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Encouragement for POPs

“When thy child is going full sail to the devil, God can blow with a contrary wind of his Spirit and alter his course.”

A number of us are P.O.Ps. —  Parents of Prodigals. We have children who have been brought up in our Christian homes, some of whom have made professions of faith, and yet have turned from the Lord to pursue a destructive course. A child’s rebellion against God can be something of a black hole, sucking all contentedness from us. Thomas Watson has somewhat to say here by way of encouragement.

From The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson (1620-1686)

My child goes on in rebellion; I fear I have brought forth a child for the devil. It is indeed, sad to think, that hell should be paved with the skulls of any of our children; and certainly, the pangs of grief which the mother hath in this kind, are worse than her pangs of travail; but though you ought to be humbled, yet not discontented; for, consider,

  1. You may pick something out of your child’s undutifulness; the child’s sin is sometimes the parent’s sermon; the undutifulness of children to us, may be a memento to put us in mind of our undutifulness once to God. Time was when we were rebellious children; how long did our heart stand out as garrisons against God? How long did he parley with us and beseech us, ere we would yield? He walked in the tenderness of his heart towards us, but we walked in the frowardness of our hearts towards him; and since grace hath been planted in our souls, how much of the wild olive is still in us? How many motions of the Spirit do we daily resist? How many unkindnesses and affronts have we put upon Christ? Let this open a spring of repentance; look upon your child’s rebellion and mourn for your own rebellion.
  2. Though to see him [our child] undutiful is your grief, yet not always your sin. Hath a parent given the child, not only the milk of the breast, but “the sincere milk of the word?” hast thou seasoned his tender years with religious education? Thou canst do no more; parents can only work knowledge, God must work grace; they can only lay the wood together, it is God who must make it burn; a parent can only be a guide to show his child the way to heaven, the Spirit of God must be a loadstone to draw his heart into that way. “Am I in God’s stead,” saith Jacob, “who hath withheld the fruit of the womb?” Genesis 30:2.  Can I give children? So, is a parent in God’s stead to give grace? who can help it, if a child having the light of conscience, Scripture, education, these three torches in his hand, yet runs wilfully into the deep ponds of sin? Weep for thy child, pray for him; but do not sin for him by discontent.
  3. Say not, you have brought forth a child for the devil; God can reduce him; he hath promised “to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers” Malachi 4:6 and “to open springs of grace in the desert.” Isaiah 35:6 When thy child is going full sail to the devil, God can blow with a contrary wind of his Spirit and alter his course. When Paul was breathing out persecution against the saints, and was sailing hellward, God turns him another way; before he was going to Damascus, God sends him to Ananias; before a persecutor, now a preacher. Though our children are for the present fallen into the devil’s pond, God can turn them from the power of Satan, and bring them in the twelfth hour. Monica was weeping for her son Augustine: at last God gave him in upon prayer, and he became a famous instrument in the church of God.

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