things that are pure and holy and right. Show them how to feed on God’s Word by feeding on God’s Word yourself. Lead them in regular family Bible study and prayer. Use every opportunity possible to pour into them the things of God. Help them to develop a steady and daily diet of God’s Word. It is only by God’s Word that we can keep our hearts pure. It is only by God’s Word that we can keep from sin. Dads, teach your children to be students of the Bible by being a student of the Bible yourself. Teach your children to guard their hearts by guarding your heart yourself.
Watch your words. In verse 24, the father mentions that his children should put away from them perverse lips. All throughout the Bible we are given warnings to be careful with the words that we say. Our words can bring both life and death. They can encourage and strengthen a life or they can destroy a life. The best way for a father to teach his children how to speak properly is, again, by example. Speak words of life to your children. Give them words of affirmation. Encourage them. Teach them to listen more than they speak. Teach them to guard their tongue and not allow the filth that they may hear in the world to affect the way they speak.
Stay focused. A final thing that the father teaches his children is to stay focused. This is seen in verses 25-27. The son is encouraged to keep his eyes fixed straight ahead. To not look to the right or the left, but to stay focused. There are many distractions in our world today. There are many things that can pull us away from what is right and good. Dads, we need to keep our focus on Jesus in order that our children will have the right focus. We must strive to be just like Jesus, so that our children will have a good example to follow. Teach your children how to block out distractions. Teach them how to discipline themselves to stay focused on Christ. This is best done, not by telling them, but by showing them. Show them how to live a focused life. Be a man of conviction. Be man that is not easily swayed. Be a man that is firm and confident in what he believes. Be a man that is focused.
There are many lessons that a father can teach to his children. We have looked at just a few of these lessons. My encouragement to all fathers is to begin with a personal relationship with Jesus. Apart from Christ, there will never be any success in teaching your children. The most important thing of all is to believe on the Lord Jesus and to live like it. Such a father can be the greatest dad of all.
 Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 980). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.